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Service King’s Aggressive Initiative to Increase Veteran Hiring

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In May, Service King launched an aggressive long-term veterans hiring initiative under the title Mission 2 Hire. The Mission 2 Hire initiative is a pledge by Service King officials to hire at least 500 U.S. Armed Forces veterans, their spouses or active duty personnel within the next five years. That figure would equate to about 10 percent of Service King’s current staff across its network of more than 253 collision repair facilities in 23 states.

In the short time since, the company has already seen significant success with the program and has hired 32 veterans. Armando Soto, senior director of recruiting and talent acquisition and a 14-year Service King employee, has been at the forefront of the program. He recently discussed the program and why looking outside the industry is key for overcoming the talent shortage.

 

What was the inspiration for the Mission 2 Hire program?

One of the things coming from that inspiration was that Service King has a longstanding history of assisting veterans and their communities. We had partnered with insurers and the National Auto Body Council’s Recycled Rides program to provide vehicles for veterans, we donated to organizations at our golf tournament, we’ve sponsored toy drives. The inspiration was always there.

I think the priority is that we know firsthand the leadership that veterans bring to our workforce. We have techs, service advisors, general managers that have greatly benefited from coming to Service King and coming to our organization. Members of our executive team have been part of the military, too. Their track records of success speak for themselves.

You start seeing those numbers of 517,000 unemployed veterans. We wanted to do our part in changing that, so we partnered with Hire Our Heroes to promote career opportunities for military veterans in the industry.

The qualities that military veterans bring to any company are second-to-none. I think that’s going back to the success we’ve had with our senior leadership. The current veterans we have now, they have the leadership that an industry like this prides itself on. There are different types of management styles that are new to the industry and fit it very well. We have many veterans in our senior leadership and we see the difference they bring to a company.

 

Can you describe the program?

The program consists of three phases. The first phase is communication and education. We need to communicate the message company wide and then spread our mission. We have been communicating nationwide through regional recruiters, social media and past veteran hires. And the educating part is more in the form of the opportunities that are available to veterans through our Mission 2 Hire website. The recruitment process has been very useful. We’ve been able to pull up our laptops and show them the website right as we’re talking to them, and recruiting daily is key for us by attending the job fairs and through recruiters.

The second phase is attracting and sourcing the veterans. We had to let them know what our opportunities are. In August, we attended our first job fair that was actually on base in Washington. It was very successful. We had a number of veterans that we interviewed on site. We actually received their résumés ahead of time and were able to scan them, talk to them and let them know what we were looking for, as well. As far as job fairs, we have attended numerous ones and look for job fairs that either cater to veterans or have a special section for veterans.

What we’ve found out is that a lot of the tech schools have veteran programs, as well. They know who their veterans are and we’ve been working with them, too.

Finally, we have a number of different partners who help us get the word out, such as The Welcome Home Group, Carry The Load and Wounded Warrior Project. There are two job posting sites that we have been working with, civilianjobs.com and recruitmilitary.com. They’ve allowed us to align the job fairs that are coming up and the ones that we’ve attended.

Our next phase is fortifying the pipeline. We want to make sure it grows and that it’s established and that veterans know that Service King is there for them and has viable opportunities.

We launched a website, mission2hire. careers, which is specifically tailored to military veterans and their families. It acts as an intuitive platform to match existing skill sets with complimenting careers in our industry, serves as a portal of information about our company, and allows them to get started. They can go to our homepage and it will let them know about the program, what our goals are, a little bit about our history and the internship program we have. A lot of them are very interested in that. Our Service Advisor Intern Development Program was designed to provide opportunities for those with little to no experience within the industry. Interns are developed using classroom training, on-the-job training and continuous development with a successful mentor.

Going into the “Careers” section of the website, it will give them more detail as to what the positions entail, bonuses, benefits, paid time off. We also have a FAQ page that goes into detail about the program.

 

What is the training process like when they begin at the company?

Once we bring them in, we treat them like any other teammate coming into Service King. We put them through the standard training process and we have training for the position they were hired for. We have training with all new teammates and training for that specific position.

We have two programs that are ideal for their transition. Our Service Advisor Intern Development Program, which is a two and a half week training program in Dallas. We have a veteran who started recently in that program. We also have our new body tech apprentice program. That has helped us out a lot because we have been able to talk to certain veterans for that program. If their experience is a little higher, we’ll just hire them on. Especially on their transition side, those programs are ideal because you don’t need a lot of experience and you’re coming into a new career.

 

What are the program’s short-term and long-term goals?

Some of the short-term goals are communicating and educating, creating that communication to spread the initiative, as well as assisting the veterans with their transition. We want to help bridge the gap and let them know that we are here to help.

Our long-term goal is to hire 500 veterans, spouses and active-duty personnel over the next five years. We also want to develop a veteran onboarding and mentoring program. That’s a great way to establish veteran referrals and start rewarding.

One key about the website is to let them know what the opportunities are and what our goals are. We want to outline what some of the different positions they might consider are. Part of the transition I’m referring to is the skills matcher we have on the website. If someone worked in networking or intel, they would be great in IT or as an analyst. Someone in motor transport and maintenance or aircraft maintenance would make a great collision repair technician, refinish tech or mechanic. If he was in equipment purchasing and procurement, parts or production might be a great choice. It’s about making it an easy transition into the company.

 

What kind of success has the program seen so far?

We’ve had over 50 veterans actually give their information. We’ve been able to place a number of veterans, from operations to intern programs to our call centers in Chicago. We’ve been successful in filling those roles all over the country, from Houston to Dallas to Chicago to Ohio. We are also in the process of setting up a number of interviews with potential candidates.

 

As the industry continues to face a talent shortage, why is it important to find unique ways to bring new people to the industry and staff shops? Will this become a growing focus?

I think it’s very important to find unique ways to maintain the industry growth, find new people and bring new, creative ideas to the industry. I think that is definitely going to be helpful to the industry and will be a growing focus to ensure our industry continues to progress in all areas. They bring their experience to the different departments and the industry overall.

The biggest thing is attending the veterans job fairs. That’s key right there. It’s about attending the job fairs they go to and providing the opportunity. That’s part of our goal of making it an easier transition for them.

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