A flight officer helps navigate an F-18 fighter onto the deck of an aircraft carrier in the middle of a violent storm. An airman preps his tanker aircraft to refuel over the Arabian Sea.
A staff sergeant negotiates peace among tribal elders while his troops patrol for car bombs.
The husband of an active duty medic cares for two young children while his wife serves on second tour in Afghanistan.
Starbucks has set a goal of hiring at least 10,000 of highly-qualified veterans and military spouses across their organization in the coming years.
The men and women who honorably serve in the U.S. military, and the families who faithfully support them, have tough jobs with high-stakes responsibilities.
So why is it that many of these talented people face challenges finding meaningful careers in the private sector?
Over the next five years, more than one million active duty members of the military will transition to civilian life.
In more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, these courageous men and women have been challenged to adapt to constantly changing circumstances, overcome unanticipated problems, and demonstrate initiative, leadership, professionalism and resilience in dangerous and austere conditions.
They have exactly the skills businesses need: decision-making and sound judgment, teamwork and leadership, creativity under challenging circumstances, communication, the ability to work with diverse groups of people, and integrity.
Many have technical skills directly applicable to businesses, from logistics and supply chain management to electronics and more.
Yet many will encounter challenges transitioning to civilian employment.
Despite their extraordinary qualifications and experience, too many will struggle to find jobs because too many businesses and organizations do not understand or recognize the valuable skillsets that they bring to the workplace.
So, too, will their spouses, who already face an unemployment rate that is twice the national average even though they are more educated and service-minded than the average job applicant.
In the face of these challenges, military families are not looking for sympathy or handouts. Instead, they want fulfilling and decent-paying careers that give them the opportunity to use their talents to make a living and to continue making a difference.
As Starbucks looks at pools of talent across the globe, we believe that the values, discipline, and skills possessed by many military servicemembers and their families represent traits that will greatly benefit our company and help our culture endure long into the future.
For a company like Starbucks, where culture is as important as the product we sell, the sense of purpose, service and sacrifice that veterans and military spouses bring to work every day is inspiring to their fellow employees as well as the customers and communities they serve.
This has inspired us to set a goal of hiring at least 10,000 of these highly-qualified veterans and military spouses across our organization in the coming years.
This is not a corporate philanthropy initiative or something we’ve decided to do merely out of a sense of patriotic obligation. It is a strategic business decision that is in the long-term interests of our company and our shareholders.
Many companies from Wall Street to Main Street have realized the strategic and competitive advantages that come with hiring veterans and military spouses.
There is a lot that Starbucks can learn from leaders who are already doing this well.
One of the things we’ve heard is that successfully hiring veterans and military spouses can require a shift in attitudes and company policies.
A diverse array of stakeholders, including current veteran employees, military leaders, other companies, and community organizations that support transitioning service members, can help to challenge and advise companies on what they can do better and how they can hold themselves accountable.
These advisers can help companies openly address misperceptions that hiring managers may have about veterans. They can also facilitate visits to military bases and community organizations serving military families to help employers better understand veterans and what they need to succeed.
A strategic commitment is only as good as its execution. Giving hiring managers the tools to properly understand military skills and how they can benefit a company’s growth strategy is critical.
At Starbucks, we’re developing a jobs skills translator to help hiring managers assess a candidate’s military qualifications and identify how to place them within our organization.
We’re also hiring people to serve as dedicated recruiters and program managers to lead our outreach and support efforts, including activities near the 1,100 plus stores we have on or near military bases, so that we can ensure our strategy is relevant to the communities we are already serving.
Hiring members of the military and their spouses is only the beginning.
Once hired, it is equally important for companies to ensure an inclusive environment that honors their service and gives them the tools to succeed.
One way to create this type of culture is tapping the network of veterans and military spouses who already work for companies to spread the word about hiring and to serve as mentors for new recruits.
Companies and organizations that seek to succeed in a constantly evolving global marketplace should take advantage of the capabilities and experience of veterans and military spouses. It will make our economy and our country stronger.
This Veterans Day, Starbucks invites all former and active duty service members and their spouses to enjoy a tall cup of brewed coffee on them. Starbucks celebrates their service and value to the country, and that is why they plan to hire 10,000 veterans and open 5 Starbucks community stores that benefit military communities in the coming years. Learn more at Starbucks.com/veterans.
Robert Gates served as the 22nd Secretary of Defense. As the only Secretary of Defense in U.S. history to be asked to remain in that office by a newly elected president, Gates was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor, by President Obama. He is currently a member of the Starbucks Board of Directors.
Howard Schultz is chairman, president and chief executive officer of Starbucks. He is recognized both in the U.S. and abroad for his passion, leadership, and efforts to strengthen communities.