Editor’s note: This is part two of a two-part series exploring how health care companies are finding creative, effective ways to address the skills gap.
The experience, qualities and skills that our military veterans possess make them of great value to employers. Yet many former service members struggle to transition from the military to civilian jobs.
Leah Nicholls, talent acquisition manager and veteran liaison, Epic Health Services
At the same time, health care organizations are struggling to find talent with the right combination of hard and soft skills to fill their open positions. Recognizing the value veterans can bring to organizations like theirs, Epic Health Services runs a Veteran Recruiting Program, led by Leah Nicholls, talent acquisition manager and veteran liaison, to provide specialized training to help military veterans achieve success in their civilian careers.
We interviewed Nicholls to learn more about the program and how it’s not only making an impact on the lives of veterans, but on Epic Health Services as well.
CB: Tell me about your role as a veteran liaison at Epic Health Services.
LN: My role as a Veteran Liaison is to first and foremost provide resources and support to our veterans within the organization and to make sure that they are being retained through proper backing as needed. I am also in charge of our veteran recruiting program, EVE, or Epic Veteran Employment. I find, screen and recruit veterans and their close family members such as spouses and children into our company to provide jobs and a stable, safe, friendly work environment where they are appreciated and well taken care of. Lastly, I participate in any event, planning or program that benefits veterans and their transition. Epic Health Services as a whole is dedicated to our military service members and their families, past and present, and we are involved in all levels to make sure that they know the appreciation and gratitude we have for their actions and sacrifice.
CB: How is your program benefiting veterans?
LN: We are trying to get rid of stigmas and the bad raps that some service members have within the civilian sector. We want them to have a sense of normalcy and again express our deepest gratitude for all that they have done. This is not about meeting quotas or the tax write offs, because if it was we would just throw numbers out and I’d just be a “veteran recruiter” for our organization. We pride ourselves on the fact that we help people, because we genuinely care and are in fact invested in our employees. We want to make sure that not only are we offering our veteran community and their families job opportunities but also the care that comes with a transition, help for specific issues and overall support for our employees as a whole.
CB: What are some of the skills veterans possess that you find to be of great value to your organization?
LN: Some of the skills that we find to be very useful within the civilian sector – and specifically with our organization being in the home health industry – are selfless service, willing to go above and beyond, integrity, honor, commitment and sacrifice. Discipline is also a huge factor, since the military instills these core values within service members, and we are actively seeking out similar traits in our employees, so the match is a no brainer for us. Our slogan is, “Seeking Smart, Nice, Driven Talent” and the military sure knows how to make smart, nice, driven people.
It’s not hard to train on our process, software or anything as far as the job goes. It is hard to teach those ideals; why not find the people who already possess them and have proven that they uphold those standards? Hiring veterans is not a tough decision on our part; we know what we are looking for and we have found a group of people that holds the same ethics we do in most aspects of our work.
CB: What are the preliminary results you have seen to date related to the program?
LN: At the beginning of this year, I did not imagine this program taking off quite as quickly as it did. I had no idea that we as a company would have grown and allowed such a delicate thing to blossom as much as it has. I made notes, took constructive criticism and over the past few months began developing a nationwide platform that allows me to plug into various states and capitals, and provide the proper sustenance for our military members. In the first stages we were just networking and seeking out different assets to help us get started, and now we are involved in 20 states’ worth of our network.
CB: What were the key factors to getting this program implemented?
LN: Some of the key factors that were put into place to help us launch EVE were first and foremost coming up with a veteran to head up the project. That individual being myself, I took the knowledge I had from my own service and transition to the civilian sector and put it to use. Using my experience has helped mold things like our new military-specific marketing materials, the website change that has a tab for the military recruiting efforts, and building relationships with other veteran liaisons in different companies.
CB: What information did you provide to those who approved the program?
LN: I originally put together a PowerPoint for my own leadership within my current department to which it was then forwarded up to our senior executive leaders who endorsed and blessed me with the opportunity to move forward. I worked closely with our marketing director, Rachel Russell, and our CEO, Chris Roussos, who helped me to begin interacting and developing different processes, materials and ways of communication to launch and take off with it. I just had a vision that I brought to them with multiple ideas and scenarios; it turned into a ladder for a program that revolutionized our business and the way some of our employees past and current think, sending us to the top. Overall, I would say that even the “bumps” along the way have been nothing but successful in helping us build this, and each bump proved to be a stepping stone for our ladder to success.
CB: How do you see this program evolving over the next five years?
LN: I see this program taking off and not stopping. I see it picking up speed and winning over everyone. One thing I tell all of my candidates as a recruiter and what I mention to anyone I meet in dealings with Epic: “We are taking over the world with exceptional care and service, and we want leaders with us who share the vision of making that happen.” We are not slowing down – we are only continuing to make and clear headway for more. We have hired 300 vets since we started, and next year we are going to hire 800. The only way is up in my eyes, and I am grateful that I get to be a part of the dream that will impact our service members, their families and our community for the better.