What Veterans Have Taught Us

By Greg Foran
November 11, 2015
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Marty Stewart’s story made me proud. Standing in one of our stores last week, he told me he served 22 years in the Army, nine of those in the Army National Guard — including a deployment in Iraq.

He worked for Walmart the entire time he was in the Guard, and we were always there for him. Now he works as an assistant manager overseeing hundreds of associates and millions of dollars in revenue. We love having Marty and other veterans on our team. In fact we’ve hired nearly 110,000 veterans since we launched our Veterans Welcome Home Commitment on Memorial Day two years ago.

We’re proud of this progress, but know we can do more. This Veterans Day, we thought we’d share what we’ve learned over the last two years, as all of us think of ways we can better help veterans transition successfully into civilian life.

The first thing we found was what you might expect: Our veteran associates promote quickly. In fact, of the nearly 110,000 that we’ve hired, we’ve already promoted nearly 12,000 of them. We’ve also found them to be some of our more dedicated associates.

Others, we found, simply see us as a way to get on their feet, but not a place they choose to grow professionally. They want clear career paths. We want to be a place where they can grow. And with our investment in wages and training, we’re working to provide that.

Our commitment two years ago was to offer a job to any honorably discharged veteran within 12 months of active duty service. From the beginning we wanted to be that place for them to earn a paycheck while they consider what’s next. The good news is that, of the group that doesn’t stay with us, our surveys show the majority would recommend Walmart for veterans. We know we are serving an important function in helping veterans find a place to land.

But because they bring such valuable skills, we want to find as many ways as possible to encourage them to stay with us longer. This is probably true for many employers.

The secret appears to be offering them a mentor to help them transition to our company culture and learn how to grow their career with us. We call these our veteran champions. We’ve offered this program since we launched our veteran hiring commitment. Transitioning veterans who have champions are doing better on every level. They enjoy their jobs more and have an easier time adapting. They view the company positively and are more likely to consider Walmart as a long term career and recommend Walmart to others.

We can all learn from this. One of the major challenges facing veterans when they transition out of the military is establishing relationships in local communities to support them.  As the largest private employer in America, we believe that helping them starts with us.

At Walmart, we are looking for creative ways to expand our champion program and to better meet the needs of our veteran associates and veterans in our communities.  Earlier this year we expanded our commitment to offer a job to any eligible veteran honorably discharged since Memorial Day 2013. We expect to hire 250,000.

But we can all do our part to empower a veteran – whether that’s mentoring one yourself, hiring one, or helping one find a job. For the past few weeks, we’ve been supporting a national campaign called Greenlight a Vet, encouraging everyone in communities to do just that. A green light means go and that’s what veterans are known for—they take action, they serve, they work hard. We owe them just as much in return. Veterans are valuable members of our community and we all need to do our part to help them be successful.
 
With as many as 250,000 American service members expected to leave the military each year and return to civilian life, we’ve all got our work cut out for us. One of the things I often tell my team is “you get one point for talking, and nine points for doing.”

Let’s not just talk about supporting veterans. Let’s do it and let’s do it well.