vicki powers
freelance writer

Home Depot Army Recruiting

HR Innovator, October 2004

by Vicki Powers

Remember those classic Uncle Sam Army recruiting posters of the early 1900s: "I Want You!"? Now The Home Depot is saying "I Want You!" to America ’s military job seekers. Operation Career Front is the latest high-profile initiative from the Atlanta-based home improvement retail chain, all part of an effort to secure the best job candidate for its growing store count across the United States, which currently numbers more than 1,800.

This national campaign, which kicked off in September 2004, joins Home Depot with three government agencies—the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Labor, and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs—in targeting military heroes, veterans, and their spouses to join Home Depot’s team of 300,000 associates.

Bob Ravener, vice president of human resources, at Home Depot, says the initiative makes good business sense, especially as The Home Depot continues to expand and add 20,000 new jobs and 100,000 employee hires in 2004 for its new stores. In the past three years, in fact, Home Depot has added 120,000 new positions for new store openings. From an HR perspective, Ravener says the military provides tremendous training, background, and screening of individuals, so the organization knows it’s getting high-caliber candidates when they decide to leave the military.

"We know the people affiliated with the military are the right kind of people to hire," Ravener states. "The military has already drilled in teamwork, discipline, and respect for others. They get great leadership training and all the basic skills. A lot of those common traits you look for in any applicant, you find through the military candidate."

The military hiring initiative also targets military spouses and other dependents. Current and former members of the military and their families can apply for employment with The Home Depot through the U.S. Department of Labor’s 2,000 One-Stop Career Centers, the Department of Defense Web site link to Operation Career Front, The Home Depot’s career Web site, and in-store kiosks.

Home Depot has always been a strong supporter of the military, according to Ravener. Through the years it has created initiatives such as Project Homefront by donating $1 million and one million volunteer hours toward military housing. Most recently, the home improvement retailer donated materials and tools totaling $1 million to assist the rebuilding effort in Iraq .

The Home Depot has tried to make Operation Career Front as simple as possible for the company and government agencies, which Ravener believes makes the project so potentially successful. Home Depot didn’t have to develop new technology, create a whole new department or set of work rules for its more than 2,000 HR employees, a number largely based on one HR manager in each of its 1,800 stores. It essentially taps into places that people are already looking to find jobs and linking those together.

Ravener does not know of any other retailer targeting a career opportunity partnership with the military.

"I wouldn’t say it’s a competitive advantage, but it keeps us competitive in the market, and it’s the right thing to do," Ravener says.

The biggest challenge of the effort is the communication and coordination required to efficiently handle the immense numbers involved. With more than 200,000 service members separating each year from the military and 12 million military veterans, this creates a large opportunity pool. Ravener says the military does a tremendous coordination effort partnering between the Department of Labor, Department of Defense, and the military’s transition assistance program.

"It really comes down to ensuring we’re building relationships with our government counterparts, that we’re providing accurate information, and there is clear communication and access to people interested in finding a career with The Home Depot," Ravener states.

The Home Depot hired more than 10,000 veterans in 2003 and is tracking to surpass that number by a wide margin in 2004.

Ravener believes initiatives like this don’t get accomplished without top leadership. He says Home Depot spent a year working through the details directly with the government to reach a program that would prove beneficial for everyone.

"To me, this starts with Bob Nardelli, our chairman/CEO, who has been a clear leader in support of the military, as well as his understanding that military candidates are great candidates," Ravener relates. "And seconded by Dennis Donovan, our executive vice president of HR."

On the government side, Ravener says it wouldn’t have been possible without the key leaders of those organizations as well.

In the few short weeks since Operation Career Front started, Home Depot is encouraged by the positive responses to the program. Between phone calls and e-mails, Ravener says the offices have received tremendous response from the military community wanting to learn more about it.

"Other messages were just thanking people for playing such a key role in the future of those looking for employment outside the military," Ravener adds. "To me, it’s a perfect example of how the public and private sector ought to be able to work together because everyone wins when you can make things like this happen."

©2004 Vicki Powers. Web design by