This Veteran’s Day, America pauses to consider the sacrifice and courage of our veterans. But as employers, we can take this day of commemoration one step further; we can use it to inform some of our hiring strategies.
The unemployment rate for military veterans has decreased along with the overall U.S. unemployment rate. According to the Wounded Warrior Project’s Annual Warrior Survey for 2019, the unemployment rate for all post-9/11 veterans matches the national jobless rate of 3.5%. A more nuanced look shows that male veterans had an unemployment rate of 2.6% as of October, compared with 5.7% for female veterans.
While a lower unemployment rate is great news, these numbers fluctuate frequently. Organizations such as Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, Hiring Our Heroes and the Wounded Warrior Project provide robust resources for attracting and acquiring veteran talent, but retention frequently proves difficult. Veterans bring exceptional skills to any organization. They tend to be fiercely loyal, have strong values, and perform well under pressure. So why is it so difficult to retain veteran talent?
An in-depth look at the employee life cycle can shed light on the problem. Here are some strategies for hiring and retaining veterans at your organization.
Understand Veterans’ Skills and Work History
Because of the nature of military work histories, many veterans struggle to replicate a civilian resume — and recruiters tend to have trouble reading them. Veterans’ resumes can be very long and often use technical lingo and acronyms.
Mobility is common in the military, which can add further length to a resume. It can be difficult to crystallize years of service into a one- or two-page resume. Additionally, some military experience is sensitive and confidential, which may come across as gaps on a resume.
But luckily there are resources for translating military service into career skills. If you have the right resources you can take a cue from Disney’s careers page, which matches veterans to jobs based on their career area and rank.
For smaller organizations that can’t implement this system, there are educational opportunities for understanding military ranks and experiences in the context of organizational strengths and skills. SHRM and AIRS provide certification courses, while SHRM’s HireVets service offers a military skills translator to help employers understand what they’re looking at.
Recruiters can also be trained to read a military release-of-duty form and to convert military occupational specialty (MOS) codes. MyNextMove.org has a search feature where contractors can enter an MOS code to find similar civilian careers.
Veterans are used to a career track with potential for upward mobility. When interviewing vets, it’s important to let them know what their options for mobility will be. This could be an important factor in their decision-making process and their longevity at your organization.
Provide Resources for Integration
Just because you’ve hired a veteran doesn’t mean your mission is complete. A good onboarding process is critical to successful integration. Civilian jobs are significantly different from military jobs, and transitioning can be difficult.
If you already employ veterans, you can establish a mentoring program. An established employee with a military background can provide invaluable assistance to a new hire by understanding the language, difficulties and mentality of transitioning out of the military. The same program should be extended to the spouses of veterans. They play a critical role in supporting their loved ones, but they need support too. You can help provide that.
Benefits can also be overwhelming for veteran new hires. Most military personnel are used to having only a few options for coverage. It’s helpful to provide veteran employees one-on-one time with a benefits counselor. This helps them understand their options and make the best choices. If your organization provides any additional support resources, be sure veteran employees are aware of what these are and how they can be utilized.
Support Veterans Throughout the Employee Life Cycle
When you have veteran employees, organizational support throughout their tenure is critical. Reasonable accommodation and leave policies alleviate stress and allow freedom for National Guard or Reserve members to take time off for duty. Since many veterans have accrued injuries during their service, flexible work schedules also allow for time off for health and wellness.
Some veterans may qualify for disability accommodations. Resources like the Job Accommodation Network can assist your organization in ADA compliance. And supporting veterans’ mental health at work is critical. According to the 2019 Annual Warrior Survey, mental health issues are a significant barrier to employment, cited by 35% of respondents. The report notes that 44% of female veterans experienced sexual trauma on top of combat trauma.
PTSD training is often beneficial at all levels of an organization. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides PTSD-related resources. Also, supervisors can be trained on creating a veteran-friendly culture, and the Veterans Employment Toolkit includes information on hiring, understanding military experience and supporting veteran employees.
Finally, recognize their service. This can be as simple as addressing veterans by their rank — after all, they worked hard to earn their military title — or having a ceremony on Veterans Day.
By making efforts throughout the entire employee life cycle, you can move beyond outreach to fully integrate veterans at your organization.