Patriotism comes in many forms, and for Matt Brogdon of Pathfinder Consulting, supporting our nation’s freedom has always been ingrained in his life. With military participation going back generations, it’s no wonder why Matt found himself gravitating toward military life early on – but his dedication to supporting veterans didn’t end when he left the military. Matt has made creating recruitment and retention programs across corporate America his life’s work. He’s helped leading companies create talent acquisition and development programs that produce substantial ROI and reduced and eliminated dependence on agencies–all in all, saving clients $20 million over the past 17 years!

When launching DE Academy, we immediately tapped into Matt’s expertise and looked to him to provide strategic information that employers could use to advance their current veteran hiring programs. We recently had the chance to catch up with Matt and discuss his thought process surrounding his DE Academy course, How To: Veteran Recruiting & Retention, and also talk about his participation in the George W. Bush Institute’s exclusive Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program. Here’s what Matt said about his generational ties to the military and his plans for flipping the narrative when it comes to how the nation views veterans.

Q: Thanks for sitting down to chat, Matt! You have been an amazing partner to DE for many years, but for those who haven’t had the chance to meet you, start out by telling us a little bit about yourself and why veteran employment is such a passion of yours.

Thank you for the opportunity to talk and discuss our partnership, as well as the work that I’m doing. I’ve been either a partner or a Member for the last six years, and I’ve always been impressed by DirectEmployers and its staff. Shannon Offord and I talk about watches until I turn blue in the face (Shannon keeps talking, though) and Jen Bernhardt and I want to build a great eLearning platform together, but we talk about kids a lot too.

I’m an Air Force Academy graduate and an Army officer–ten years of therapy right there–but I’m also the third generation of a military family. My grandfathers were both in World War II: one as a P-51 pilot and the other as an infantryman in Patton’s 3rd Army. My dad was in the Air Force for 23 years, with two rotations in Vietnam. Uniformed service runs in my family, and it was the only thing I knew growing up.

My father had a rough transition from the Air Force to trying to find his next career, as well as moving his family from Europe back home in the late ’80s. I remember what a trying time that was for us as a family, especially financially, as my dad struggled to find the next opportunity that could be more than a paycheck.

Twenty years ago, when I separated from the Army, I went into boutique military recruiting assisting transitioning service members find jobs in corporate America. Once I realized how much work there was to do in this area, I decided to make a career of it. I’ve worked as a recruiter, a talent acquisition director, and now as an entrepreneur and consultant to assist service members and veterans find the right career after their service and make sure companies know how to recruit and retain them. Service for me has continued long after I’ve put away the uniform.

Q: You recently took your commitment to veteran hiring to a whole new level by becoming a subject matter expert in the new DE Academy. Tell us about your process.

DE Academy experts at DEAM19: Matt Brogdon, Carla Downing, and Jen Bernhardt

Matt Brogdon (left) poses with Carla Downing (middle), of ML Talent Strategies, and Jen Bernhardt (right), VP of Member Engagement, at DEAM19.

I’ve given many talks and training sessions around veteran recruiting in the past two decades, so it was easy for me to figure out possible topics. I first consulted with Jen Bernhardt about different subject areas, then settled on veteran recruiting and retention. I made an outline and then filled in the information I thought to be most important for a talent acquisition manager, or a hiring manager, to know if they wanted to build a veteran hiring program from scratch. I worked closely with Jen and Carla Downing, our DE instructional design expert and consultant, to create not only the right content, but also organize it effectively from a learning perspective. After that, it was a lot of editing and condensing to ensure we had the right content in the right order.

Q: With so many veteran topics you could cover, how did you select veteran recruiting and retention to be most beneficial, and why?

I wanted to create our first topic as an overview, a way to provide a lot of great information to someone unfamiliar with the military and veteran recruiting space and who is creating a program for the first time. But, I also wanted to pass along information that could help someone who was trying to strengthen their current program from experience. The most important thing I wanted to get across is that a veteran program is not just hiring, and that the creation of marketing, recruiting, and retention programs is interrelated and professional talent acquisition and talent development folks should begin their program with the end in mind – recruiting leadership talent for the next 5, 10, and 20 years for their organization.

Q: With so much to say, how did you determine how to pare down content for your course?

One challenges as a consultant and partner of DE is to provide up-to-date best practices, but also to know where the Member is in his or her learning curve. After creating our eLearning course, we ran it by several people, both experts in my business, as well as in DirectEmployers, to make sure we were offering enough of the right content for a broad-based overview with room for deeper dives later. I think we’ve done that.

Q: What takeaways are you hoping employers learn?

Viewing military and veteran hiring as a holistic, 360-degree full life cycle program for any company, I want Members to come away with a basic understanding and know the importance of strategic planning, job profiling for veterans, branding, marketing, recruitment and recruitment training, and retention. There is enough information there to create a solid veteran hiring and retention program, as well as plenty of ideas to trigger bigger and deeper questions around where Members want to take their program in the future. We will continue to create content on related topics, and as a DirectEmployers partner, I am always available to help Members.

Q: Well, congrats again on becoming an instructor in DE Academy! You’ve been busy this year, and there’s no sign of you slowing down–especially since you were recently announced as part of the George W. Bush Institute’s 2019 Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program. This is an amazing opportunity–tell us about it! How did you first learn about this opportunity?

This is the second annual cohort of the program, and I was lucky enough to hear about it from two of my colleagues over dinner one night in Los Angeles. One of the areas of focus for the Bush Institute is veteran employment. My friends thought I would be a good fit for the program with my experience in recruiting and workforce development as a recruiter and in the biotech and tech industries. I really wanted to add another dimension to my professional life, and I’m always interested in learning more from others, so I put in my application.

Q: What was the submission process like?

The submission process includes an application, two essays, and the submittal of two letters of recommendation, as well as a Skype interview. There were over 1,000 applicants, and our current cohort has 43 members, with folks from the mental health, nonprofit, employment, and education industries, as well as a couple of active-duty service members. I can’t help but think what an honor it is to be a part of such a distinguished group. My family helped me prep for my interview, and my 14-year-old picked out my shirt. She said I looked good but old, and there was nothing she could do to help that…

Q: What does the program entail?

Our program features five modules over five months – three in Dallas, one in Seattle, and one in Washington, DC. We meet for three or four days at a time with a focus on leadership, communication, service and thorough education on the challenges facing this current generation of post-9/11 veterans. Each of the cohort members has a personal leadership project they are working on, and the modules are designed to stand apart from, as well as support, our work with our projects.

Q: Through the course of this 5-month program, what do you hope to learn?

My personal leadership project is to build a career skills program for Native American veterans in Arizona to support employment in remote and underserved areas. Native American veterans serve in many leadership capacities in their tribal communities, but with limited employment and educational opportunities, their ability to be catalysts for change and development is limited. I want to leverage their leadership in their communities by expanding their employment and career opportunities by working with corporations, higher education institutions, and government resources.

The program will help me tackle this problem while helping me expand and leverage my network to support my project, and ultimately find donors and allies. Having a forty-three person peer group to face this challenge with is invaluable.

Q: What impact do you think this program will make on your already robust business?

My career up to this point has focused on military and diversity recruiting and retention. The Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program has opened my eyes to the next level–workforce development and talent management for the jobs required in the next fifty years. What role can veterans and other members of the workforce play in leading America in the next half-century? The more opportunities we create for those willing to lead, the better off we will be as a nation.

Q: We couldn’t be happier to cheer you on from the sidelines! You’re doing such great work. So, what’s next for you?

Phew! I am pretty busy, and the thought of building anything else at this point just makes me tired, lol. First, I’d like to create a robust library of eLearning courses with DE on veteran and diversity hiring to grow our capability and contribute to the best practices the Association already supports. I am also consulting with organizations directly–mainly corporations, schools, and government folks–to build out their talent acquisition and diversity and inclusion capacities as their organizations expand. I am also coaching senior military leaders who are transitioning on how to find the right career when they leave the military.

Big picture? I want to change the national media narrative around veterans who are viewed as broken or hurt. We need to consider their service and potential for this country in a positive light and see how they are positively impacting their communities every day. I think my next project is getting behind a camera and a microphone and showing what service looks like for veterans after they take off the uniform.

Thanks for much for sitting down with us, Matt! Your work with veterans is genuinely inspired, and we are so proud to have you as a partner AND subject matter expert in DE Academy. We’re currently in the process of putting the final touches on Matt’s course, so stay tuned for the official launch date! Be sure and subscribe to our mailing list and indicate that you’d like more information on DE Academy as we roll out new courses and eLearning opportunities. Alternatively, you can connect with Matt in the Partner Marketplace found in DE Connect.

Jaime Costilow
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