As major companies promise to hire more veterans, one local business is seeing opportunity in helping them keep those employees.
Dan Frank, himself a Navy veteran, has spent years providing coaching services tailored for veterans to federal agencies like the Department of Veterans Affairs. He’s now in the process of spinning off the initiative — known as VetAdvisor — into its own company and seeking commercial firms as customers.
Frank is chief executive of Falls Church-based Three Wire Systems, a technology services company he founded in 2006. The VetAdvisor program started based on a contract with the VA in 2007, and has been run under the auspices of Three Wire.
Early next year, Frank said he will spin off VetAdvisor, providing a key opportunity to broaden its customer base as well as its work.
The move comes as companies are increasingly promising to more aggressively hire veterans. President Obama has asked companies to hire or train 100,000 unemployed veterans by 2013, and local companies from McLean-based Science Applications International Corp. to Falls Church-based Northrop Grumman have made commitments to increase their ranks.
But as companies focus on hiring, no one is thinking, “Once I get this veteran employee base on board, how do I take care of them?” Frank said. “That’s going to be a really important aspect.”
The transition from military to civilian work can be tough for veterans accustomed to rigorous routines and clear paths to promotion.
At Northrop, where about 20 percent of the company’s employees are veterans, the contractor has in place programs meant to help veterans adjust, said Kia Silver Hodge, Northrop’s manager of diversity recruitment programs.
“The main issue that we see is what we’ve termed ‘corporate culture shock,’ ” she said. “They’re coming from a very regimented environment [and] they’re walking into the private sector, where there is a level of ambiguity.”
It’s a transition Frank knows well after spending eight years in the Navy before moving to the civilian world and taking his first job with KPMG. “I felt kind of naked,” he said of leaving the service.
He worked for several software companies before starting Three Wire.
Over the years, VetAdvisor has grown into a network of about 70 coaches with expertise in areas from behavioral health to finances to career. If an organization employs the service, their employees have access to a veteran coach who functions like a primary care doctor, directing the employee to specialists depending on his or her needs.
The coaches are knowledgeable about the transition programs the military and the VA offer and common problems, meaning they can answer questions about, for example, what the G.I. Bill provides, said Frank.
The program gives veterans plans to meet their goals. For instance, if a veteran wants to lose weight, he or she is given a plan with milestones he has to meet. If he’s missing those milestones, his coach will help him get back on track.
Frank said he also will offer a set of services for corporate human resources departments, meant to help those company officials understand veterans’ needs.