McCormick & Company is Recognizing the Benefits of Hiring, Retaining, & Supporting Veterans
For many men and women serving in our armed forces, returning to civilian life and transitioning into civilian occupations can be a difficult challenge.
Programs like the US Department of Defense’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP) help active-duty military members prepare for the next steps in their lives by providing them with the necessary resources, tools, and training to re-enter civilian life. Organizations like Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Department of Labor, and Hire Heroes USA work to reduce some of the burdens often felt during this process. But what can employers do?
Alex Gardner, End-to-End Planning Manager, North America Supply Chain, says when McCormick created the Veteran Employee Ambassador Group (EAG) in 2014, they took a giant step toward supporting Veterans with their transition. Alex, a former Lieutenant in the US Navy who served in the Arabian Gulf, understands that service members often feel intimidated when applying for civilian jobs. The process is lined with obstacles, particularly because military skills get lost in translation, and Veterans are quickly disqualified.
“When I was hired by McCormick in 2015, it was my first non-military job and it was very scary,” he remembers. “But the hiring manager, Mark Madonia, seemed to understand the unique skillset Veterans bring to a company and was supportive and open-minded. As I later learned, his father had served in the US Navy, and Mark specifically hired me based on his knowledge of what Veterans bring to the table.”
Today, Alex serves as Chair of the Veteran’s EAG, which strives to give employee Veterans a sense of belonging, a feeling of pride about their military service, and a way to connect. The EAG partners with Talent Acquisition and Diversity & Inclusion to stand up formal practices to recruit, hire, retain, and support Veterans at McCormick. As a result, employee Veterans now assist in the recruiting process, help write job descriptions, and train hiring managers to look for transferable skills common among service members – like leadership, loyalty, and “grace under pressure.” The online application system has also been modified to track self-identity, so the company can record how many Veterans are applying, interviewing, and being hired. Furthermore, the EAG partners with businesses to provide valuable feedback on McCormick products by providing their unique perspectives.
New hire John Richard, Digital Analytics Analyst, connected with Alex as soon as heard about the Veteran’s EAG. After attending college for three semesters, John decided to take another path and left to enter the US Air Force. When he returned to civilian life in 2016 to begin college again, it was significant adjustment. “The biggest difference between military life and civilian life is the lifestyle,” John shared. “I went from a regimented, schedule-oriented, strict culture to one of freedom and self-accountability.”
Although he spent four years working as an Arabic Cryptologic Language Analyst in the US and Jordan, John knew he wanted to work in technology. The Senior Airman, like most Veterans, worked for a few employers before finding one he could envision himself at long-term. The strong work ethic, individual accountability, and natural leadership he gained in the Air Force are appreciated and respected at McCormick.
“As an analytics analyst, my intelligence background transferred very well. I have a different way of looking at information, a different process and perspective, a different angle – which makes me a true critical thinker,” he stated. He wants to get involved in the Veteran’s EAG and participate in the advocacy work they do - like visiting Veterans in homes, supporting the local American Foreign Legion Post, laying American flags on the graves of Veterans, and fundraising Veteran causes. He is looking forward to feeling a sense of camaraderie with his new colleagues.
Jim Lin, Director, Program Management, joined McCormick in 1992 and is one of the founders of the Veteran’s EAG. After watching other EAGs get established, the former Captain in the US Army approached Diversity & Inclusion to see if there was a place at McCormick for Veterans – and there was. “We began as a small social group for Veterans to get together and share stories,” Jim stated. “Today we are an active organization of more than 90 colleagues supporting one another and the greater Veteran community. We invite all employees – whether Veterans or not – to join our EAG.” During the creation of the group, Jim discovered that McCormick has always had strong ties to service, as several former CEOs are also Veterans: C.P. McCormick, served in the US Navy during World War I and Alan Wilson, served in the US Army in the 1980’s.
As a company commander in South Korea leading 180 soldiers for two years, Jim understands first-hand how military duties translate into civilian ones. “Leadership is the biggest takeaway. You are not just leading others in a military situation – like safeguarding the border between North and South Korea, but you are also leading yourself each day in terms of being disciplined and accountable, prioritizing, and overcoming adversity,” he says.
Other transition examples include a service member who helped the Navy save millions of dollars by administering government travel accounts – they can apply that experience to a financial controller position. Someone in charge of an aircraft repair department who learned and practiced the Six Sigma principles, is an asset to a manufacturing or operations job. Just in time inventory practices not only gets vital parts to the front lines faster, but also gets raw materials to our manufacturing lines quicker. Examples like these help Jim and the Veterans EAG educate decision-makers at McCormick about transferable skills so they avoid overlooking Veterans for having “different” qualifications.
Employers have come a long way in offering support to Veterans and acknowledging the value they add to a company—and McCormick is no exception. Today, they encourage candidates not to discount military experience, but to leverage it. They have partnerships with the five US Service Academies, award distinguished graduates monetarily, and provide corporate sponsorships to benefit Veterans organizations. By standing together with the Veteran’s EAG and supporting the work they do, McCormick has shown their long-term commitment to this deserving and commendable group.