This past weekend, Americans observed Veterans Day. During a month when many people are thinking about carving turkeys, it’s important to remember the time this country has carved out to honor the men and women of the Armed Services — those who have fought for us, defended our interests, and returned home to resume their lives. However, the transition into civilian life, particularly where employment is concerned, isn’t always smooth. Thanking veterans for their service may be a nice gesture, but helping them find meaningful and rewarding work is a more concrete way to express our gratitude for their sacrifices — and the future successes they deserve.
Veteran Employment Rates Have Improved…in Some Aspects
Back in 2015, a global executive survey by Korn Ferry’s Futurestep division found that most employers lacked an organized focus on recruiting veterans. The study, which covered over 700 respondents, determined that 80% of the organizations polled had no meaningful veteran outreach. Since then, the situation has improved substantially.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), veteran unemployment rates have plummeted over the past four years: “The unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time since September 2001—a group referred to as Gulf War-era II veterans—declined to 3.1 percent in 2022 and the rate for all veterans decreased to 2.8 percent.”
Yet as Syracuse University’s “Employment Situation of Veterans - January 2023” report illustrated, other employment challenges persist for veterans. For example, a soldier’s age factors into the situation: “Veterans ages 18-24 were unemployed at a higher rate than their nonveteran peers of the same age group (8.4 percent). Veterans 25-34 were unemployed at a higher rate than their nonveteran peers of the same age group (4.4 percent).”
Gender also plays a role: “The unemployment rate for female veterans increased in January, from 1.7 percent to 3.9 percent. By comparison, female nonveterans have an unemployment rate of 3.4 percent.”
So too do race and ethnicity: “The unemployment rate for Hispanic, Latino/a, or Spanish Origin veterans increased from 3.0 percent to 3.5 percent in January.”
As Norah O’Donnell and Olivia Rinaldi reported for CBS News, “Finding a job after their military service affects nearly 200,000 veterans every year. Only one in four U.S. veterans have a job lined up after leaving the armed forces, according to the Pew Research Center.”
Corporate Culture, an Obstacle to Veteran Retention?
Korn Ferry published an interesting article that uncovered a “covert job problem for military veterans.” Namely, that servicemembers may not encounter much difficulty in finding jobs, but keeping them is another matter: “Research shows that 43% of veterans leave their first civilian job within their first year, and 80% leave before the end of their second year, citing a lack of opportunity for career advancement and personal development.”
- Nearly 70% of professionals say that their own organizations don’t train hiring managers on veteran-specific hiring practices.
- More than 60% said there was no onboarding or transition support for veteran hires.
- Most civilian employers simply don’t understand how to translate military skills to their business operations. “Unless veterans are applying for defense contracting jobs, they have to translate their military skills into civilian terms,” Military.com explained. “Civilians don't always understand military acronyms, MOS, or military terminology, and they aren't going to take the time to learn.”
- Veterans must also overcome civilian biases and unwarranted stereotypes, such as problems with anger management, post-traumatic stress, or rigid behaviors.
Servicemembers Are Just as Important in Boardrooms as on Battlefields
Veterans have a wealth of skills, experiences, attitudes, and qualifications that make them ideal hires. In today’s increasingly technical marketplace, one plagued by a shortage of qualifications and skills, employers are placing a greater emphasis on recruiting knowledgeable and well-rounded talent with expertise in science, technology, math, and engineering (STEM). They also look for fit, industry or domain acumen, versatility, adaptability, and discipline. These traits are all hallmarks of the country’s veterans.
Service members possess exactly what companies want: dedication, unparalleled work ethic, specialized skills and a finely tuned ability to remain collected under tremendous pressure and constant change.
- Servicemembers have extensive experience transitioning into leadership positions and making informed, strategic decisions under fire. In this regard, veterans are well poised and qualified to assume management roles.
- Working as integral members of tightly knit units, veterans are often the most naturally organized and collaborative members of teams within an organization. Having experience in both subordinate and leadership positions, they understand the importance of every role. They bring maturity and adaptability to their positions, work cooperatively to accomplish objectives, and know how to invest in the achievement of a mission.
- Servicemembers are brought up in a world of discipline and focus. That doesn’t mean they’re merely conditioned to follow rules or adhere to procedures without question—they’re trained to make informed decisions in the absence of orders or operational guidance.
Ways Staffing Providers and MSPs Can Help Improve Veteran Careers
“Around one-quarter (25%) of veterans note that adjusting to civilian workplace culture is difficult,” wrote Kristen Parisi in HR Brew. “Many organizations, including Delta Airlines, Booz Allen Hamilton, and NBCUniversal, promote themselves as military friendly, which could help employers keep veteran workers. The survey found that 75% of respondents at ‘military ready’ organizations want to stay at their current company.”
So how can staffing providers and MSPs help? A staffing agency can play a crucial role in assisting with veteran hiring and job retention by implementing a variety of strategies and initiatives. Here are some key actions they can take.
Understand Military Skills Translation
Develop a deep understanding of military skills and how they translate to civilian roles. This involves recognizing the value of veterans' experiences and helping employers understand how those skills can be applied in different industries.
Provide Transition Support
Offer transition support services to veterans, including resume writing assistance, interview coaching, and guidance on how to articulate their military skills in a civilian context. This can enhance their marketability and help them secure suitable employment. One recommended strategy is to develop military-specific employee resource groups (ERG), enlisting other veterans who have been in the civilian workforce for a while to help with issues that arise during transitions. They can also serve as a bridge to assist civilian business leadership in understanding and translating skills between the two worlds.
Educate client companies about the benefits of hiring veterans, including their strong work ethic, discipline, leadership skills, and ability to work in diverse environments. Highlight how these qualities can contribute to a positive and productive work culture.
Customize Job Matching
Tailor job placements based on the specific skills and experiences of veterans. Ensure that the job opportunities align with their military training and expertise, increasing the likelihood of successful integration into the civilian workforce.
Collaborate with Veteran Organizations
Establish partnerships with veteran organizations, community groups, and government agencies that specialize in veteran employment and support services. This collaboration can provide additional resources and networks for both job seekers and employers.
Offer Training and Upskilling Programs
Provide training programs or partner with organizations that offer training opportunities to help veterans acquire the specific skills needed in the civilian workforce. This can enhance their competitiveness in the job market.
Establish mentorship programs that connect veterans with experienced professionals in their chosen industry. Mentorship can provide valuable guidance, support, and networking opportunities, contributing to long-term job satisfaction and retention.
Promote Inclusive Work Environments
Advocate for and promote inclusive work environments that appreciate diversity, including veterans. Encourage employers to create supportive cultures that recognize and value the unique contributions of individuals with military backgrounds.
Monitor and Address Retention Challenges
Stay actively involved in the placement process and monitor the progress of veterans in their new roles. Identify potential challenges early on and work with both the veteran and the employer to address any issues that may arise.
Stay Informed About Veteran Hiring Incentives
Stay updated on government programs and incentives designed to encourage veteran hiring. This may include tax credits, training subsidies, and other initiatives that can benefit both employers and veterans.
Honor Veterans’ Service with New Service Opportunities
Veterans bring employers invaluable skills, experiences, and aptitudes, such as precise communication, individual accountability, stellar execution of duties, a commitment to performance, team orientation, and natural leadership abilities.
As we pay tribute to the military men and women who served the nation in the name of honor and duty, let’s also remember how vital our veterans are outside of the military. More than inspiring patriotism, let’s allow their service to inspire our workforce growth and fortitude. Regardless of how an organization plans to attract candidates, making a concerted effort to engage veterans should be an active and serious part of that plan. A strong veteran recruiting campaign propels organizations beyond their competition with some of the nation’s most committed and experienced talent.