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Human resource professionals like me, who tap into the talent pool of former military personnel, tend to keep quiet about our best resources. But the fact is, military officers have special skills that serve private industry well.
Fluor, a Fortune 200 company headquartered in Irving, Texas, with 2009 revenue of $22 billion, delivers engineering, procurement, construction, maintenance and project management services to government and commercial clients in diverse industries around the world. With more than 42,000 employees on six continents, Fluor executives understand that to remain competitive they must identify and grow a new crop of leaders.
Prior to the economic slowdown in late 2008, strong growth forced our recruiters to look for leaders worldwide. Under Glenn Gilkey, senior vice president of human resources and administration, and Chief Operating Officer David Seaton, a junior military officer (JMO) hiring initiative was adopted as one of several pilot programs.
Our JMOs are typically lieutenants and captains with four to eight years of military experience. They are often degreed engineers from military academies such as West Point, the Virginia Military Institute, the Naval Academy or the Citadel. Most have led between 30 and 150 people. They have international experience and strong analytical skills, are trained to work in multicultural environments, are attentive to detail, and adapt quickly to stressful situations. Their training and experience often give them a strategic mind-set and create a tremendous background for development.
At the beginning of this initiative, Fluor was already hiring more veterans each year. By mid-2009, Fluor had hired 850 veterans in 12 months. And for four consecutive years, Fluor has been named to G.I. Jobs magazine’s list of the “Top 50 Military Friendly Employers.” Yet the strategy to target former military officers was a fresh approach.
In late 2008, Fluor planned to attend military hiring conferences in Dallas and Raleigh, N.C., that specialize in placing JMOs. In addition to Fluor’s own recruiters, we used placement firms such as Alliance International and Lucas Group International. Their recruiters made sure they understood our preferred qualifications, timing and compensation. They scheduled interviews for us with candidates who matched these criteria and had an interest in Fluor.
Choosing candidates was an inspiring process because of the amazing personalities and talent available. We hired 16 JMOs from the U.S. Air Force, Army and Navy; half were found at job fairs and half through our normal recruitment channel. They were placed in materials management, project engineering, industrial relations, contracts management, operations and project controls. The latter includes planning, scheduling and reporting on projects.
The new hires first went through weeks of orientation at Fluor’s Sugar Land, Texas, complex near Houston. Training included internal computer operation; health, safety and environmental practices; project controls; and the use of Fluor’s online knowledge community. Then we sent them to Afghanistan and to California, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas.
One recruit was Jason Alday, formerly an Army engineer officer who had served two tours in Iraq. His Army responsibilities included overseeing logistics and operations of a 70-person unit as well as planning and administration of engineering assets.
At Fluor, Alday was deployed to a project controls department serving a large oil and gas client in the Midwest. He tracks the progress and performance of construction operations by collecting and reporting weekly updates in the field and by conducting weekly performance audits of construction activities.
“As I transitioned out of the Army, I was looking for an organization where I could use my military experience in addition to my college education,” Alday says.
Some aspects of military operations show up in his new job: “Safety in the Army is stressed in every activity,” he says. “The same attitude is seen in the way Fluor operates. Since I was familiar with the Army’s risk assessment program, I was able to step right into safety audits and critique crew safety task assessments” at Fluor.
Alday’s manager, Jim Beeman, values his contributions, noting that “the discipline the military teaches is evident in Jason’s approach to his work.”
Most JMOs have made a comfortable transition into corporate life. Matt Rogers was recruited to work in procurement with Fluor after serving as a U.S. Army transportation officer. He says, “It was a pretty natural transition for me to do procurement logistics and expediting work at Fluor after being in charge of tracking and moving materials to forward bases in Iraq with the Army. Even if my job did not correlate directly with my previous Army work, a project is very much like military operations. There is a beginning and end and certain objectives you have to meet in a large capital project, along with milestones, just like there are in a military operation.”
Military Career Fairs
Fluor actively recruits veterans using a variety of communication vehicles. Recruiters advertise on external web sites and in military publications, employ mass e-mail and direct mail campaigns, and have a dedicated web page at www.fl uor.com/military to address military transitions and to highlight opportunities at Fluor.
Fluor recruiters also participate in career fairs for veterans and transitioning military candidates. In 2009, Fluor recruited at events sponsored by the Army Career and Alumni Program, the Military Offi cer Association of America and the National JobCorps Association, and at the following conferences: the Military Hiring Conference of Alliance International, the Service Academy Career Conference, the Southeast Texas Business Expo and the West Point Job Fair.
Soon after the JMO initiative, Fluor’s Government Group began to experience tremendous growth in its contingency operations services, which supports U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. Expanding on the qualities that made JMOs an excellent fit for our future leaders, we now set our sights on senior-level former military officers such as majors, lieutenant colonels and colonels. A focused team of recruiters began to identify senior-level officers who would augment Fluor’s management team. We began selecting candidates in the summer of 2009.
Team members contacted military placement organizations and reviewed lists of retired and separated or retiring and separating officers. Contact was initiated via e-mails and phone calls to gauge interest, relevant backgrounds and availability.
Traits recruiters looked for included:
Eight weeks of searching produced dozens of exceptional candidates, and 15 were hired, oriented and assigned roles in Fluor’s Government Group. Positions were filled in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Following orientation, we placed these individuals in mid-level management openings, surrounded them with experienced Fluor leaders to help them learn our culture and benefited from their leadership skills.
This and the JMO pilot programs became a new system for capitalizing on leadership potential that we can now repeat with measured success.
Whether meeting with tribal leaders to determine essential life support for small villages, training foreign armies in combat zones or orchestrating critical support services, former military talent at Fluor represents a spectrum of experience and leadership.
Bringing the fundamentals of leadership, ethics and teamwork, these experienced leaders have the ability to fit quickly into place and are well-positioned for challenges.
Mission under way …
The author is group human resource executive at Fluor in Greenville, S.C.
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