How to Begin Hiring Veterans

By Roy Maurer July 7, 2015

Hiring veterans for their desirable characteristics and training them to fill in skills gaps will result in greater employee productivity and reduced employee turnover, according to Joyce Taber, an attorney at Morgan Lewis, based in Washington, D.C.

“Employers often highlight character flaws such as being disloyal, selfish or unaccountable, and not skills gaps, when describing their rationale for terminating workers,” she told attendees July 1 at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) 2015 Annual Conference & Exposition in Las Vegas.

“This is where veterans come in. They have a strong set of characteristics and can be trained on their skills gaps,” she said.

For many companies, it comes down to creating a business case. A 2013 CEB survey revealed that veteran employees perform at a level that is, on average, 4 percent higher than nonveterans, and the turnover rates of veterans are approximately 3 percent lower than nonveterans.

“If I told you that there was a labor pool that shared characteristics like being accountable, agile, disciplined, resilient, safety-conscious, team players and trustworthy, it would be an easier day for HR, right?” The next step is matching those qualities and veterans’ skill sets to your hiring needs, she said.

Getting Started

Important steps to consider when getting a veterans hiring program off the ground include developing a team, identifying goals and designing the scope of the initiative, according to Taber.

Designating an internal team is key. “Establish a human resources position or core internal team from all levels to develop veteran recruiting strategies and goals, and support recruiting activities,” she said. Getting buy-in from the executive suite, HR, legal and hiring managers from the relevant business lines is critical for the initiative to be effective, and the more internal champions who may be veterans and who can make connections with military bases or service members the better, Taber added.

When identifying goals, you must tie your recruitment strategy to your business strategy, Taber said. “Determine hiring needs, skills desired, target salaries and desired candidate profiles based on business needs. Articulate why and to what capacity veterans are critical to the organization and then develop metrics to see how the program is working. Results are important,” she said.

Be sure to communicate the effort to the entire organization and help educate and promote internal awareness of the business value of having veterans in the workforce, she said.

Another component is external awareness. “Amplifying your message to your client base, customers and suppliers about your commitment to veterans is also good for business,” she said.

Designing the scope for the program depends on the level of comfort at the organization for how far you want to take your commitment, Taber said. Examples of different ways to structure a program include:

  • Aiming for a fixed number of veteran hires, such as having 100 or 1,000 veteran employees in 2016.
  • Using percentage-based goals, such as 15 percent of new hires should be veterans.
  • Participating in independent or industrywide programs administered by an association of sector-based employers.

Another aspect to consider is inclusion of other military-connected populations, such as military spouses and family members, who typically are female. This initiative could support diversity hiring goals, Taber said.

Other recommendations from Taber:

  • Evaluate the feasibility of monitoring the initiative under attorney privilege to protect the company from any liability risk.
  • Periodically review applicant flow data and demographic hiring trends.
  • Set realistic hiring goals by assessing hiring needs and location targets.
  • Consider proximity to military bases that offer recruiting opportunities.
  • Determine a timeline, including a rollout date and the anticipated date of reaching your company’s goal.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM. Follow him @SHRMRoy



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