Military veterans are an elite and respected class of dedicated individuals whose leadership skills are time-tested and deserving of further development. With this in mind, Dr Pepper Snapple Group values the opportunity to welcome fellow veterans to join their ranks in the workplace.
The company’s found veterans are a natural fit for its Emerging Leader Program (ELP), a rotational professional development program designed to give high-potential employees an intense, upfront view of multiple aspects of the business across an accelerated period, readying them for the challenges ahead. While leadership experience is a qualifying requirement, knowledge of the industry is not.
"The ELP is designed for people with proven leadership experience to whom we teach the business," said Katie Ball, director of leadership development and training and a veteran who still serves in the U.S. Navy Reserve. "The expectation is that they have already built a strong foundation of leadership skills and are in need of development in the tactical parts of Dr Pepper Snapple, with the idea they will use those leadership skills to grow in the company."
Candidates are sourced both internally and externally, and veterans, who have already proven a capacity for leadership, are seizing the opportunity. Building on the natural management capabilities of veterans is a win-win for both the program's enrollees and the company itself, which in turn benefits from the ideas and discipline brought to the table by those rising through the program. Graduates agree it's a worthwhile investment of their time and energy, citing the sense of community ELP creates among those working toward leadership roles as a key takeaway.
"Like so many transitioning military officers, I was uncertain how my military experience and unique skills would transfer to a civilian career," says Joshua Grimsley, a DPS sales execution manager in Twinsburg, Ohio. "The Emerging Leader Program provided the necessary environment to initially identify specific transferable skills and allowed time to refine and translate the military skills I acquired over the past seven years. The program's rotational design is fundamental to establishing a strong base knowledge of business operations by shadowing and leading each department. As members of the ELP, we instantly had a network of individuals engaging in similar work around the country that we could share ideas with; you are part of a team from day one."
Matthew Wilkinson, a DPS production manager in Northlake, Ill., agrees. "The company has veterans serving in various roles through all levels of the organization and, as a result, truly understands the unique stresses that the transition entails." he says. "The most important thing the ELP did for me was to create a community of peers I could rely on to share ideas and lessons learned throughout my transition into the private sector."
The program runs on two tracks: one focusing on supply chain and the other on sales. It brings enrollees to the company's headquarters in Plano, Texas, for two- or four-weeks of intensive training with DPS's Leadership Development Team and key business leaders. Afterward, local mentors are provided to assist with learning and coaching needs, and graduates spend one to two years in the program, depending on their track, attending professional development workshops and testing their leadership mettle. Upon graduation, they're placed in fast-paced environments where they can put their leadership experience—both military and corporate—to work.
For those with unique skill sets gleaned from years of military service, a sense of camaraderie within the company, blended with an intensive education about its inner workings, makes for a successful transition into leadership roles. To that end, Micah Highwalking, branch manager in Holland, Mich., says, "I have leveraged my leadership skills by carrying them over to my team and making it known that, like the military, DPS has lined out values for our company, and we will abide by them. My team also knows that, just as they are accountable to me, I am accountable to them. We are a team, and we can't win without everyone working together."