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How and Why to Incorporate Veteran Talent into Your Supply Chain Hiring


Note: this post was originally published on May 25, 2021 and was updated on November 11, 2021.

Earlier this year, we published the blog below on the importance of incorporating veteran and military talent into supply chain hiring plans as well as Premier’s commitment to creating a culture of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB).

And today, alongside a team of my Premier colleagues, I’m thrilled to help honor and empower America’s wounded warriors by participating in the Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) Carry Forward® Virtual 5K.

Our Premier team has exceeded our goal and raised over $15,000 to help provide services in mental health, career counseling and long-term rehabilitative care so that warriors can thrive in their next mission. I’m humbled and proud to serve those who have served us – and thank you to everyone who has supported our effort along the way!

This Veteran’s Day, our DEIB commitment ─ and our support for veterans and those who have served ─ remains stronger than ever.

I hope you’ll take the time to read my original post below, which remains as relevant today. Premier also recently released our inaugural Sustainability Report where you can learn more about our overall DEIB efforts and initiatives focused on environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices.

Once again, to all serving, and who have served in our U.S. military, we thank you today and every day for your commitment, sacrifice and bravery in protecting our freedoms.

- David

As a proud veteran of the U.S. Navy and executive sponsor of Premier’s Military, Veteran and Allies Employee Resource Group (ERG), I’m passionate about attracting, retaining and increasing overall engagement with veteran and military talent. And here at Premier, we’re always looking to hire talented veterans and individuals serving in our military.

Industry consolidation, the rapid rise of new technologies, increased responsibility for non-labor expenses and a greater focus on improving resiliency mean healthcare supply chain teams are expanding in size and scope – and the need for top talent has increased with them.

Yet today, we’re unfortunately seeing a massive talent gap in the supply chain:

  • Demand for supply chain talent grew 26 percent between 2010 and 2020, and the current demand to supply ratio of talent exceeds 6:1.
  • According to a recent survey, 31 percent of supply chain leaders reported concerns over having enough workforce.
  • Changing skill requirements is one of the top factors driving the talent shortage. A survey from The Economist found that more than half of all organizations said they were “lacking employees with advanced digital and analytical skills,” ─ critical competencies in today’s supply chain roles.

Hiring strong veteran and military talent can help fill this gap. More than 200,000 service members transition out of the armed services every year. These highly trained individuals are a rich source of diversity and leadership as they enter the civilian workforce and are a great asset to the organizations they join.

Building a diverse workforce is no longer aspirational ─ it’s vital. Diversity of ideas and input from veterans, women, LGBTQ individuals and people of color is crucial for today’s global supply chains to thrive.

As one of the largest pools of talent out there, it’s essential to invest in recruiting and retaining military talent in any organization.

Premier’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging strategy is based on foundational pillars designed to accelerate how we provide health and wellness solutions to an increasingly diverse world. We know that a diversity of perspectives, experiences and backgrounds is a powerful way to unlock new ideas and better understand the needs of others.

We remain committed to creating an atmosphere of trust and openness that supports engagement, development and retention of our veteran and military employees – and all employees.

To that end, Premier’s Military, Veteran and Allies ERG recently hosted a panel discussion with corporate diversity and human resource leaders from across the country. Below are the panelists’ key takeaways on how to incorporate veteran talent as part of your supply chain hiring plan.

#1 - Develop a targeted recruitment plan.

A key step in attracting military hires is a comprehensive and personalized recruitment plan that focuses on meeting veterans where they are and “speaking the same language.”

Among the panelists, many said their organizations:

Equally important for recruitment is identifying current veteran employees and engaging them in the process. “When I’m at an event, bringing along veteran employees from our company is so valuable,” explained one panelist. “They are able to fully understand the work our transitioning vets have accomplished and how that relates to our organization.”

Another panelist noted the importance of helping hiring managers understand how veterans can uniquely contribute to an organization – and not getting hung up on resume specifics or unfamiliar skill sets.

“Two things we’ve looked at are how our job descriptions are written and how we’re interviewing candidates,” the panelist said. “If I have a fantastic candidate who’s worked on a nuclear submarine to keep everyone safe, does it always matter that this person doesn’t have so many years of experience in a specific industry? In interviews, we find that open-ended behavioral questions or prove-your-craft exercises that demonstrate leadership, teamwork, problem-solving and specific competencies are best. A competency is a competency, and value is value in both the military and corporate world.”

#2 - Gear company programs toward veteran needs.

For employers, retaining military hires who are often simultaneously undergoing transitions back to civilian life isn’t always easy.

But just like earlier-career employees, investments in support systems and career development structures such as skills-bridge or internship and apprenticeship programs can put veterans on a path to success. Thoughtful onboarding, career path design and continuous feedback can also help retain military talent over time.

Beyond training and career development initiatives, specific corporate support groups like ERGs as well as mentorship and buddy programs are also essential. And for reservists or other military employees who could see deployment, having company programs in place to acknowledge and support these individuals – and their families – can be a game-changer.

Here’s some direct perspective from a few of our panelists:

  • “From time off to free counseling and programs that connect military families, we want to support those facing deployment. It sets a common expectation for everybody in our organization that this is not just something we accommodate, but we celebrate.”
  • “We have an apprenticeship program in partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor. It’s been a great way for us to identify talented veteran candidates and give them the opportunity to learn new, or build on, skill sets as they're exiting the military.”
  • “Coming into our organization, anyone can feel a bit overwhelmed – we have 75+ different lines of businesses and it can be difficult to navigate through the system. And so, for our veteran employees, and all employees, we have a buddy program. A buddy is there to help with time entry, benefits sign up or just knowing where the breakroom is, and this is crucial for retention.”

#3 - Get leadership and employees engaged and involved.

For veterans to truly flourish in an organization, executive-level support is important for Human Resources teams to create buy-in, demand for talent and overall engagement.

A supportive tone from the top can create the right atmosphere for the entire organization on fundamental military values around leadership, decision making, trust, delegation and more. It can encourage service members to share their experiences, while also educating employees on how military concepts, values and skillsets can be successfully leveraged in a more traditional workforce.

“Something that’s helped me engage leadership is speaking to the needs of the business and how veterans meet those needs,” one panelist explained. “This has created excitement and support among our leadership team and helped drive overall employee involvement in our programs.”

Overall, the panelists agreed that ERGs, recognition programs and related corporate initiatives offer the following to both leaders and employees:

  • Relationship building
  • Learning opportunities
  • Celebration of diverse people, ideas and thoughts
  • Community service
  • Professional development and support of company goals

“In addition to our veterans ERG, we also have a diversity and inclusion business network,” another panelist said. “We have about 750 employee members, and it's not just targeted at military individuals – our goal is to celebrate diversity of experience and background broadly. We have regularly sponsored Ted Talks, workshops and discussions. It encourages a full range of dialogue to better understand our employee’s backgrounds and perspectives.”

At Premier, our 10 ERGs are a vital part of our culture and help us build an environment of inclusion, equity, belonging, diversity awareness and a sense of company pride.

I also encourage all of our employees to get involved in Premier’s Military, Veteran and Allies ERG. It’s not only for our employees that have served in our armed forces - it’s for anyone who wants to get engaged!

To all serving, and who have served in our U.S. military, we thank you for your commitment, sacrifice and bravery in protecting our freedoms.

  • Looking for a new career? Check out the opportunities we’re hiring for!
  • Read our white paper to learn how diverse suppliers are addressing some of the most significant issues in healthcare.
  • Premier was recently recognized by the Ethisphere® Institute as one of the 2021 World’s Most Ethical Companies® for the 14th year in a row. Learn more.
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