What are the Indian Corporations Losing Out?

Every country, barring a very miniscule minority, maintains armed forces. These forces, irrespective of their size and might comprise men and women who are trained to be fighters. They are a focussed, disciplined lot who are perseverant in their approach and whose only aim is to win for the unit and the country. This manpower is tuned to operate under the most stressful environment and take decisions on the spot. In their profession, wrong decisions don’t lead to loss of customers but loss of lives. The burden of which, one may have to carry for the balance of life. Hence, their decisions are quick, taken after analysing the situation properly and are not hasty. These people have worked on the cutting edge of technology. Not just operating these technologies but also understanding them, developing them and maintaining them. 

 It is thus no surprise that management concepts and tools were originally developed for the military. The wonder, that is the internet was originally developed for the military. The largest of the cargo aircraft commenced lives as military aircraft. There is no dearth of technologies that were developed or are being developed for the military and then seeped into the commercial world. The corollary to this is that, it were the military people who operated and maintained these technologies when they were not available to the commercial world. What I want to bring out is that military people are smart, intelligent people who can handle different kinds of problems, manage different types of people and understand and operate the latest technologies. 

Another important aspect of the military service is the diversity of jobs a person handles during the period of service. Especially the officer cadre have an extremely wide exposure in various field and managerial roles. They may have experience in operating plants, maintaining systems, design, operations etc. They cannot excel in such wide variety of roles if they are not quick learners. That means in addition to the qualities I brought out earlier, they are quick learners and can implement the learnt skills quickly. They are not type cast and they do not grow in silos.

Most countries, including India retire their military people young in order to maintain the young age profile to maintain a fit and winning military. As a result, a veteran has many years of working life left when he hangs his boots. Many countries participate actively in resettling these veterans in the civil life, and that includes India. There are resettlement course which the veteran officers undergo at the best of the B-Schools and men undergo at various vocational training establishments. The forces attempt to make them ready for the business world too.

I have come across a number of international companies who have special programs for veteran second life. But these firms, I assure you, do not hire veterans because of just the gratitude for the military service they put in. It makes good business sense to have such smart, versatile, focussed and disciplined people with a winning instinct in one’s firm. 

 Why? Because, in this fiercely competitive business world you need such people amidst you to win. People who can push sales, who will not take no for an answer. People who refuse to give up. Large scales and wide geographical dispersal of operations requires delegation of duty. Here you need people who learn on the move, who can analyse the situation and are decisive. People who take quick decisions and don’t dither while taking difficult decisions. People who can visualise issues holistically and identify the strategic roadmap for growth. Innovative people who know how to make do with the minimum resources.

Unfortunately, it seems, these aspects of a veteran are not understood by the Indian corporations. For the Indian companies, the idea of a veteran is somebody who protected the country while serving the borders. They are looked upon as guards and not professionals and that is what is offered to them. Administration and Security is the most frequently offered profile. Let me be blunt. It is not the most lucrative profile for a fighter. It, in fact is a major put off. The veteran is a person of action, an intelligent human being who can do wonders. Please do not shackle him down with the mundane.

Due to the steeply hierarchical structure of the military, many a bright officers stagnate. They quit not for anything but lack of growth. And the first option given to him in the civil world is again mundane job lacking growth. 

A few Indian companies do hire veterans in all roles and they now do it enthusiastically because they get very high quality manpower for cheap. The veteran is offered less money and he agrees to work for less because of the pension he may be getting from the Govt of India. But this is something that I will deliberate in another post. The more important reason for repeat hiring of veterans is the excellent response they get from these veterans and the advantage they gain due to the traits these people developed in military.  

I want to make the Indian corporations and the HR recruiters aware of the quality manpower that veterans make. Their Resumes may have terminologies you do not understand and may not have the specific acronyms you are looking for. But let me assure you that they have either already worked in similar profiles or are capable of learning and executing in a short span of time. I know, it is difficult to hire someone in this cutthroat business world if you are not comfortable with the profile. But the point is, that the two sheets of paper do not do justice to what veterans are capable of doing. Talk to them, don’t shove those resumes in waste paper bins just because a few acronyms are missing. There is an Indian saying – “ A monkey does not know, how does the ginger taste” which means, if you do not try something, you will never know its qualities.

I believe that the Indian corporations are losing out on a fantastic human resource by not tapping into the huge veteran population of India. Even worse, they are losing out by leashing the tigers to mundane jobs.