From Cabs to Hotels: Veterans as a Talent Pool
By Susan Tinnish, Senior Strategist, Minding Your Business
Many companies are promoted in ads, articles or reports discussing their focus on hiring veterans. For example, a new program is helping veterans find jobs as taxi drivers in New York City. Vets Drive Yellow NYC connects taxi garage owners with veterans. The seven taxi garages that are affiliated with the program help vets by paying for their hack license (Santia, 2015).
It is innovative programs like this that help drive down the high unemployment rates among veterans and assist veterans transitioning into civilian life. Yet still the unemployment rate for Gulf War II veterans-defined as those who served after Sept. 11, 2001 stands at 7.2 percent in 2014 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as reported on March 18, 2015 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015). In 2014, the entire US veteran population numbered 21.2 million men and women, or 9 percent of the population age 18 and over.
This article will help hoteliers understand how and why veterans are well-suited for the hospitality industry. The article will explore how hotel companies are or can support veteran hiring. Finally, the article offers tips to expanding hiring of veterans -especially at an individual property.
One reason for higher veteran unemployment figures is that veterans have difficulty translating their military skills to civilian jobs. This is a multi-faceted challenge. First, veterans typically have less civilian work experience which naturally makes them appear more risky than a civilian applicant (Plumer, 2013; Sumser, 2012). Second, veterans speak a "dialect" of English specific to military life and may have difficulty translating their experience into civilian life (Sumser, 2012). Third, veterans may not interview as well as non-veterans. Derek Bennett, chief of staff for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America references job interview difficulties, "You have to talk about yourself and for some vets, that's tough to do. For years they were worried about the team, not the individual" (Watson, 2014). Veterans have a different standard for "professional presentation." Thus certain elements of their interviewing style like eye contact (eyes forward), language ("yes, sir" or "yes, ma'am") or a lack of smiling may be different from the way civilians interview. In an industry where interpersonal skills are paramount, a veteran may be perceived as cold, distant, unapproachable or lacking social skills because of their typical military demeanor (White House Business Council, 2012, p. 8).
Yet, our nation's veterans bring an extraordinary array of skills and training to any position. They possess general employability attributes like attention to detail, the ability to follow through and meet deadlines, and the capability to work under pressure. Veterans are comfortable with the complexities of decision making in a high stress, high data, and highly ambiguous environment (Sumser, 2012; US Department of Veterans Affairs, n.d.).
Some specific military skills that will help veterans succeed in hotel management include a service mentality, leadership, and the ability to think on their feet, ability to deal with interpersonal issues and the ability to put in emotional labor (Stone, 2014). The latter skill is a requirement that employees display specific outwardly emotions toward customers. In the military, people are trained to operate at their best level despite how they may be feeling on any given day. Military veterans often have experienced exceptional levels of accountability. Shouldering the responsibility for the lives and safety of peers provides a special level of maturity (Sumser, 2012). La Quinta's President and CEO, Wayne Goldberg summarizes the attractiveness of veterans, "At La Quinta, we want to hire veterans and military spouses because they have demonstrated leadership qualities of discipline, training and a passion for service. They are quick learners who work well as part of a team" (Franchising.com, n.d.).
Many veterans hold interpersonal skills necessary for success in hotel careers including managing people managing time and social perceptiveness. The military culture is one of helping and support -two attributes important in hospitality. Veterans often possess strong managerial skills managing money, people and physical resources. They often have experience with problem solving and reasoning. They are adept in environments which present changing circumstances while still needing to follow rules and schedules. A final attraction: loyalty and fortitude. Rodney Moses, VP of global recruitment for Hilton says, "Hilton likes vets for their staying power. This is a high-turnover industry, and when veterans come in, they stay longer. They are a lot more loyal to their employer, if you can create the right opportunities for them" (Stone, 2014).
Not surprising, many major hotel brands have public commitments to hiring veterans.
• Marriott is committed to hiring 1,500 veterans as part of Operation Enduring Opportunity, a campaign of the International Franchise Association.
• Hyatt supports military veteran hiring and provide special considerations for interviewing qualified military veteran applicants.
• Starwood has its US Veteran Recruitment Initiative.
• La Quinta unveiled a military initiative that focused on hiring and community outreach in 2012.
• Caesars Entertainment's corporate-wide hiring initiative is "Enlisting Heroes."
Some hotel management companies have publically committed to hiring veterans. Sage Hospitality Group lists jobs on Vet Central. G6 Hospitality announced in January of this year a new company-wide initiative to support the hiring of U.S. military veterans and their spouses. The mission of the new program, Operation Next Step, is to better integrate veterans into the G6 Hospitality workforce, with an immediate goal of hiring up to 250 veterans across the enterprise in 2015 (Hotel Management, 2015).
Additional veteran-friendly hospitality initiatives include the Valiant Veterans which offers an intensive six-week training program in areas such as property management and event management. The program includes practical hands-on training. The nonprofit ServiceSource Delaware Regional Office partnered with Embassy Suites and others to produce a "Heroes to Hospitality" program, which includes classroom training and hands-on experience. The Louisiana Hospitality Foundation has donated $10,300 to help support the culinary training of 20 vets served by Volunteers of America at Fresh Food Factor. The program aims to launch hospitality careers for homeless veterans seeking to rebuild their lives (Stone, 2014). Dennis P. Rizzo, a Vietnam veteran who served in United States Marine Corps from 1966 to 1968 and CEO of Bentley Price Associates, Inc., a hospitality executive search firm leveraged his 35 years in the executive hospitality field launch Hospitality Heroes. Hospitality Heroes matches all branches of the hospitality industry, including hotels, casinos, and restaurants with qualified veterans (Hospitality Net, n.d.).
Some colleges and university support veteran training in hospitality and hotel management including my own college, Kendall College. In 2014, Kendall College announced a partnership with the Veterans Affairs Department and Hilton Worldwide to groom veterans for transition into hotel careers within Hilton. The Kendall/Hilton Hospitality Educational Program is a 6-month program taking place nationwide in various specializations including: Rooms/Housekeeping, Food & Beverage, Sales/Events, and Front Office. The program combines online hospitality courses through Kendal College while simultaneously completing an internship at a Hilton property. The School of Hospitality Management has also partnered with another Blackstone entity, La Quinta in support of Blackstone's overall goal to hire 50,000 veterans throughout its entire portfolio.
Other universities like American Public University, University of Phoenix and Cornell University target veterans for the hospitality industry.
If a hotel wants to support its brand's veteran initiative or encourage more veteran hiring within the hotel, these five tips can help foster more veteran hiring:
Translate Military Skills into Hotel Jobs and Job Categories
This is a vital step towards effectively hiring veterans into the hotel. O*NET OnLine offers a military to civilian crosswalk between specific military occupational classification codes and civilian positions. By entering the job title for an open position (e.g., accountant) into the military search section, the site will display a list of the occupational specialty codes used by the different branches of the military. These codes could be listed in job announcements as a way to help veterans better understand the connection between their military training and the job available.
Take Advantage of Tax Advantages
The 2011 Veterans Opportunity to Work to Hire Heroes (VOW) Act created two tax credits: The Returning Heroes Tax Credit and The Wounded Warrior Tax Credit. In December 2014, President Obama signed into law the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014, which provides for the temporary extension of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) tax credit for eligible veteran employees who begin work before January 1, 2015. As always, tax law is complex and ever changing. The inclusion of this tip is to increase awareness of tax credits for hiring veterans. Additional professional tax advice should be retained. The Special Employer Incentives program is available to some veterans, who face obstacles in gaining meaningful employment. This incentive can pay up to half the veteran's salary for the first six to nine months. Payments are in addition to tax incentives.
Understand the Military Culture and Learn the Language
For example, the culture of hierarchy, control and conformity of military culture impacts veterans and their family members. The military and its personnel are very mission oriented. Be prepared to define jobs in terms of missions. Military spouses have their own challenges. In terms of language, increase fluency in military-speak. For example, the Air Force has "bases" and the Army has "posts." Become familiar with job classifications language e.g., the Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC) or the Marine's Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). Know the different types of military personnel and the order of ranks in each military branch.
Be Prepared to Help Veteran Employees Transition to a Different Management Style in Civilian Life
The military is typified by hierarchy and defined roles, rank and status with clearly defined career progression. In contrast, the hotel environment may be less structured with implicit rules of conduct and less defined roles. These significant culture differences can create difficulties for both employees and managers. Prepare each party for a successful hiring experience.
Finally, Access Reputable Resources. There are many resources for veterans and employers. A resource list is included at the end of this article.
Companies, including hotel companies, generate positive publicity when announcing veteran hiring initiatives. Yet hiring veterans is not only a goodwill gesture. It can make solid business sense. Veterans have the skills, training and character to meet the tough challenges of the hotel industry. Researchers from Syracuse University reviewed a variety of academic research from the fields of business, psychology, sociology, and decision-making. Their work strongly links characteristics that are generally representative of military veterans to enhanced performance and organizational advantage in a competitive and dynamic business environment. In other words, the academic research supports a robust, specific, and compelling business case for hiring individuals with military background and experience (Syracuse University, 2012).
Some of the characteristics of veterans include the ability to trust co-workers and superiors, being adept at skills transfer across contexts/tasks, the ability to act quickly and decisively in the face of uncertainty and change, and their cross-cultural experiences. These skills are in addition to attributes of veterans. The bottom line: Hiring veterans may enhance a hotel's bottom line. Be open to the possibility that a military-trained candidate can be the best choice for an opening at a hotel.
1. Employer Partnership of the Armed Forces Employer Partnership of the Armed Forces, operated by the Army Reserve, lends assistance not only to those looking for a job, but also to public and private em ployers who are ready to hire former service members.
2. Military Spouse's Complete Guide to Career Success book, ISBN: 1-57023-269-5 (10-digit), 978-157023-269-5 (13-digit)
3. Military to Civilian Occupation Translator. Match military skills and experience to civilian occupations
4. Occupational Information Network (O-NET). The O-NET program is the nation's primary source of occupational information. Central to the project is the O-NET database, containing information on hundreds of standardized and occupation-specific descriptors. The database, which is available at no cost, is continually updated by surveying a broad range of workers from each occupation.
5. Post-9/11 GI Bill. Education and training about the GI Bill.
6. Vet Central. A list of federal contractors and other Vet-friendly employers which take affirmative action to employ and advance in employment for veterans in accordance with Affirmative Action Programs, the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA), as amended, and the Jobs for Veterans Act. 7. Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E). Free educational and vocational counseling services offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to help veterans identify their strengths and assist them in choosing a career path.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics (2015). Employment Situation of Veterans Summary. Economic News Release, March 18, 2015, 10:00 a.m. (EDT).
- Franchising (n.d.). La Quinta Inns & Suites Participates in Inaugural Blackstone Veterans Hiring Summit. Franchising.com, September 24, 2013.
- Hospitality Net (n.d.) Hospitality Executive Search Firm Honors Veterans with Employment Opportunities, Hospitality Heroes: A brave new face on jobs for vets.
- Hotel Management (2015). G6 Hospitality to begin veteran hiring initiative, January 9, 2015.
- Plumer, B. (2013). The unemployment rate for recent veterans is incredibly high. Washington Post, November 11, 2013.
- Santia, M. (2015). New Program Helps Veterans Find Jobs as NYC Taxi Drivers. NBC New York.
- Stone, A. (2014). Veterans in tourism join a 'cast' of 7.9 million. Military Times, December 22, 2014 4:45 p.m. EST.
- Sumser, J. (2012). Helping Veterans Make The Transition to Civilian Jobs. HR Examiner, January 24, 2012.
- Syracuse University (2012). The Business Case for Hiring A Veteran: Beyond the Clichés, March 5, 2012.
- US Department of Veterans Affairs (n.d.). Why Veterans Make Good Employees.
- Watson, B. (2014). Veteran Unemployment Rate Drops, But Still Outpaces the Rest of the Country. Defense One, D Brief, May 2, 2014.
- White House Business Council (2012). Guide to Hiring Veterans.
Sue Tinnish, Ph.D., is a Senior Strategist at Minding Your Business (MYB). MYB has a 20+ year proven record of organizational transformation. The work is rooted in research and evidence-based decision making. Dr. Tinnish works with clients on strategic planning, organizational change and business innovation. Formerly, Dr. Tinnish served as the dean of the Kendall College School of Hospitality Management and the International School of Business. She oversaw and managed faculty and curriculum selection, assessment and program direction. She served as a member of Kendall’s academic leadership team. Initially joining Kendall as a faculty member, Dr. Tinnish taught courses on leadership, organizational behavior, sustainability, meeting management and human resource. Dr. Tinnish can be contacted at 312-870-7155 or firstname.lastname@example.org Please visit http://www.myb.net for more information. Extended Bio...
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