Not a Member?  Become One Today!

Better Understanding of Military Talent Can Benefit Employers

By Kathy Gurchiek  6/21/2013
Copyright Image Permissions

CHICAGO--HR professionals have the opportunity to make a difference for other people, said Sherrill Curtis, SPHR, and by tapping into the talent pool of U.S. military personnel transitioning to civilian employment, HR can effect a big change that benefits their organizations.

Curtis spoke at a June 17 concurrent session, “10 Steps to Becoming a Military Ready Employer,” at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Annual Conference & Exposition. She has been involved in three SHRM Pinnacle Award-winning workforce readiness programs that support military talent and their children.

A better understanding of military personnel can go a long way to making an organization a military-ready employer, according to Curtis. The needs of those with post-traumatic stress disorder, for example, are the same as those who have PTSD as a result of a car crash or mugging and shouldn’t be a factor against candidates with a military history.

Some employers harbor the mistaken idea, she continued, that veterans are not educated. “We have more people who come back [to civilian life] who are educated, who have dual degrees, who have finished high school,” she noted.

Additionally, they return home with valuable skills—something employers will discover by taking time to talk with them about their service-related responsibilities, Curtis said. Veterans often don’t know how to create a resume, network or explain how their military skills translate to the civilian workplace, she noted.

She recalled an interview with a young man who had just returned home from military service. Asked what job he had performed, he humbly replied that he drove a truck. Further conversation revealed that he had been responsible for 200 people and more than $5 million in equipment and that he oversaw the loading, unloading and inventorying of that equipment in record time.

These skills, Curtis said, get lost in the translation. “[If] someone speaks Spanish, you try to help them speak English,” she noted, encouraging HR to similarly help veterans translate their military skills. She pointed to O-NET Online (, a job board run by the U.S. Department of Labor, as one of many resources available.

She urged HR to engage senior leadership by finding internal champions to support the goal of recruiting, hiring and retaining talent from the military. Additionally, think about who externally can support your goals, including vendors, and how to achieve those goals.

She also advised HR professionals to look at the goals in place at their organizations for hiring, training, developing and succession planning that include military talent. Are they short- or long-term goals? What resources—time, people, equipment and budget—are needed to realize those goals?

Think about your organization’s job needs, Curtis advised, noting that the military has more than 7,000 job functions in more than 100 areas and that 81 percent of those jobs have a direct civilian job equivalent.

The chances are good, she said, that there are veterans who “can deliver top core competencies,” including leadership and decision-making skills, “that employers crave.”


Kathy Gurchiek is an associate editor for HR News
Copyright Image Permissions