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Mission: Recruitment

The U.S. Army is joining forces with employers to tackle the job of matching soldiers, skills—and opportunities.

HR Magazine, January 2009For organizations that need to recruit high numbers of entry-level workers and specialists, there may be no better sourcing strategy than cultivating a candidate-client relationship with one of their biggest recruiting competitors: the United States Army.

For decades, the U.S. Army has competed with employers for talent. Millions of high school graduates have heard “Be All You Can Be. Join the Army” as they have made their first major career decisions to attend college, get a civilian job or enter military service.

Nowadays, the Army—like many large employers—faces hiring challenges that require recruiters to think outside the box and enlist all the help they can get to shore up the ranks. Through recruitment initiatives that encourage employer partnerships that benefit the Army, soldiers and, eventually, the partnering employers, the Army is meeting its recruitment goals and employers are establishing connections to high-quality, Army-trained individuals upon their separation from active duty.

Partnership for Youth Success

Partnership for Youth Success (PaYS) represents one such program. Begun in July 2000, the recruiting initiative developed by the U.S. Army Recruiting Command appeals to young people interested in obtaining a quality civilian job after service.

“PaYS is an enlistment option that enables a young man or woman to select a post-Army partner for an employment interview when joining the Army, Army Reserve or advanced ROTC [Reserve Officers’ Training Corps],” says Army PaYS Program Manager Robert A. Qualls, based at Fort Knox, Ky. “This program is not the Army’s first endeavor to help soldiers find a job after leaving the Army. But PaYS is the first program designed to connect soldiers with post-Army opportunities before they even join.”

Here’s how it works: Army recruiters help prospective recruits explore their career interests and needs and work with them to match these to enlistment options. After selecting an Army job, eligible applicants look at PaYS for post-Army opportunities and select one from more than 300 PaYS partners to connect with after completing active duty.

Meanwhile, PaYS is marketed to potential partners through the 38 U.S. Army recruiting battalions across the United States. Battalion leaders and recruiters make contact with leaders in businesses and public agencies in the course of contacting young people to join the Army. Interested employers accepted as PaYS partners sign an agreement promising to provide an interview to qualified soldiers who select the partner company to explore post-military employment.

“We simply say, ‘Let us have them first, teach them a skill and refine them with the Army values, and then go to work for your company,’ ” says Qualls. “We want to have the premier employers in the local job markets as PaYS partners.”

Partners may interview regular Army soldiers before they actually leave active duty. In many cases, however, the interviews come afterward. For reservists, interviews come upon completion of active duty where they obtain basic and job skill training. ROTC cadets interview as college seniors.

Fifteen thousand regular Army soldiers and 5,935 reservists enlisted with the PaYS option in fiscal 2008. The Army furnishes companies with contact information for soldiers selecting them as employer partners so that they can establish contact.

“We send a postcard to every new soldier who enlists with PaYS to remind the soldier to keep in contact via e-mail with the HR contact in the company,” Qualls says. “We also have a reporting and communication tool that our partners can use to contact soldiers individually or by groups.”

Hurdle: Stay in Touch

The program does have its challenges, according to Cindy Misner, program operations manager, also based at Fort Knox.

Turnover in the Army and in corporate America makes it hard to continuously track the soldiers and even the employer contacts, says Misner, adding that turnover makes it harder to forge strong working relationships on both sides.

In addition, the military’s web site applications can be incompatible with some corporate communications networks, as Sally Hart, national military recruiting director for Cincinnati-based Cintas Corp., found out. Plus, HR professionals need to know that they’ll have to work the system a while before they see payoffs.

Hart says her company, a professional uniforms and apparel manufacturer and supplier, operates more than 400 facilities in the United States and Canada and employs more than 34,000 people—none of whom were hired through the PaYS program. But she says she’s not concerned. The company only partnered with Army PaYS in 2004 and, while it hasn’t hired anyone yet, in one year Cintas had approximately 3,000 Army recruits elect to follow up with the company.

“It’s at least four years before anyone can be placed due to their military commitment,” Hart says. “Out of every 1,000 recruits, 25 percent drop out of the military, 25 percent re-enlist, 25 percent may no longer be interested in the company or the location they selected when they get out. That leaves 25 percent that might still be interested. But they still need to remember to contact the employer. So, overall, the numbers going into the system are big, but the ones coming out right now are small.”

Still, she says her company considers the work it does with all branches of the military well worth the investment: “Cintas is still getting its name out there to skilled job candidates in the military ranks through word-of-mouth, and we consider the good will generated by participating in these kinds of hiring programs a significant boost to our brand.”

How to apply—and get vetted

Companies or agencies interested in joining the U.S. Army’s Partnership for Youth Success (PaYS) should have a minimum of 500 employees—a size that can reasonably forecast jobs two to six years into the future.

The partnership welcomes established organizations with secure reputations. A potential partner’s image should reflect the highest values. Companies currently under investigation or receiving negative press do not qualify. In addition, companies in the process of mergers are not qualified until after the mergers are complete.

All positions presented to transitioning soldiers must be for regular full-time employment. This includes those in temporary-help agencies.

The Army PaYS program does not charge a fee to employers. In turn, companies that charge a fee for employment or placement do not meet qualifications.

The commanding general of the United States Army Recruiting Command has final approval for all applying companies or agencies.

For more information, call (502) 626-1222 or visit

Corporate Buy-In

As a federal government defense contractor, Raytheon Co. employs 72,000 employees worldwide and hires 5,000 to 6,000 U.S. engineers annually. “Raytheon wants to support the military,” says Max Davis, senior manager for talent acquisition. But good will isn’t the key reason the company participates in this and other military hiring initiatives.

Twenty percent of Raytheon’s annual hires are fresh out of college, but the rest are experienced professionals. New hires must be U.S. citizens in order to have or obtain high levels of security clearance. The company became the 200th Army PaYS partner in January 2007 and expects the program to help its recruiters hire specialists in electronics, aerospace, information technology and technical services.

“Finding enough qualified candidates for the positions we have is difficult,” Davis says. “We have to train college graduates and get them up to speed in how we do things. Plus, it can take up to a year to get them security clearance. Military professionals come to us with security clearances, and in many cases they’ve used our products, so they’re familiar with the company and our processes. That’s a big timesaver and cost-saver.”

Davis says about 2,400 recruits were signed up for Raytheon as of November 2008. “We have them look at our selection of jobs and find the best fit for them—one or two options, depending on their skills mix, job title and location. Then we set up an interview and, hopefully, hire them. We can’t always find a match, but we’d like to hire as many as we can.”

Sears Holdings Corp., a Fortune 45 company comprising Sears, Kmart, Lands’ End, The Great Indoors and Sears Home Services, as well as the brands Die Hard, Craftsman and Kenmore, employs 337,000 workers in more than 3,800 locations throughout the United States and Canada. One of the largest employers of military veterans in the country, it is a founding partner of Army PaYS.

Sears Holdings “has had formal partnerships with the military since 1916,” says Philip Dana, manager of specialty talent acquisition. Veterans hold numerous senior leadership positions and Sears’ culture supports military connections through every employment program available, Dana adds.

“It’s difficult [in retail] to find clean-cut, polite, respectful people who have the ability to interact with customers on a professional basis,” Dana said. “We need folks who come into our company with skills, but also all the cultural tools. It’s easy to teach someone about an industry or a job, but it’s nearly impossible for companies to teach the leadership and management skills that are acquired while serving in the military.”

Commitment to Troops

Many corporate executives support the military and say it is the right thing to do.

For example, State Farm Mutual Insurance, headquartered in Bloomington, Ill., is regularly recognized by the federal government for its outstanding support of employees serving in the National Guard and the Reserve.

The company’s PaYS program was developed in 2000-01, “but it hasn’t generated many recruits yet because of the really long tail on when you’re actually going to see some candidates,” according to Michelle Bitzberger, operations recruiter for the human resource department in Concordville, Pa., about an hour from Philadelphia. “In time, there will be a constant flow, because there will always be people signing up and people getting out.”

State Farm has hired someone through Army PaYS who’s had a lasting impact on the organization, even though he no longer works there.

In January 2007, a soldier “reached out to State Farm after he came off active-duty status, but several months later he was accepted into the Pennsylvania State Police training program,”

Bitzberger recalls. “We were sorry to see him leave, but he was pursuing yet another form of community service, and we supported him in that decision.”

Bitzberger stayed in contact with the man’s father, who later let her and his son’s former team members know that he had been redeployed to go back to Iraq.

Teammates “put together a care package to send to his unit. You can leave State Farm, but you’re still part of the family, and that’s just one of the ways the company keeps up with these folks. We want to take care of them, especially when they’re making that kind of sacrifice.”

Telecommunications company Time Warner Cable also partners and hires through Army PaYS, according to the company’s former talent acquisition associate Jaime Rohadfox, who admits she became the company’s PaYS program representative by default. “The best things happen that way,” says Rohadfox. “High school kids are so innocent and want to learn; however, they are so overwhelmed with everything that is expected of them. Recruiters have so many resources available to them, and the Army PaYs program is just another valued resource. There’s a lot of joy and fulfillment that comes with working with the youth and watching them grow.”

Misner, who says she also grew and matured during her years in the Army, agrees: There’s “satisfaction associated with helping these people who had no idea what they wanted to do—no goals—find not just a job, but a career,” she says. “It’s amazing the transition that they go through.”

The author is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

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