The WSJ piece about the benefit of hiring drill sergeants to double down on productivity and reduce whining makes some good points about how the private sector can profit from hiring military veterans. But the piece misses some important points about how veteran-driven values and skills can address employee engagement, a key private sector concern. 

Fast Company recently called this challenge the “Great Gloom” – a miasma of diminished employee engagement resulting from the disconnect between a worker and an organization’s purpose, a problem many employers struggle to solve.  Unlike the private sector, which does not come with a ready-made mission, there is an intrinsic connection between the military mission and veterans. Service members have a deep understanding of the goal to carry out a well-defined mission (protect our country and support the Constitution) and are trained to proficiently deliver leadership, versatility, and character to support this mission. 

The disengaged employee, on the other hand, who may not know or understand how their employment supports the employer's goals and belief system, creates both risk and economic harm in the workplace. The economic harm is obvious (the employee isn't delivering the value of services for which they are hired, which also impacts productivity and innovation); it is more difficult to quantify the impact of disengagement on the organization's morale. An alienated employee is more likely to air grievances on social media, to share annoyances widely and loudly, and to engage in disruptive conduct. This behavior results in diminished productivity (at best) or expensive litigation (at worst) and diverts management's attention. Hiring the stereotypical drill sergeant the Journal article features to whip the workforce into shape may seem like a quick fix but a far better approach is to hire someone who understands that goal-setting, teamwork and ad-hoc problem-solving needs to fit the mission. 

Because military service stems from the “we”, not the “me”, veterans are also uniquely qualified to help an organization frame its mission if one is lacking. This state of mind replaces the what-have-you-done-for-me lately thinking with how one's whole self can serve the mission.   

So, on this Veterans Day, in addition to thanking a vet for their service to our country, employers would benefit from thinking about the value proposition a veteran might bring to their workplace and mission.