You Have To Trust The Folks You Work Closely With, Says Fedex VP On Why He Hires Vets
Editor’s Note: The following story highlights veterans who work at FedEx Ground. Committed to filling its ranks with talented members of the military community, FedEx Ground is a Hirepurpose client. Learn more here.
Jeffery Smith is an Army Special Forces veteran, as well as former chief warrant officer and helicopter pilot who served with the Wisconsin National Guard for 12 years. These days, he’s the senior vice president of human resources for FedEx Ground. At FedEx, Smith leads a team of approximately 500 human resources personnel who together oversee between 85,000 and 100,000 employees, depending on the season. And while he studied business and human resources in college, he learned a lot of his management skills during his time in the Army.
“I learned in the military that how you treat and manage people makes a difference,” Smith told Hirepurpose. “I still think of HR in terms of Special Forces — we’re force multipliers.”
Those skills span the company, from the “frontline” operations in the hubs and stations all the way to the top of the corporate ladder. “We’re actively recruiting frontline operations managers across the country, and the roles are especially great for members of the military,” Smith said. “Our managers lead squad-sized teams, so the role is great for veterans with leadership experience.”
Now, Smith is responsible for, as he said, “making sure we align our people strategies with our business strategies.” Because at FedEx, while the bottom line matters, people matter more — both the customers and the employees. The company operates under a PSP business philosophy, meaning people, service, and profit, with people coming first. The people, Smith explained, influence the service, which in turn influences the profit, which loops back to informing how they reward the people.
“We make sure that people are always a part of the discussion,” he said. Especially the employees. “My goal is to make every employee experience outstanding.”
Part of making sure the employees have an outstanding experience means recruiting the right people. And veterans are at the top of the list of desired applicants. As Smith explained, you have to trust the folks you work closely with, and in the military, you know what folks went through to get to where they are. By recruiting veterans, FedEx is able to build teams that know how to work together effectively because of their previous experience.
“In the military you learn to rely on your teammates,” Smith said. “You know that you have skills others don’t, but also that there are skills others on your team have that you don’t.” Coming in with that kind of background, he said, makes it easier for veteran employees to work within the teams FedEx relies on to get things done.
And FedEx is working hard to add more veterans to their team. In addition to cross-country outreach and creating guides for recruiters to help them understand the veteran experience and military resumes, the company is in the process of putting together a veterans’ employee resource group to help transitioning veterans, as well as National Guard and reserves members who are pulled in and out of civilian life to serve the country.
At FedEx Ground, there are vet reps, who work on figuring out how to support veterans entering the workplace, whether for the first time or from another company, and how they can help those who are deploying. The company respects an individual’s commitment to their service and also offers flexible part-time work and tuition reimbursement for those who want to go back to school. They’re willing to work with employees to make sure they are getting what they need. “There is tremendous organizational support,” Smith said.
FedEx Ground also gives employees opportunities they might not get elsewhere, including the opportunity to grow within the company, and the chance to work in offices not just across the country, but also around the world. And they work to make sure that their employees achieve their goals in each and every role they take on.
“We’re a very welcoming company,” Smith added. “There’s a sense of wanting to help people be successful.”
And while FedEx Ground certainly believes in giving back, their desire to recruit more veterans comes not just from a sense of duty, but from the value that veterans add to their company. “Vets have had the chance to challenge themselves, and they have the ability to understand the mission. They know how to lead but also be part of a team,” Smith said, outlining the many skills vets bring to the table. “Vets understand inclusion and diversity of thought, and they know how to come together to be successful.”