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Military-to-Civilian Transition Success Story: Logistically Speaking
by Janet Farley, Contributing Editor

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Article Sponsored by:  The Florida State University College of Business


Swisslog employees

at the Global Leadership

Development Program.

A cut above the others. The best of the best.


In short, that is what you are trained to be in the United States military. As you transition out of the service and begin to search for your post-uniform career, you will find that the best companies want you because of that fact, regardless of what the unemployment figures and nightly newscasters suggest.

One such notable company is Swisslog Healthcare Solutions Division, based in Denver, Colo. The North American division of this company provides logistics automation, primarily for healthcare markets via total system design, manufacturing, installation and customer support.

Its corporate headquarters is located in Buchs/Aarau, Switzerland and has offices in the U.S., France, Germany, Switzerland and the U.K. The company dates back to 1898 and currently employs over 2,000 worldwide.

Walk into any of the most prestigious hospitals in the U.S. such as The Mayo Clinic, Stanford, John Hopkins, M.D. Anderson, Duke University and University of Chicago and you'll see Swisslog Healthcare Solutions technology in action.

"Using pneumatic tube systems, also known as air tube systems, we move small items such as specimens, supplies, samples and medicines quickly and securely through tube systems," said Dave Lawson, vice president of human resources, adding that such technology is also applied to industrial, commercial, and retail and distribution applications.

"We also specialize in pharmacy automation," said Lawson.

"We can pick out a single pill, put it in a bag, seal it, bar code it and send it off to a medical professional. That person then receives it and scans the barcode so it is registered on the patient's armband before the medication is provided. This technology significantly reduces the number of wrong medications disbursed every day and protects hospitals from liability at the same time," said Lawson.

To date, Swisslog has installed hospital material transport and pharmacy automation systems in more than 2,000 hospitals and pharmacies throughout the world.

"There aren't a lot of companies that do what we do," said Lawson.

Wanted: The Best

"The health care industry is a good place to be career-wise," said Lawson.

To that end, Swisslog typically hires employees for project management, engineering, field service, sales and consulting, finance and customer support.

"Most of our jobs are posted on the Internet and some are listed internally for our employees," said Lawson adding that the company also has a robust internal employee referral program.

Job seekers, take note. Swisslog is only interested in hiring the finest employees.

"We only want the best," said Lawson, noting that most who are hired stick around for the long-term.

"If [employees] come to work with us, they stay with us," said Lawson who has worked for the company for 27 years himself.

The notable career longevity that occurs at Swisslog happens for a good reason. Employees find that advancement both within and outside their initial career track is a real possibility.

"We've hired field service technicians who have worked hard and have been promoted to regional service managers," said Lawson noting that others have entered technical fields only to switch to sales and consulting instead.

Once hired by Swisslog, employees undergo a unique onboarding orientation and training program.

"We put them into contact with other experienced people and let them 'job shadow.' They may travel to customer sites as well," said Lawson.

"We also have a training facility where our new technicians and our clients learn about products, how to operate them and service them," said Lawson.

Swisslog also boasts a global team-based management leadership development program, conducted by the corporate office of Swisslog in Buchs, Switzerland, near Zurich.

"In the program, there are three levels. Level one is targeted for our more senior managers; level two is for those in the mid-management range; and level three is for our entry-level managers. It's a wonderful opportunity for Swisslog managers from around the world to come together and learn from one another," said Lawson.

Swisslog offers competitive salaries and benefits.

"We monitor the salary market, using national surveys and offer competitive salaries," said Lawson adding that the standard benefits packages include medical, dental, 401(k) and educational assistance.

To help them identify and hire the best of the best from the transitioning military talent pool, the company has turned to Bradley-Morris, Inc. (BMI) and their consultant, J.T. Blum.

The relationship has been a productive one for both Swisslog and BMI.

"We have placed 35 candidates with Swisslog to date," said Blum.

"We typically hire both field service technicians and managers who have served in uniform. J.T. is terrific. He understands our jobs and, as a result, has been very effective in helping us to find the right candidates," said Lawson.

"Those who have served in the military are excellent candidates for us," said Lawson.

"We find they are typically pragmatic, reliable and have realistic expectations. They are also highly-disciplined and have strong leadership skills. Leadership, for us, is a must and we find that in prior-service members. Those are the skills that we seek for our employees," said Lawson.

"When you go to the BMI hiring events, you can meet up to 10 or 12 good candidates," said Lawson.

One candidate hired by Swisslog via a BMI ConferenceHire hiring event is Gary Sliver, who currently works as the company's director of systems applications in the Denver-based division.

"People come to Swisslog to work and they just don't leave. It's that good," said Sliver, a West Point Graduate who served as an armor officer in the U.S. Army for five years prior to becoming a civilian.

Originally hired by Swisslog as a systems design engineer, Sliver was promoted within a two-year period to his current position as director of systems applications.

For Sliver, the time was right to transition from the military to a civilian career.

"As I transitioned out of the Army, I worked with several professional recruiters to find a good job. Of all of them, I found BMI to be the only one who really listened to what I wanted and helped me to accomplish those objectives," said Sliver.

"The others seemed to be more focused on simply placing me wherever as soon as possible in order to get the commission for their work. BMI was different," said Sliver.

Sliver enjoys his new civilian career but notes there were challenges making the career change.

"Of course, I miss being around Soldiers and being in command but I have no regrets about leaving the military. It was my time to do it," said Sliver.

"In the military, there is always someone there to monitor your career for you. Before you start on a specific job, you are often afforded extensive training for anywhere between four weeks to six months. You are provided the basic knowledge you need to do the job in the training and in the regulations and literature. The basic questions and answers are more than available," said Sliver.

"As a civilian, on the other hand, you are more or less left to your own devices at times. You have to be self-starter and be able to make good decisions. You have to evaluate the situation yourself, develop your own plans and execute them," said Sliver.

"Being a civilian is great. At Swisslog, I have the opportunity to work globally and yet remain a unique individual within the organization," said Sliver.

"I think many service members are afraid to transition into civilian jobs because they may think they don't have the relevant skill set when in fact, they do," said Sliver adding that fear is unnecessary.

"Leadership is leadership in or out of a uniform and employers want to hire those having it," said Sliver.

And it would appear that leadership is most definitely valued at Swisslog.

 

Janet Farley is the author of “The Military-to-Civilian Career Transition Guide and she writes the JobTalk column for the Stars and Stripes newspaper.  She can be reached at janetfarley@hotmail.com for comments and/or column suggestions.

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