Including Veterans in the Drive Toward Workforce Diversity

By Schwanzetta Williams | Director of Talent Acquisition at Smithfield Foods
Nov 11, 2019 2:35 PM ET

Originally published on LinkedIn

Workforce diversity is essential to a company’s success, but inclusion takes into account the perspectives that ALL employees bring to the workplace. With nearly 98% of employers having or implementing “Diversity and Inclusion” initiatives, it is apparent that diversity and inclusion are important for businesses and critical in developing their talent pipeline. Including veterans as a part of the talent pipeline in an integral measure of championing diversity of ideas and thoughts.

As nearly 200,000 servicemen and women return to civilian life each year, Smithfield Foods has embraced attracting, hiring, and retaining veteran employees. We’ve done this with overwhelming success and our more than 1,800 veteran-hires have contributed exponentially in all areas of our business — from the corporate office to our farming operations. Here’s how embracing veterans in your organization’s diversity and inclusion efforts can positively impact your business:

A Diverse Talent Pipeline

Veterans have unique skill sets that many employers struggle to appropriately apply to the right positions within their companies — but it is worth the effort. It’s important to consider veterans as key to diversifying your pipeline of talent because they understand the value of their work, are accountable, and possess an uncanny ability to maintain composure during demanding situations.


Veterans have a proven track record of living by a strong value system due to their military service. They adhere to basic principles of responsibility, commitment, and integrity, which strengthens company culture and fosters the same qualities among team members.

Increased Exposure

A diverse workforce is more than just different backgrounds and cultures. Diverse teams should also include differences in education and skills that contribute to innovation, diversity of thought, and a dynamic work environment. Working with team members that are different sharpens performance, and veterans are an important part of this mix due to their unique experiences that civilians often do not possess.

I’ve been privileged to be involved in recruitment and talent development programs at Smithfield that focus specifically on veterans as a vital part of success. It’s important that company leaders, HR professionals, and other talent recruiters consider the unique abilities of military veterans, and recognize the talent, diversity of perspectives, and experience this group brings to the workforce.

There are many military veterans in America seeking a place where they can build a fulfilling career, sense of purpose, and provide long-term support for themselves and their families. It is up to professionals who oversee diversity and inclusion programs to include these often overlooked individuals in our purview.

This Veterans Day, I challenge organizations to consider more veteran applicants to expand the talent pipeline. It’s something that we’ve done at Smithfield, and it’s made a considerable difference.