For Walmart, hiring veterans 'makes us better'

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Gary Profit (Courtesy photo)

Editor's Note: The following story highlights a veteran at Walmart which is committed to including talented members of the military community in its workplace. Walmart is a client of Hirepurpose, a Task & Purpose sister company. Learn More.

Walmart has been a leading military brand for the past decade. One of the leaders behind it is retired Brig. Gen. Gary Profit, a 31-year Army veteran and senior director of military programs at Walmart.

Hirepurpose spoke with Profit to learn more about the motivation behind Walmart's military-friendly programs.

How did you see your career skills evolve during the three decades of your Army career? Which skills acquired in the Army are most useful for you today?

Early in my career, I had to gain the knowledge, skills, and abilities to master my field artillery craft. Leadership was generally exercised through directive authority. As I rose in rank and responsibility, capabilities, rather than KSA's, became more important. A higher form of values-based leadership was required, one exercised with those over whom I often had no authority and through the power of my ideas. That growth and development served me well as I transitioned to my post-uniform career. From my commissioning as a Second Lieutenant until today, the single most enduring aspect of my career journey has been a solid foundation: the Army Values I lived for 31 years in uniform and the Walmart values I have lived since joining the company over 11 years ago. Interestingly, both institutions use many of the same words, among them respect, service, excellence, and integrity.

You have been leading military programs at Walmart for the past 11 years. Which veteran initiatives are you most proud of?

We have enjoyed a solid foundation, from Capt. Sam Walton, an Army veteran, who founded the company to the literally hundreds of thousands of veterans and members of veteran and military families who have been Walmart associates. We stand on their shoulders.

With the goal of achieving top-of-mind awareness and becoming the employer of choice, the first thing we did was build a Military People Brand. From there, it was important to have veteran- and military family-friendly policies, such as the Military Family Promise and a robust Military Leave of Absence policy, to support our associates who serve, and have served, and their families. The MFP allows military spouses to turn jobs into careers and, by removing barriers, the enhanced MLOA encourages people to continue to serve, or even enlist, in the Reserve and Guard.

With sound policies in place, we could consider offering hiring preferences, and we launched the Veterans Welcome Home Commitment in 2013 and Military Spouse Career Connection in 2018. I'm pleased that we are close to hiring the 250,000 veterans that we projected when we enhanced the VWHC in 2015, and doing so nearly a year ahead of schedule: As of Veterans Day, we've hired over 243,000 veterans, and, perhaps more importantly, over 39,000 have been promoted to roles of greater responsibility since joining the Walmart team. They are turning opportunities into careers.

Since they better understood their aspirations and personal brands, some of those transitioning from military service were ready to pursue a career; however, many were not and were looking for jobs, landing spots if you will. We included both, and, in the process, redefined retention: If you want a career in the retail business, there is a place for you at Walmart, but, if your aspirations take you elsewhere, and we have offered you a good experience and you remain a customer and a productive member of our community, we are just fine.

The MSCC has been a labor of love for me, having watched the career sacrifices my wife made supporting me. I'm proud that, as of Veterans Day, we have hired over 14,000 military spouses in the first year of the program. As I always thought we would at Walmart, we are seeing very talented military spouses join our team and find not only jobs but careers. They are adding a measure of stability and financial security to their families and making us a better company.

If we don't support our veteran, military spouse, and veteran and military family associates, they won't stay with us; therefore, I'm proud to have helped launch Walmart SERVES, our Veteran and Military Family Associate Resource Group. As I look to the future, I am excited about the prospect of engaging, supporting, and empowering them and all that will mean for our business.

How does Walmart go beyond people and hiring to impact the military community?

While the Military People Brand is the cornerstone, our Military Brand portfolio is so much more robust: It combines employment and entrepreneurship; education and training; and health and wellness into a whole person, whole family, whole community wellbeing framework. And I'm very proud of the collaborative team of military people brand and corporate and consumer brand professionals who have come together at Walmart to focus on veterans and military families. With our thought partners and strategic relationships, I believe it is fair to say that we have earned a national thought leadership reputation, of which I'm very proud.

At Walmart, we believe it is our responsibility to offer our size and scale to address the challenges we face as a nation and, indeed, globally. Whether it's through hiring preferences like the VWHC and the MSCC; or encouraging veteran- and military family-owned businesses to seek opportunities in private sector supply chains, like ours, through the Coalition for Veteran Owned Business; or, in a telehealth partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs, using our stores to help make VA care easier to access, while reducing the burden of long travel times to appointments; or changing the public discourse across this land to recognize veterans and military families as the valued members of our communities they are, rather than merely heroes or victims, through campaigns like Greenlight A Vet, it is a privilege to demonstrate our gratitude for the sacrifices of those who serve, and have served, in uniform and their families.

Let there be no mistake, those Associates, those suppliers, and those citizens make our company, our communities, and our nation better.

We can do a lot organically. And when we find unmet needs we can't address organically, we make investments that strengthen systems and communities to support servicemembers, veterans, and their families at all stages of their journeys through our philanthropy.

Why does Walmart believe it is so important to focus on veterans and military spouses?

It's pretty simple: They make us better. They bring values; capabilities; knowledge, skills, and abilities; and life experiences, often well beyond their years. I don't understand why any organization wouldn't want to "swim" in what is arguably the largest, most diverse, talent-rich pool in the world.

How can veterans put their skills on a resume and translate them to stand out to employers?

Some "do's" and "don'ts":

Do – Remembering that a resume is merely a vehicle to an interview and recruiters and hiring managers are busy professionals, get their attention in the upper half of the first page of the resume

Do – Make sure your aspirations are in plain view, and your portfolio of preparation and experience clearly demonstrates that you are the best candidate and would be successful in the role

Do – Focus, not only on your knowledge, skills, and abilities, but showcase your values and capabilities

Do – Since nearly everyone who serves rises in rank to positions of responsibility, incorporate your growth and development as a leader
Don't: Overreach or overvalue your military service…I was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, not a Brigadier General, and I learned along the way

Do: Be honest with yourself: Look at the job description and requirements, and ensure you have as many of them as possible, and, if there are gaps, understand where they exist

Regardless of your entry point, opportunities at Walmart are nearly limitless: If you enter at the right place, perform like you did in the military, and demonstrate your potential, you'll be just fine.

This post was sponsored by Walmart

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Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.

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