I ran across a recent article entitled “Officer vs. Enlisted: Does Rank Matter in Corporate America?” written by Michael Dakduk, Deputy Executive Director of Student Veterans of America and a former Sergeant in the Marine Corps. He reviewed the career web sites of a number of companies that are well known and regarded as being “military friendly” employers. Of those that had some kind of dedicated military career page, time and again the sites beckoned Junior Military Officers (those service members in the grades of O-1 through O-3) to join the team. These web sites extolled how desirable this subset of the veteran population is, and why the company wanted to hire them.
When I am consulting with companies that are just starting a military hiring initiative, and the client brings up the topic of recruiting JMO’s, I ask them to explain why they are interested in hiring JMO’s. Often times, they don’t have a specific reason beyond what they have heard about the quality of JMO hires. Oftentimes they mention that they saw the article Fortune Magazine ran in March that featured several JMO’s who went on to successful careers with Pepsi Co, Wal-Mart and GE, so they want to replicate that kind of success in their company.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I love JMO’s (I was one…a hundred years ago). They have many fine qualities and are exceptionally good candidates. Before starting a military hiring initiative, I think companies need to step back and examine what skills and traits they are looking to hire in order to determine which service members are most likely to possess those qualities. Taking the time to align desired skill sets with demonstrated levels of responsibility and appropriate salary expectations may lead the company to realize that the most appropriate candidates may in fact be the significantly larger pool of non-commissioned officers (those service members in the grades of E-5 through E-9), or NCO’s.
- NCO’s have between 6-20+ years of military service and have been performing the day-to-day tasks of their occupation for the majority of that time;
- Roughly 14% of enlisted active duty service members completed at least an Associate’s degree or higher in Fiscal Year 2009 (latest statistics recorded), and this doesn’t even cover the educational level of those serving in the National Guard or Reserves;
- They are held to the same levels of personal and fiscal accountability in their military service as the JMO’s (and I would argue they are held to an even higher level than a JMO); and perhaps most importantly,
- The NCO’s are the people who trained the JMO’s.
Any JMO worth his/her salt will confirm that NCO’s are trusted advisors and have the authority and capability to carry out the guidance provided. NCO’s have the direct responsibility to train the service members entrusted to them, and are responsible for ensuring the junior enlisted members welfare and maintaining good order and discipline so the unit can accomplish its mission as a team. The JMO is the beneficiary of a decade or more of hard-earned experience. No NCO wants a knucklehead for a commanding officer, so it is in his/her best interest to offer the wisdom and guidance that will develop that JMO into an effective leader.
In a purely civilian environment, it is not unheard of that a team will (gleefully) watch a senior member “go down in flames” just to make it easier to get rid of them. The stakes are quite different in a military environment, particularly a combat environment. There is a sense of duty and obligation to make sure that leader is competent and “squared away” because people’s lives are on the line. The NCO’s will make it thus.
So, employers: When developing your recruitment strategy, don’t forget the outstanding qualities of the non-commissioned officers. Make sure your recruitment marketing message isn’t turning away some of the best and brightest that our military has to offer.
Thanks for highlighting the JMO topic. It means a great deal coming from a former officer who appreciates the value of an enlisted service member.
As a retired First Sergeant who has trained his share of JMO’s (and a few “knuckleheads” ) I appreciate the blog.
Here at Charles F Day and Associates, LLC, we recognize the value of military service. Most of our workforce is comprised of 77% veterans which includes Officers and NCOs. I appreciate the blog too.
Fantastic article. As a retired NCO now working in “Corporate America” along side of former JMO’s and retired officers, there’s a part of me that insist my performance is beyond reproach.
Great article, and right on target. Thankfully not all JMOs are knuckleheads, but yes there certainly are a few (just as there are in the NCO ranks). What the civilian companies often don’t see is the “Lieutenant Shuffle” (new position every 6 months to give them “breadth of experience”) which doesn’t allow them to truly learn anything (and once they do it’s time to move on). In my experience this happens until they put on O-3! There’s also the fact that their college background often has nothing at all to do with their military occupation, and susbsequent military assignments may have absolutely nothing to do with what they did before. NCOs, on the other hand, generally stick to a single career field, move up from technician (or equal) through supervision to management, have a vast breadth of experience in their areas, and are superb managers and leaders. Which is more important to an employer, the degree or the experience?