SRS Distribution’s commitment to the military is ingrained in almost all parts of the company. It’s reflected in the dealer’s recruitment strategy, company culture, marketing efforts, and human resources programs.
The McKinney, Texas–based dealer began exploring ways to attract more veterans to the company in 2017, according to Cynthia Lang, director of talent acquisition at SRS. “Their skills and work ethic align with ours very well,” Lang says. “The leadership of people, the management of supply, and all of that.”
The experiences of many veterans differentiates them from similarly aged candidates, says Slater Waltz, veteran recruitment program manager at SRS and a former Marine. A 22-year-old veteran has experience leading a team, preparing younger service members for trips overseas and combat zones, and experience working in an environment with high expectations and accountability, he says. As a result, he adds that many veteran candidates have “a skill set that you really can’t learn in school.”
“You [often] have someone that wants to be educated and has at least four years of experience leading or working within teams,” Waltz says. “That’s something you really won’t find unless you go onto a military base and start recruiting those types of individuals.”
Recognizing all of this, in 2018, SRS launched a military website (srsvets.careers/default.aspx), started a Veteran Advisory Council, and pledged to hire an additional 500 veterans by 2023. The council, comprised of veterans from each military branch, helped to ensure that the marketing and recruitment materials posted on the military website and handed out at military bases were accurate. For example, the council could spot mistakes in stock images, such as a patch that is out of place or a haircut that doesn’t meet military regulations.
Once the material is reviewed and approved, it can then be posted online or printed for the veteran outreach campaigns. Waltz receives notifications from the SRS application portal any time a self-identified veteran applies for a position within the company. “We pay special attention to the applications that come in from veterans,” Lang says. Waltz “takes them under his wing,” communicates with veterans to assess how their skills might be applied to the company, and then creates an applicant profile. “They have a champion internally to get the process going faster and I think that’s helped,” Lang adds.
In addition to his marketing and recruitment efforts, Waltz also helps develop initiatives to retain veterans through mentorship opportunities and veteran-friendly policies, such as engaging military families and actively participating in military-related community events.
Since Waltz joined SRS earlier this year, veteran hiring has increased 228% year-over-year. The company has hired 163 veterans in the past year and a half, and Waltz says the majority of these hires have joined the company in 2019. “When you build a strong foundation, you will naturally attract veterans,” Waltz says.
Once hired, the experiences that veterans have and the leaderships skills that they learned in the military help them in their roles at SRS. The company is a “teamwork-oriented organization,” Lang says, which is a familiar environment.
The opportunities for career advancement, combined with their military work ethic, have positioned them for success at SRS. “At the end of the day, the harder you work, the better you do here,” Lang says. “It does not matter about rank, it does not matter about the number of years of service. You might get noticed in two months and get promoted.”
Philanthropy and Culture
In addition to veteran recruitment initiatives, SRS has made an effort to make its company culture military-friendly. In 2012, SRS management formed the SRS Raise the Roof Foundation, an organization focused on giving back to the dealer’s community. The organization ranks military veteran family support as one of its three key missions, alongside providing relief and recovery to disaster victims and assisting children and families in local communities. The foundation has partnerships with military service organizations 22Kill, an organization dedicated to the prevention of veteran suicide; Luke’s Wings, which provides service families the means to visit loved ones during hospitalization and rehabilitation; and the George W. Bush Presidential Center Military Service Initiative, which works to foster successful transitions from military service to civilian life. SRS Distribution CEO Dan Tinker sits on the 22Kill board of directors.
Mikell Bollinger, executive director of the SRS Raise the Roof Foundation, says having a philanthropic arm that is partnered with so many veteran-facing organizations helps in veteran recruitment because prospects can see the company has “a heart for veterans.” Since 2014, over $1.5 million has been donated toward the veteran programs and partners through the SRS Raise the Roof Foundation.
The foundation frequently coordinates participation in veteran-facing events such as the Dallas Carry the Load Memorial Day March, a two-day event over Memorial Day weekend that honors service members and their families. Such events strengthen the employees’ and company’s ties to the community and promotes philanthropy within the company’s culture.
One veteran employee felt such a strong connection to SRS that he chose to have his reenlistment ceremony at the dealer’s corporate headquarters. Among those from the company in attendance for the ceremony were CEO Dan Tinker and chief human resource officer (CHRO) Eric Jacobson.
“To have our CEO and CHRO and other chief executives in attendance, that speaks volumes,” Waltz says. “I built these events before at another company—and that was not happening. It’s not just a check-the-box type program with this company. They really live and breathe it and a lot of the veterans really see that from our leadership, and that’s extremely important.”
Top 10 Military Employer Distinction
SRS Distribution’s efforts across its entire company earned the dealer recognition as a Top 10 Military Friendly Employer for 2019. The Military Friendly Employers list has set the standard for organizations providing opportunities for veterans and their spouses since 2003.
Rankings on the list are based on a 250- to 300-item questionnaire with six different categories: hiring and onboarding, culture and commitment, opportunity and advancement, support and retention, policies and compliances, and recruiting and sourcing. SRS exceeded the standard in each measured category.
A commitment to veterans, which began with the philanthropic mission of the SRS Raise the Roof Foundation, has now spread across the entire company and has become ingrained in its culture. “As leadership began making that commitment, we saw how much that commitment seemed to resonate,” says Yancey Bennett, SRS’s director of digital marketing. “That belief was really reinforced with seeing how much everyone in the organization took that to heart. This isn’t a nominal commitment, this is something the whole organization believes strongly in and gets a lot of energy behind.”