Devin FosterNovember 17, 2020
Topics: Employee Experience

The Value of Veterans: Adding Military Soft Skills and Resilience to Your Team [VIDEO]

Current and former military members are uniquely positioned to make positive impacts for organizations. Their training and experience translate to strong critical thinking, team building, and problem-solving skills.

But it’s easy for recruiters and hiring managers to inadvertently overlook the skills that make this candidate segment so valuable. To help better understand the value that military veterans can add to organizations, Talent Experience Live hosted two guest experts: Andrew Wittman, a Marine Corps infantry combat veteran and former federal agent for the U.S. Capitol Police, and Matt Disher, Military Recruiting Program Leader at Cushman & Wakefield, and veteran of the U.S. Marines.

Check out this episode for key insights – including a peek at how the Phenom Military Search Code empowers veterans and recruiters alike with AI-driven skills matching capabilities.

Part 1: Andrew Wittman:

With a career spanning combat to diplomatic security, Andrew Wittman observed firsthand how frontline military skills translated to non-military environments. This led to the inception of Get Warrior Tough, through which he provides executive coaching and corporate training to help professionals develop mental toughness in the workplace.

How do the principles of mental toughness apply in the workplace, especially this year?

In the military, change is constant. You learn to handle rapid, unpredictable change. You’re always on high alert, which fosters resilience and adaptability—characteristics so helpful in meeting the specific challenges brought this year by COVID-19.

Along with resilience, military training develops interpersonal skills that help vets thrive in the workplace: You learn to deal with demanding bosses (who may literally have been actual drill sergeants). Meanwhile, you live diversity and inclusion – the armed forces comprise people from a diverse range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, education levels, and geographic regions. What’s more, you learn to trust your life to your comrades regardless of differences.

How can mental toughness be applied in the modern world of constant communication that often is not face-to-face?

Misinterpreted tones, reading into punctuation (or lack thereof), even emoji’s that get lost in translation … in today’s world, an immeasurable amount of drama (and lost productivity) can result from the nature of so much conversation taking place over email and chat.

Military veterans are typically immune to drama like this. Their outlook is more likely to be, “If I have a problem, then I have the solution,” Wittman said. In other words, their background has trained them not to take offense and to immediately address misconceptions.

How can recruiters understand the differences between traditional and nontraditional routes of servicemen and women and apply that to hiring?

Wittman urges recruiters and hiring managers to approach hiring veterans with the understanding that “hard” skills (e.g., software programs) can be trained much more easily than “soft” skills (e.g., how to get along with people) that members of the military have internalized.

“You almost need someone to translate military skills to corporate skills,” he said. Many vets may not have a four-year degree, but their real-life training has positioned them for workplace success:

  • Mission accomplishment (reaching goals despite challenges)
  • Troop cohesion (looking out for co-workers)
  • No-excuses culture (getting the job done no matter what)

What would you advise seeking out in a military vet’s background?

Military candidates whose resumes include high-pressure roles are likely to be extremely resilient. Helicopter pilots, snipers, even public affairs officers (who deal with demanding press) are examples.

These are candidates who will be critical thinkers, who will respond to challenging situations in a non-emotional way. “That’s somebody I want on my team,” Wittman said.

If you could create one piece of technology to bridge the gap between a military veteran’s skills and workplace skills, what would that be?

A translator app, Wittman said – a better one than most of which exist on the market today. The military jargon that frames so many of these valuable skill sets is like a different language, he pointed out.

How can recruiters most effectively pose questions to veterans to extrapolate soft military skills to the workplace?

Wittman advises recruiters to ask process questions that can reveal:

  • How the candidate thinks through hard situations
  • Whether the candidate is a solution-finder or a problem-bringer

Here’s an example: “I’m curious to understand your thought process in this scenario during your deployment in Iraq. Can you share that with me?”

How can military experience with AI be applied in the workplace?

AI – one of the buzziest buzzwords of 2020 – is something that recruiters will see popping up on military resumes. To better understand a veteran’s experience with its use, ask questions like:

  • What was the problem that AI solved for you?
  • How did AI address the problem?
  • What was the process?”

Learn more about Wittman’s approach to mental toughness in the workplace at

Part 2: Matt Disher: Technology’s Role in Military Hiring Strategy at Cushman & Wakefield

After serving as a U.S. Marine, Disher found that he enjoyed and excelled at helping military veterans align their experience with civilian job roles. Now with Cushman & Wakefield, a commercial and industrial real estate company, Disher spearheads the organization’s military hiring strategy.

Why is military hiring so important to your organization, and how are you addressing this?

To illustrate the high value of veteran experience to Cushman & Wakefield, DIsher shares an interesting analogy: If you flip a commercial property upside down, it has the same systems as a military ship, from plumbing to electrical and everything in between. Not only does this parallel help veterans serve the company in relevant ways, they also offer other high-impact benefits:

  • They are some of the most highly educated candidates on the job market.
  • They’re used to working alongside diverse cultures.
  • They’re used to operating in a zero-fail environment.

Nevertheless, military veterans are often underutilized or even overlooked in corporate America. Cushman & Wakefield is leveraging Phenom’s Military Code Search, an AI-powered tool that helps veterans find civilian jobs that match their military experience and job titles.

How has Phenom’s Military Search Code helped vets and military professionals find roles at your organization?

In Disher’s experience, military skills translator tools don’t always provide relevant results. (One tool he used himself recommended a bricklayer position – not exactly commensurate with his experience as a combat engineer.)

But Cushman & Wakefield is finding success with Phenom’s version, launched earlier this year. The tool works by matching occupation codes designated by the armed forces to available positions within the company.

Despite 2020 being a year with a lot of extra variables and challenges, Disher said he's seen encouraging success metrics, including greater applicant numbers and an increased rate of military hires.

Even in cases when a veteran’s military occupation code doesn’t match with any relevant positions, simply sparking a conversation to see how their skills might apply has value.

How do you train your team to consider candidates with military experience?

Two major factors are crucial to this effort: Keeping the conversation going and making sure recruiters get experience reaching out to this segment of candidates.

How can you start the conversation, especially if your company is brand new at military hiring initiatives? Share success stories from outside the company, Disher said. It’s one of the most effective ways to generate curiosity among recruiters and hiring managers, engaging them to learn more about the value of military hiring.

How are you using success stories in campaigns to actively increase the number of military vets in the pipeline?

Cushman & Wakefield shares veteran success stories on social and professional media platforms. It makes for engaging content – think storylines that play out as “uniform to business suit to top performer in the organization.”

They also conduct internal campaigns with the Phenom tool, targeting veteran candidates by specific skill set or geographic region.

The role of video in campaigns. Disher said he strongly believes that video is necessary for engagement. The pandemic threw curve balls that delayed efforts in this area a bit, but the team plans a larger video presence in 2021. “It’s part of adapting the business to stay competitive,” he said.

Get a closer look at Cushman & Wakefield’s military hiring initiative by visiting

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