A great many stories have been written extolling the virtues of veterans and why businesses should hire them. Companies have optimistically announced plans to hire as many veterans as they can. Still, statistics indicate that veteran unemployment in many areas is higher than unemployment for the general population.
While corporate hearts are in the right places, hiring veterans in significant numbers has been more difficult than most hiring and staffing executives expected. A combination of factors are at play here, creating a daunting challenge.
Unfortunately, the challenge will get larger as approximately 1.2 million service members are expected to return home from overseas deployment over the next five years. They’ll return home with the hope of transitioning into the private workforce with the help of government and Corporate America.
Getting these veterans-to-be employed will be a herculean task, and will take a great deal of planning. Many companies have made great inroads and have a strong process in place. However, many more firms either haven’t yet instituted a formal plan, or put forth a disjointed effort. Because the labor needs of companies are vastly different, a one-size-fits-all solution does not exist. These following five steps should help.
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Re-Assess and Re-Tool the Corporate Effort
Some veteran hiring programs are initiated with great fanfare; others are started quietly. Either way, specific steps to recruit and hire veterans, and to ensure their on-the-job success should have been put into place. Companies should set time frames to re-assess their efforts, and to fine-tune the methods used to analyze the veteran hiring program’s success and shortcomings. Within the analysis, companies need to examine which efforts are paying dividends and which ones aren’t.
A veteran recruiting program’s success has a foundation in this critical assessment. Ask and answer the tough questions: Were the goals met? Why not? Look at corporate overall goals as well as department goals. Have departmental goals been set? Is the veteran hiring initiative viewed as a human resources effort, and not as a company-wide effort that affects hiring in each department? Is the problem in getting service members to apply, or is it in finding the ones with the right skill sets?
Learn to Speak the Military Language
According to a Monster.com survey, veterans have difficulty finding employment because they lack job-finding skills, including the ability to translate their experience into something of value for employers. Corporations can combat this problem by learning to speak the language of the military and to learn for themselves how a veteran’s experience translates.
In other words, if vets can’t speak the language of corporate job hunting, it’s up to the corporation to speak “military.” Think about the competitive advantage a company will gain by being able to recruit the best and brightest because of this new-found understanding. A growing number of companies are relying on “military occupational software” to translate military jobs into corporate functions. The software can be useful, but shouldn’t be relied on by itself. A military-focused employee resource group can be useful to ensure service members and corporate hiring managers are understanding each other.
Companies should institutionalize this knowledge — gained from recruiting and interviewing veterans, as well as their internal veteran advisory board – and make it available on a firm-wide basis. Some proactive companies have created a database of military terms and skills and what they translate into in the corporate world.
Just as important as having a veteran hiring initiative is demonstrating it as publicly as possible. Companies which demonstrate their commitment to veterans soon find themselves branded as “veteran-friendly” and have a much easier time recruiting top candidates.
Post the program’s progress on the company website, even if the numbers aren’t where the company wants them to be. The only thing worse than failure is the appearance that a company isn’t trying. Don’t bury the information. Own it and be accountable. Some companies, because of the types of jobs they offer, will find more success than others in recruiting and hiring veterans. People will recognize this; and if they don’t, explain it. Show veterans and the community you are making every effort.
Internally, companies can promote their efforts by building a veteran employee advisory board — sometimes called a veteran-based employee resource group — and a veteran mentoring program. Any sizable corporation will already have a relatively large number of veterans among their ranks without even knowing it. The mentoring program allows vets and non-vets alike to be part of the process to ensure the program’s success. It makes the program real on a departmental level and consequently encourages participating in the veteran hiring process.