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'The Talent War’: keeping veterans employed

EF Overwatch is company dedicated to finding jobs for veterans across all industries and all levels of work. Mike Sarraille, EF Overwatch CEO, joins The Final Round to discuss his work and how the job market has been adapting to the coronavirus pandemic.

Video Transcript

JEN ROGERS: Welcome back to The Final Round. Today marks the 19th anniversary of 9/11, the deadliest terror attack on American soil, 3,000 people lost their lives. It is also the start of the war on terror. And according to Pew Research, at least one in five veterans today served on active duty after the terrorist attacks of September 11.

And our next guest is working to try and find jobs for these veterans. He runs a specialized executive search firm, finds top-level military leaders senior, executive, and other critical leadership positions. He's also the author of the new book The Talent War-- How Special Operations and Great Organizations Win on Talent." I want to welcome to the program Mike Sarraille, EF Overwatch CEO.

So Mike, before we get to some of what you're doing-- and this is actually part of it. I mean, it is the anniversary of 9/11 today. You yourself are a veteran. You're working trying to find veterans, many of whom were part of the war on terror, jobs in the business world, which is what we cover. But what is the lasting impact of 9/11 on the careers of these men and women who have served in the military the last 19 years?

MIKE SARRAILLE: That's a great question, Jen, and it really changed the lives of my generation. I mean, a good bulk of us that were in the military spent the majority of our adult lives fighting the enemy over there that attacked us on 9/11. I myself have 10 combat deployments. I have friends with as much as 20.

And we were happy to do it, and we were happy to volunteer to go over there so the rest of America didn't. And quite frankly, our experiences over there have shaped a lot of these men and women into phenomenal leaders. The subset of problems that they had to deal with on a daily basis for which there are no book answers has given them such a breadth of experience that they can pretty much handle anything you put in front of them.

JEN ROGERS: So in terms of finding veterans right now jobs in corporate America, there have been a number of initiatives, a number of companies from Walmart or JP Morgan, Home Depot that have tried to do some outreach there. It seems like tech has been a harder nut to crack, maybe the-- some of the big, we call them the FANG companies, right, that we cover, your Facebooks, your Amazons, like getting to the top there. And I know Michelle Obama joked, like, if you can set up a Wi-Fi thing in Afghanistan, you should be able to do it here. Why is tech a harder area to get into?

MIKE SARRAILLE: So you know, when you said we're helping veterans, I'm actually helping American companies who are looking for leaders. Because if we look at COVID, this has shown that-- that a lot of American companies have a deficit in leader, that we're ill-prepared to deal with the crisis and chaos that we're-- that we're dealing with. To us, we shrug our shoulders, and we're like, this is just another day. It hails in comparison to what we saw in Afghanistan, Iraq, or other regions of the world.

So actually, EF Overwatch focuses on small to mid-sized businesses, which we all know can be up to $1 billion in revenue, who really put a precedence on leadership and grit over capital and assets. And for a kid coming from Silicon Valley, from Palo Alto, California, I don't think the tech sector does a great job. And a lot of it, I think, is based off certain biases or preconceived notions they have about veterans.

MELODY HAHM: Well, Mike, the tech sector hadn't been so great about transparency, right, across the board. Only recently over the last couple of years there's been pressure to give diversity numbers. We don't get much numbers on retention and attrition when it comes to veterans.

But there is a new report out from the Government Accountability Office that came out a couple of weeks ago that shows that the federal government, of course, employs the largest number of veterans, but they actually have a hard time retaining them, and veterans are kind of disproportionately resigning from those roles. Can you explain sort of the longevity here, what does it take to actually make sure that a veteran who probably has a lot of traumas and emotional needs to be able to make sure that they can survive and thrive in the workforce?

MIKE SARRAILLE: Absolutely. It comes down to one thing, Melody-- leadership. I think what naturally sort of gravitates a lot of veterans towards the federal sector is that it seems like a natural transition. Hey, I was in the military, federal government. I'll make that leap into a federal civilian position.

But ultimately, why they are not retaining them is-- is leadership. Look at the national capital region, where we expect our leadership to be the very best, we get the exact opposite. That is one of the worst-led regions in the United States.

So I don't blame veterans for making that switch to federal civilian positions and then leaving shortly after. That's why, you know, small to mid-sized businesses are the backbone of America, and some of them are-- are led by amazing business leaders. And that's why we're seeing so much success with taking military leaders out of the armed forces and placing them into senior executive positions in these companies.

JEN ROGERS: Mike Sarraille is EF Overwatch CEO. Great to get a chance to talk with you. Thank you for everything you've done, in and out of a uniform. Have a good weekend.

MIKE SARRAILLE: Jen, thanks, guys. Everyone next.