Investing In and Hiring Veterans: the BGIS Way
Investing In and Hiring Veterans: the BGIS Way
Investing In and Hiring Veterans: the BGIS Way

When BGIS acquired McKinstry FMS a year ago, we were proud that we were also adopting the credo of supporting and hiring ex-military personnel into our ranks. The past year has shown us just how much a vibrant veteran community does for the culture of a company.

Facility management can be a tricky business: systems fail, human errors occur, and standards sometimes slip. The problem, unlike with some other businesses, is that if a building isn’t functioning, it affects our clients tremendously.

BGIS’s job as a critical facilities manager is to minimize the ‘noise’ that small failures and human errors can cause to our client operations, while ensuring uptime and performance for all our facilities. The question then becomes – who’s primed to work in intense environments such as critical environments and data centers, has laser-sharp focus, and follows procedural details as a point of honour?

Veterans.

In the US, veterans comprise nearly 23% of the total BGIS workforce. We recently spoke to Seattle-based Brian Fellows, President, US, and Scott Haas, Talent Acquisition Manager, US and a Marine Corps veteran himself about the importance of the veteran recruiting program. Scott and his team passionately manage the U.S.  hiring programs at BGIS that keep our clients’ critical environments in tip-top shape.

Can you tell us a little about the BGIS Veterans program?

Scott: When I joined BGIS, I brought in my veteran hiring experience through programs such as “Hiring Our Heroes” with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which hosts career fairs and summits throughout the U.S., along with a Corporate Fellowship Program. The Corporate Fellowship Program takes that active service member before they transition out and has them work with participating companies in a 12 week fellowship. This was an instrumental first step to the development of a strong internal program for BGIS. By weaving together BGIS with these events, it helped build upon our own veteran recruiting effort and branding.

After establishing this partnership, we reached out to other national organizations like GI Jobs/Victory Media, Four Block, Wounded Warrior, and Marine For Life to continue reaching out. Simply put, we are recruiting veterans not because it is the right thing to do (to focus on the experiences of our team members), but the smart thing to do.

Brian: The skill that comes out of the military fits so extremely well in the Critical Environments business that we have, that it would be a huge mistake to ignore as our clients’ retention and satisfaction rate is directly attributed to the skills of our team members. It’s important for people who have sacrificed for a greater good to come out knowing they’re highly valued and well paid when they come to us.

Tell us more about the skills that are acquired from military service?

Scott: Let’s take the Navy Nuclear Engineering Program. It takes an 18 year old kid for a minimum four year enlistment. By the end, they’re well-suited for a critical environment job. They train young folks in the great technical skills that are so needed in our company and our industry. They earn capability that you don’t get in a trade school or a two-year college.

The #1 cause of data center failure is human error. I would say that one of our key clients, in their failures, have had some mechanical issues, but really the underlying issues are that there’s too many people engaged or they outsourced a certain part of their site (and thus weren’t communicated closely enough with the core team).

People who come out of the military are comfortable with following procedures and processes. In the CE world, that’s a requirement. Where FM companies have bumps is where you have people who aren’t used to following complicated procedures to a “T”. If you don’t follow the rules, you shut down a data center, and you have a catastrophic impact on a client’s business. Coming out of the military is a way of being, versus having to be taught to do business a certain way.

Why is BGIS committed to leveraging and supporting veterans?  

Scott:

The U.S. Armed Forces has over 400,000 service members in transition every year on average. Between programs with the Corporate Fellowship Program with Hiring Our Heroes, to the apprenticeships in skilled trades, we constantly make ourselves available to those who transition or have transitioned. We have hosted seminars out of the Seattle office in an effort to provide awareness of what BGIS has to offer.

Last December, we were invited to do the signing of State of Support with the ESGR (Employer Support of Guard and Reserve) at the Pentagon. Both Spencer Huppert, VP of Operations, and I attended the ceremony. Our commitment to the Guard and Reservists of the U.S. Armed Forces at this event help further solidify our support. Not to mention that we had one of our Critical Facility Managers nominated for the Patriot Award by one of the ESGR employees.

How do we prepare transitioning veterans for our industry?

Scott: Veteran-ready is deep understanding. We hired a 20-year Marine Corp Officer, Marcos, in San Diego to take over a site as a Critical Facility Manager. Initially, he didn’t see how his experience with bombs and ammunitions would help him as a CFM.

We said, “You worked in ordnance (a branch of the armed forces dealing with the supply and storage of weapons, ammunition, and other explosives) in the Marine Corps. You have one bad day there, everyone is gone. CE for data centers isn’t that threatening but there are horrible consequences regardless.” Our information technology team is getting him prepped and ready for nuances. The hiring manager and the director have been training him to become a CFM in more ways than one. That makes us veteran ready: we help make the connections, we show them their transferable skills, and we train them to fill-in-the-blanks.

Brian: If you’re a senior enlisted to officer, project management is all you do every day. If you’re good at ordnance, if you’re dealing with such high stakes, you can be trusted to follow a process.

Why is it important to you to make progress in this program?  

Brian: I reflect that when I first came down here (to Seattle), I was a little taken aback when I saw Scott’s dedication and commitment to the military focus. I came in with a bunch of questions: how do they get transitioned, how can we best support them, who we can partner with. Scott is our military man. He knows what goes into it because he’s been through it.

We have a good process in place, but we have a lot of openings. When you’re dealing with CE and you have open positions, which means you have risk in your business. That being said, this level of support to a big percentage of our workforce makes me feel proud of our company. We’re doing the right thing by helping people who have put themselves on the line time and time again to get into great second careers.

There’s not many meetings I’ve been to in my life where people will say thank you for your service. That gives you the feeling that you’re on the right track. We’re creating great opportunities for people who have EARNED a great opportunity. It’s a natural fit, and we’re beyond grateful to be able to hire these folks.

Scott: It has great crossover – veterans always want to know that they’re contributing. In the Marine Corps, what they beat into my head was: troop welfare and mission accomplishment.

There’s an incredible sense of emotional intelligence of that demographic: they’ve all worked on high-performing teams with great productivity. They don’t want that to stop. That’s just the kind of training you get there. The soft skills that you inherit are superior, and their teamwork is superior.

Brian: That being said, my first meeting with the team here in Seattle, I had a hard time with people calling me “Sir”. I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to that.

Scott: It’s a respect thing. Sir.

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To apply for a job with BGIS or to learn more about who we are and what we do, please go to https://www.bgis.com/us. BGIS is a Brookfield Company.

 

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