From the CEO: Serving Those Who Served Us

By Henry G. Jackson Nov 1, 2013

This month, the nation recognizes Veterans Day to honor and thank all who served in the U.S. Armed Forces for their service to our country. We celebrate their commitment to duty, our nation and the freedoms we cherish as Americans.

Unfortunately, more than 10 million veterans are currently out of the labor force. Men and women who so bravely served our country shouldn’t have to battle for a job when they come home.

While the overall unemployment rate for veterans hovers just over 6 percent, certain segments of our veteran population fare worse. About one in every five veterans ages 18 to 24 is out of a job. And with up to 200,000 military servicemen and servicewomen transitioning to civilian life every year for the next five years, the situation is likely to worsen. I believe HR professionals should lend a hand.

We all know the benefits of hiring these heroes. In a 2010 Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey, HR professionals reported that veterans brought a strong sense of responsibility, the ability to work under pressure and the ability to see a task through to completion. These are skills that every employer is looking for.

Yet, persistent barriers to finding, recruiting and retaining veterans in the civilian workforce remain. For veterans, it can be exceedingly difficult to translate specialized skills into a civilian vocabulary and job. And once on the job, culture shock can be a challenge.

For their part, employers often have difficulty finding veterans. And there are misconceptions about workplace accommodations needed for veterans with visible and invisible wounds of war.

I sit on the U.S. Department of Labor Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Veterans’ Employment, Training and Employer Outreach (ACVETEO), which is providing recommendations to address these issues.

The barriers aren’t insurmountable. HR professionals across the country are proving this every day.

Arkansas SHRM helped introduce and pass a veterans preference bill in its state this year that paves the way for private employers to give preference to veterans in hiring. Philadelphia SHRM focuses much of its programming on connecting military servicemen and servicewomen to employment, including its"Leave No Veteran Behind" webcast series. Students in the Cleveland State University SHRM Chapter gain real-world experience coaching, interviewing and developing resumes for veterans.

These are only a few examples of positive efforts. Working closely with the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), nearly every one of our close to 600 SHRM chapters and state councils have pledged to make employing veterans a priority.

SHRM has resources to help employ our veterans. 

We developed a toolkit, "Support from Behind the Lines: 10 Steps to Becoming a Military-Ready Employer," to assist companies in making their hiring practices military-friendly. Our rich Military Employment Resource Page is available at We offer military employment sessions at many of our conferences. And for a look at a company that handles employment of veterans well, the SHRM Foundation offers a free DVD profiling Fortune 200 company Dollar General.

Helping military servicemen and servicewomen transition to the civilian workforce benefits everyone: Veterans receive the jobs they deserve, employers gain committed workers, and our nation’s productivity and status in the global marketplace is enhanced.

This Veterans Day and beyond, let’s recommit to serving those who have served us.


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