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Veteran Advantages for Working in the “New Norm”

Podcast featuring Dr. Larry D. Parker Jr.Lt. Col (retired), U.S. Marine Corps and
Dr. Marie Gould Harper, Dean, Wallace E. Boston School of Business

The pandemic changed the world of work. In this episode, retired Marine Dr. Larry D. Parker, Jr., talks to AMU’s Dean of Business, Dr. Marie Gould Harper, about the “new norm” of the working world. Learn about the advantages military veterans have in this new normal, including extensive training in adaptability and flexibility that can help them when transitioning to the civilian working world.

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Dr. Larry D. Parker Jr.: Welcome to the podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Larry D. Parker, Jr. Today, we’re going to talk about the new normal and the value that veterans bring to that new normal post-pandemic. My guest today is Dr. Marie Harper, Dean of the Dr. Wallace E Boston School of Business. Marie, welcome.

Dr. Marie Harper: Thank you, Dr. Parker, for having me today.

Dr. Larry D. Parker Jr.: All right. Well, I’m looking forward to this conversation. Today, we hear a lot of conversation about the new normal as the pandemic has changed the scene of the work environment. I’ll give the textbook definition of a pandemic, and then I’m just going to ask if you would just, as you see it, because you’re one of the first persons that I truly started to hear coin the phrase, the “new normal,” and just if you could tell us what you see as being the new normal as we’re moving forward.

So, the pandemic by the book, it’s an epidemic of infectious disease that covers a large area. And, as we’ve seen, it’s covered the world. It’s covered the globe. It’s been worldwide. And we’ve seen this now for about two and a half years. And, as I was developing this, I was going to say, post-pandemic, the conversation is likely to say, in a pandemic, the new normal, because this seems to be something that’s going to be with us for a while. So, with that being said, what do you see as the new normal?

Dr. Marie Harper: I’m actually excited because the new normal, I would even refer to the new normal versus the pandemic for the reasons that you suggested. We’re not out of it. And some people were thinking about post-pandemic, but I think more information is coming out that those concerns are going to stay with us for a while, but we must continue the world of work.

So, saying the new norm, it’s basically, as you mentioned, it’s a worldwide epidemic. So, how is the world going to operate as it relates to the world of work? What new processes need to be put into place so that we can be effective, efficient, productive, and continue business? I don’t want to say business as usual, but business in the new norm.

Dr. Larry D. Parker Jr.: What do you see makes a successful person in a workforce? Just in general?

Dr. Marie Harper: Just in general, some of the things that were mentioned by executives in the past, pre-pandemic, were that the successful worker had excellent critical thinking skills, communication, written as well as verbal, problem solving. And just being able to have strong interpersonal skills with their coworkers. But what we are seeing with the new norm, we’ve added adaptability and flexibility.

Dr. Larry D. Parker Jr.: With that, because I was going to say a number of things can be in a tangible environment, those things that when you get to actually speak to someone, talk to someone, be physically present. And now with this highly remote environment, does that change a number of those or are they still consistent?

Dr. Marie Harper: I believe that for some people they think there has to be a new way of doing things because of remote working. But people such as you and myself who have had the experience of teaching online, I don’t see it any different than trying to educate people on how using their on-ground processes can be transferred over to the online or remote environment.

And one example is working with teams. How can you effectively work with a team if you’re remote and everybody’s in different locations? Well, the concept is no different than working on-ground. It’s just adapting to the technology and using it as a tool to assist with the communication among the team.

Dr. Larry D. Parker Jr.: Okay. I see. The emphasis of it’s just a different tool. So, it’s the same kind of leadership skills or the same interaction, but just utilizing the tools. I have an affinity for veterans, people that have served and military, whether it be an entire career or just an enlistment or a short period of time. And with that, in your experience in either hiring or working closely with individuals that have served, are there particular attributes you see that are, I won’t say exclusively veteran, but are there some of those that they excel in?

Dr. Marie Harper: Personally, I think there are. I think veterans are actually better positioned to work in the new norm. And the reason is one, the remote status, the ability of an employee to think on their feet, be adaptable, flexible, and understand the culture. And I think veterans have been groomed to think with that type of thought process. Being able to make decisions on the go and being able to shift whenever needed, or if the orders change. And that’s something that I see that many people who have worked in private industry, they are not used to that and I think that’s why a lot of companies are struggling with adjusting to this new format.

Dr. Larry D. Parker Jr.: That’s a great point. And for the listeners that did not know, first of all, Dr. Harper is my boss and I’m also a veteran. And so, what she’s describing is something that I experienced as I came to work for her, and coming from a field that was highly adaptive and highly required to be flexible because we never knew exactly where we might be or where we might operate from. And we often had to operate across a large geographic area.

So, I bring some personal experience to that. I will say, because of that background, where we work now truly requires us to be that way. So thank you for that. Now, are there any bits of advice you would give a veteran that is stepping out and looking to highlight those type of skills to employers?

Dr. Marie Harper: Well, the first thing that I would say is be true to yourself and understand that you are prepared to go outside of the military to do anything, especially in the world of work. Because, right now the playing field has been leveled and some of the challenges that veterans have had in the past, I think they could disappear easily because of your experience with moving and reacting on the go.

And one of the most popular positions that I think veterans will have an upper hand on are leadership positions. Because we are finding that many companies, they are so uncomfortable with the situation and they want things to go back to how they were, that some are seriously thinking about forcing their employees back into the office without really dealing with the situation that’s going on. I think veterans have been prepared in terms of leadership with looking at the situation and reacting accordingly, instead of trying to push someone into something.

Dr. Larry D. Parker Jr.: I appreciate, and you know, I had not thought about it until you just brought this up, that there is going to be that need to make sure that you stress the skillset you have with that flexibility. But understanding, now everyone is going have a couple of years of experience in this flexibility, this new norm. So, I will say that it sounds as if competition may have increased because that may not be as large of a differentiator as it may have been. Because a number of people will be able to say, I too have been able to be flexible in this new norm. Is that something that you could see, or did I hear that correctly?

Dr. Marie Harper: Yes, that is correct. Flexibility and adaptability.

Dr. Larry D. Parker Jr.: You know, as we look at continuing to educate those and show the value of the skillsets that they want to promote, one last thing before we switch from the veteran and then we talk to those that are hiring, is there anything that you would say that is something that is maybe they want to stay away from? You know, now actually let’s look at it. We always try to promote and “Hey, these are the positives.” But are there things that you would say, “Hey, you might not want to stress this, or these are things you might want to stay away from.”

Dr. Marie Harper: Well, when we talk about that question, I don’t want to even separate the veterans out because I would like to give the same advice to them that I would give to anyone. When it comes to the world of work, you may be extremely qualified, but you owe it to yourself to make sure that that environment is the right environment for you.

I personally have seen a number of veterans come into the private sector and they have been ready in terms of skillset, but it’s applying that skillset to a particular environment. Therefore, I would suggest that when you go on interviews, you interview the company, the manager, the hiring manager as well, because you want to make sure that’s the right fit for you. It’s not whether or not you’re qualified, it’s whether or not you’re going to be able to grow in a particular culture.

Dr. Larry D. Parker Jr.: Well, I really like that. And it’s a great point there. That’s across the board, that’s not something that someone in any situation should do. Now as for the individuals who are seeking employees and now that they cannot approach them in the same manner, because we’ve seen such things as The Great Resignation. And people really, I’ve actually heard that be referred to as A Great Reconsideration, because people are looking at their time and how it’s spent. Are there things that you would say to employers as they’re seeking, again, I have an affinity for the veteran, but I will follow your lead. Something that is for the employee, as that employer is looking to entice people to come work for them, what would you say the new norm they really need to consider?

Dr. Marie Harper: Well, based on my readings, one of the things that employers are struggling with is today the employee has the upper hand. And it goes back to something that you mentioned. During the pandemic, when we were on lockdown, I think a lot of individuals, one, they paid down their debt. They weren’t required to go into the office, so a lot of the expenses that they had, especially as it related to commuting to their jobs, they were able to switch that money over to paying off their debt.

As a result, some people were tied to jobs because they had to, they needed that income. But now there are individuals who have had the opportunity to be able to live off of less. And they are deciding to go after what their dreams are and have a more balanced life. Therefore, they’ve seen that they’ve been productive working remotely and they like that type of atmosphere, or at least a portion of it.

Some people like the hybrid model, which they go into the office maybe one or two times a week. And I think it’s the employer who is struggling. Because I personally, if I was still responsible for staffing an organization, I would offer all types of models. Because it really is about where can the employee be the most effective.

And I think employees owe it to themselves to stress that when they are on interviews, to showcase how they can work in any type of environment and they can get work done in their preferred mode of working. And I think that’s what’s going to be the magic.

Because I’m seeing a lot of organizations, even if the corporate level has policies, I see some of the departments coming up with unofficial policies to deal with what’s works best for their employees and the department getting their work done.

Dr. Larry D. Parker Jr.: And it really speaks to the type of leadership that looks for the best way to make it happen for you versus always highlighting why they can’t do something for you. When the end result is the more effective and actually the happier individual that’s working in the work environment. And so, you want both of those. You want an effective person, and then you want someone to be happy in what they bring to the table.

So, with that being said, I really appreciate this opportunity to talk with you. The one thing that I would like to ask is, is there one thing that you’d like to leave the audience with when it comes to either any of those topics, whether it be the employee or those individuals that are hiring? Do you have one salient point you want to leave them with?

Dr. Marie Harper: I would say, I think it’s a new ballgame, the world of work. Individuals are doing research and testing the market as well as conducting employee surveys to find out what works best. And I applaud those organizations who are listening to their employees.

And I am warning the employers who are refusing to listen to the employees and going with what they think is best. I believe our future is going to be based on the partnership, true partnership between employees and employers. I think employers have to be more flexible and treat this whole work environment as a benefit, as medical insurance. Like what do your employees prefer?

And I think employees will need to be able to articulate what their preferred work style is to the employer, both in the interview and when they are actually hired. But if they can address those issues up front, I think it would be a better employee, employer relationship.

Dr. Larry D. Parker Jr.: Well that, I truly appreciate. That’s a golden nugget that will really resonate with a number of people. So Dr. Harper, I really thank you for taking time to speak with us today. And we look forward to having you back again and further conversations along topics like this. So, thank you.

Dr. Marie Harper: Well, thank you Dr. Parker. I appreciate you inviting me to talk about a topic that is near and dear to my heart. I enjoyed every minute of it.

Dr. Larry D. Parker Jr.: We truly appreciated having you. We’ve been speaking with Dr. Marie Harper about success in the new norm. I appreciate all of you being with us. Be well, be safe, until next time.

Dr. Larry D. Parker, Jr., currently serves as the Department Chair of Transportation and Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management with the School of Business. He serves as an adjunct faculty for various universities around the world.

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