By David H. Petraeus Nov 11, 2016
Veterans Day provides a chance for us not only to thank the men and women who have served our great nation in uniform, but also to reflect on how the business community and society are doing in assisting with the transition of our veterans to civilian life. They answered the Nation’s call to duty and served as Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen. They did so with energy, dedication, loyalty, and teamwork. And they are invariably bright, talented, entrepreneurial, and ready to enter the civilian workforce.
Hiring veterans is not just the right thing to do to help those who have served our Nation in a time of war, it is also the smart thing to do from a business perspective. During my time in the Balkans, Iraq, and Afghanistan – and in the greater Middle East – I witnessed firsthand the fortitude and skills of these men and women. And there is no question in my mind, after three-and-a-half years in the business community, that virtually all companies would benefit from an infusion of talented veterans. In fact, in recognition of this, many large American firms have established veterans initiatives and actively pursue veterans for their businesses.
At KKR, our Vets@Work program, launched in 2011, is aimed at recruiting, hiring, and retaining veterans across our U.S.-based private equity portfolio companies. These companies recognize that veterans have specialized skills, extensive training, leadership experience, and impressive character from their many years of military service, making them welcome additions to our companies across the United States. More than 35 of our current and former portfolio companies have taken part in this initiative during the past five years, together hiring more than 41,750 veterans and military spouses. These companies are focused on building the best firms possible, and hiring from the veterans community helps achieve this goal. Of considerable significance, as well, is that the participating firms have sought not just to provide veterans a job, but to enable them to embark on a career by investing in them through training, education, and mentoring.
It is heartening to see so many companies pursuing similar initiatives. From Fortune 500 firms to start-ups, companies are increasingly recognizing the enormous contributions veterans can make –and increasingly seeking to attract veterans to their firms. The private equity industry is a good example. Next week, in fact, KKR will co-host the second Veterans Initiative Summit, together with Apollo, Blackstone, Carlyle, and TPG, bringing together our collective portfolio companies’ veterans hiring leaders and teams. We are dedicated to arming these professionals with the knowledge and resources they need to enhance their companies’ veterans initiatives.
Business leaders clearly understand the value that veterans bring to their companies. Nonetheless, as a business community, we still have work to do in ensuring that veterans not only have jobs but also enjoy fulfilling careers. To do this, we need to focus on career mapping, personnel development, and retention. To determine the best approaches, KKR is analyzing retention, role- and site-specific trends, and the performance of military-affiliated employees at select portfolio companies so that we can share best practices and our learnings with others. Veterans benefit enormously from industry-specific training, education, and mentoring. These actions are hugely important in helping our veterans make a successful transition from service in uniform to working in the civilian business community. And, while businesses should be applauded for tackling these issues, we also need to continue to improve and expand our efforts.
Every Veterans Day, I recall how uniquely privileged I was to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan with what deservedly has come to be known as America’s New Greatest Generation. Now, many of those of that generation are no longer on the battle field; increasingly, they are contributing to American business pursuits. And American businesses and colleges constantly need to determine how they can do even more than they do at present to capitalize fully on the capabilities, experiences, and expertise of America’s newest veterans.
In truth, we must do this to unleash the full potential of all the members of our America’s civilian workforce. But a key element of that workforce is comprised of those women and men who raised their right hand and swore the oath of enlistment during a time of war, knowing that they would likely be called on to deploy to a combat zone and fight for our country. And we must do even more for them.
On this Veterans Day, then, I thank those who have served or are serving our country during a time of enormous challenges. It was the greatest of privileges to serve with the members of America’s New Greatest Generation. Indeed, few appreciate as well as I do the extraordinary service rendered by those of this cohort and the sacrifices they made. But, the contributions of these great Americans to our country are far from over; in many cases, their post-uniform contributions have just begun. And working together, we can all help our great country capitalize on the extraordinary opportunities that lie ahead.