“I had all this great leadership and management experience, but I had never written a resume,” said Lloyd Knight, a 20-year U.S. Air Force veteran. “But, I had the exact qualifications UPS was looking for (such as a security clearance and load planning experience). I retired from the Air Force on a Friday and began working at UPS the next Monday… I was blessed.”
Fourteen years into his UPS career, Lloyd knows the ease of his transition from active duty to civilian life is not the path all veterans experience.
That’s why he joined a group of veterans from Atlanta-area Fortune 500 companies. The group is called VETLANTA, and Lloyd serves as its first and only president.
The commitment is a hefty one for the global freight forwarding trade lane manager, but it’s a role that brings satisfaction and connection to his brothers and sisters in arms.
“When I was hired at UPS, I was given all of this empowerment in my new role. We had tremendous success and rapidly grew the business… but something was missing,” Lloyd said, reflecting on the early days of his career.
That “something” was the camaraderie – the fellowship – that is such a part of military life.
“We’re workaholics at UPS, and at the end of the day everyone just goes home,” he said.
Into that void came an unlikely remedy – at least at the time.
“I had attended some other BRGs (Business Resource Groups) when someone approached me about starting a Veterans BRG,” Lloyd remembered. “I said, ‘Seriously?’ I was working long days already. I can’t do it.”
Eventually, his no became a yes. And while there were obstacles along the way – like, in the beginning, having no way to track veteran status among UPSers – the group’s focus on increasing employment numbers for veterans yielded results.
Today, UPS has 24 active Veterans BRG chapters.
More than a catchy name
Not long after his BRG involvement began, Lloyd found himself in another meeting. This time, it was one put together by the Coca-Cola Corporation in Atlanta, gathering veterans group leaders from major corporations in town.
“We (those at the meeting) were shocked at the huge things each company was doing for veterans. Collectively, we were hiring hundreds of thousands of veterans each year, but no one was talking with each other. At that second meeting, we laid the foundation for VETLANTA,” Lloyd said.
By the end of that second gathering, Lloyd had exhibited enough of his leadership capabilities to eventually be named president. The organization or “club” became an advocate and trusted advisor to veterans groups, non-profits and other companies looking to make an impact by providing support and opportunities for veterans.
“We developed a network and I brought a couple UPS mentors along,” Lloyd said. “We chartered ourselves as a club because we were not about raising money and – by choice – are not a 501(c)(3) tax exempt non-profit. Our role is to foster collaboration and volunteerism.”
Companies that sponsor events or provide assistance to VETLANTA summits do so based solely on their belief in the group’s mission. There’s no tax benefit associated with contributing to VETLANTA.
“When I speak to companies, the first thing I say is ‘I’m not here to ask for money,’” Lloyd said with a laugh. “That fact alone really resonates.”
His volunteerism with VETLANTA earned Lloyd the 2018 Jim Casey Community Service Award, the most prestigious individual honor given at UPS.
Real life skills, real impact
During his 20-year military career, Lloyd took advantage of the educational opportunities the Air Force afforded him, earning three college degrees and shortly thereafter, a master’s degree.
But beyond the diplomas hanging on the wall, the real education – in his view – came from the training he received during his military service.
“I had months of leadership training in the Air Force,” he said. “I challenge any company to match the leadership and development a veteran receives. I learned to take care of my people, and those lessons are more valuable than all of my degrees combined.”
He believes it’s the biggest selling point when discussing the importance of recruiting and hiring veterans. As he puts it, veterans give prospective employers like UPS a competitive advantage.
“People are our business, no matter what you do,” Lloyd said. “Whether it’s working with fellow UPSers, customers, (outside stakeholders) or any other group, it’s all about dealing with people, and veterans bring that skill set to the table.”
UPS leading the way
UPS doubled its initial goal of hiring 25,000 veterans to 50,000 and surpassed it as part of the Joining Forces Initiative from 2014-2018. Today, UPS continues to value and actively recruit military veterans.