How to hire veterans to increase company diversity.
By Mike Starich
Why Hire Military?
Between 2008 and 2012, a total of 2.2 million military service members transitioned out of the military, and it is predicted that between 2015 and 2020, another one million will separate and find their next career. Transitioning military personnel represent the second largest source of renewable talent from which to hire, following new college graduates.
However, unlike college graduates, transitioning service members enter the workforce with leadership experience that far exceeds that of their civilian peers of the same age, with hands-on technical training and on-the-job skills, and responsibility for lives, equipment and adherence to procedure, all under the most difficult of circumstances.
Veterans work well under high-stress situations, are accustomed to fast-paced, around-the-clock operations, and are subject matter experts. They are flexible and able to operate in a wide variety of environments, while effectively managing resources.
Their ability to learn quickly, meet deadlines, work under pressure, and lead a diverse team make them an asset to any company.
In addition to the wealth of intangibles a veteran brings to an employer, there are also cost savings associated from hiring veterans. Most veterans enjoy relocation paid for by the government, resulting in several thousands in potential cost savings per hire. A veteran’s focus on safety not only creates a safe work environment, but saves money for the organization in the form of reduced workers compensation costs and less time lost to injuries and accidents.
Retired veterans and reservists (and their families) are eligible for free and/or reduced health care coverage through the military’s health system, lowering a company’s health care insurance burden. Additionally, there are both federal (Work Opportunity Tax Credit Program) and state tax incentives for veteran hiring, up to a maximum $9,600 credit per qualified veteran hired.
All the positives aside, for federal contractors, hiring veterans is more than a “nice to have,” it’s a requirement. OFCCP changes that went into effect in March 2014 with updated regulations for the Vietnam Era Veteran’s Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA), require that all companies with at least $100K in federal contracts adopt an annual benchmark for Protected Veteran Class hiring. This benchmark can be based on the national percentage of veterans in the workforce (currently 6.9 percent), or an individual company-specific benchmark.
All of these factors have created a climate which has never been more favorable for veteran hiring. In fact. Hiring our Heroes (HOH), a program of the U. S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, released a study in November 2016 which found that American businesses now rank veteran recruiting as a top three priority.
Understanding the Gap
Unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all” approach to veteran hiring—and just because someone has served in the military does not mean that he or she will be the right match for open positions. There are challenges to be overcome by both the service member and the employer. To be successful, one must address and overcome these challenges.
For many veterans, the transition from the military to civilian life will present them with their first job search, first time writing a resume, and potentially even their first interview. They are faced with answering questions including “what am I qualified for?”, “how will I apply my skills to the civilian workforce?”, “what will my career path look like?”, “will a future employer understand my background and potential?”, among many others. Additionally, there is an overabundance of resources available to veterans, and it can be difficult for them to decide where to turn for assistance.
Employers may experience a lack of understanding about veteran backgrounds, how to screen and select the right applicants to interview, and how to evaluate them throughout the hiring process. They will quickly find that, although they know high numbers of job-seeking veterans exist in the market, unfortunately, this knowledge does not translate into a pipeline that is filled with top military talent. It can be difficult to gain access to the military community, and many service members are deployed leading up to their transition, precluding them from completing a traditional job search. The best military candidates never appear on job boards or attend job fairs, making many traditional sourcing methods quite ineffective when trying to recruit military.
Additionally, it is important to realize the highly competitive nature of recruiting those candidates with the most sought after qualifications—such as Service Academy Graduates, Navy Nuclear Officers and Engineers, and Enlisted Technicians (electricians, electronics technicians, mechanics, and those with nuclear training). These candidates are highly desired in the workforce, and have many options available to them. Without a solid plan, a company will not win these candidates.
A poorly designed or executed military hiring initiative can result in frustration from within the company surrounding the results of the program, and frustration on the part of the veterans who have a poor experience. The good news is that this gap can effectively be bridged when companies approach veteran hiring with the proper education, planning, and alignment from all levels of the company, and when veterans feel they would be valued at the organization throughout the duration of a meaningful and rewarding career.
Five Keys to Success
Follow these five steps to create a successful strategy for veteran hiring:
• Create a plan. Be sure to have buy-in from the top, and align the decision makers, Talent Acquisition, Human Resources, and Hiring Managers behind a common goal to hire Military.
seek outside assistance if the organization does not have sufficient resources or internal capacity, as there are companies who specialize in all phases of the military recruitment process – including planning, candidate attraction and selection, interviewing and recruiting, veteran and employer training, and more.
• Set measurable goals and objectives. Define program success from the onset, and determine key performance indicators, which will ensure continuous improvement and a focus on results.
• Understand military talent. There are more than 7,000 military occupations within the military across more than 100 functional areas. Learn which military backgrounds are the best fits, and invest the time and effort in training teams on properly evaluating and interviewing military candidates to distinguish average from top performers.
• Develop a military-focused marketing campaign. Traditional recruiting methods aimed to the majority of job seekers have proven ineffective in reaching military candidates. It is important to reach veterans where they are, keeping in mind the uniqueness of their job search situation.
• Optimize onboarding and retention. Create networking and mentorship opportunities for veteran new hires, and pay special attention to benefits that will appeal to veterans. Veterans employee resource groups and clearly defined training and potential career progression are valued by Veterans and assure them that they are perceived as a valuable addition to the company.
With a proper plan, execution and follow through, veteran hiring programs can transform an organization. In addition to meeting compliance and diversity goals, adding veterans to the ranks will have a positive impact on the company’s bottom—be it through innovation, leadership, technical achievement, cost savings, or lowered risk. Although it takes some planning and education to get a successful veteran hiring program built and implemented, the outcome is well worth the investment.
Mike Starich is the CEO of Orion International, the nation’s largest military talent firm, and Novotus, a provider of recruitment optimization services. Prior to joining Orion in 1992, he served in the Marine Corps for seven years as a flight officer and marine officer recruiter.