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New SHRM Foundation Research Reveals Unique Recruitment and Retention Challenges for Military Spouses, Calls for Innovative Strategies to Engage Untapped Talent

The SHRM Foundation released a new research report, “Insight to Action: Leveraging the Potential of Military Spouse Talent,” part of the SHRM Foundation’s Untapped Talent Military Community at Work initiative.

CHICAGO – Today, SHRM, the trusted authority on all things work, and the SHRM Foundation released a new research report, “Insight to Action: Leveraging the Potential of Military Spouse Talent,” made possible by a grant from USAA. This research, part of the SHRM Foundation’s Untapped Talent Military Community at Work initiative, addresses the long-standing high unemployment and underemployment rates faced by the husbands, wives, and partners of active-duty U.S. armed forces members.

Military spouses are highly educated, with 34% holding a bachelor’s degree and 15% holding advanced degrees—exceeding national averages. When military spouses find meaningful employment, it enhances the financial stability and well-being of military families, directly supporting national security by aiding the retention of skilled military personnel.

“This research demonstrates the essential role HR can play in addressing the military spouse employment crisis. It is clear there is a gap in understanding that is creating barriers. HR professionals are critical to change that reality, so military spouses can be recognized as the highly skilled and resilient talent pool they are," said Wendi Safstrom, SHRM Foundation President. "By increasing awareness and implementing targeted strategies, business and HR leaders will only enhance their own workforce with diverse and capable talent."

Key findings:

  • While nearly 4 in 5 HR professionals say their organization finds hiring military spouses appealing, only 13% believe their organization is effective at doing so.
    • This indicates a significant gap between intent and action.
  • Most organizations have no concrete program in place for recruiting and hiring military spouses (84%).
    • However, organizations with formal or informal recruitment programs for military spouses are two to three times more likely to say they are effective at hiring this group than those without programs.
  • 80% of HR professionals agree that military spouses are valued in their workplace.
    • However, less than half (48%) agree that their organization understands the unique challenges faced by this group.
  • Among organizations that have employed military spouses, nearly two-thirds (64%) have not implemented any strategy specifically aimed at retaining these employees.
    • Notably, however, organizations that implement at least one retention strategy for military spouses are two times more likely to say they are effective at retaining this group.

According to the report, HR professionals cited certain challenges in retaining military spouses, such as the impact of relocations on job continuity, difficulty providing or approving relocation accommodations, and difficulty accommodating military spouses’ childcare needs.

"The unique challenges of military life can have a profound impact on a military spouse's career," said Marcus Ohlenforst, Talent Strategy and Programs Lead at USAA. "At USAA, we actively work to recruit, hire, and retain military souses by creating programs and policies that help them thrive."

By recognizing military spouses’ unique challenges and strengths, employers can develop tailored strategies to attract and retain this talent pool, driving organizational success and supporting military families. SHRM and USAA are committed to helping employers understand and implement best practices for integrating military spouses into their workforce.

You can find the “Insight to Action: Leveraging the Potential of Military Spouse Talent” report report here.

This new research will be highlighted during a panel discussion [RH3] at the SHRM Annual Conference & Expo (SHRM24) on Wednesday, June 26. The panel will feature the SHRM Foundation Programs Manager, Elizabeth Kohm, as the moderator, alongside DoD Military Family Readiness Policy Associate Director, C. Eddy Mentzer, USAA HR Military Workforce Strategist, Marcus Ohlenforst, and Hiring Our Heroes Director of Operations, Allison Chamberlayne.

During this session, attendees will learn about corporate best practices for employers and contractors to leverage military spouses as a talent strategy. The SHRM Foundation will also share resources from their Military Community at Work initiative to support employer efforts in hiring this talent pool.

Media are invited to attend the session in-person or virtually. For press credentials, please contact:


This survey was fielded to a sample of HR professionals via SHRM’s Voice of Work Research Panel from February 26–March 4, 2024. In total, 1,076 HR professionals participated in the survey. Respondents represented organizations of all sizes in a wide variety of industries across the United States.

About the SHRM Foundation

SHRM Foundation empowers Human Resources as a force for social good. As the nonprofit arm of SHRM, the world's largest HR professional society, the Foundation believes that HR holds a unique position to lead change in the face of complex challenges within the world of work. The organization mobilizes and equips HR to ensure the prosperity and thriving of talent and workplaces. The Foundation works by widening pathways to work for more skills-first candidates and more kinds of talent; tackling societal challenges, with a current focus on workplace mental health and wellness; and strengthening the HR field with even more diversity, growth, and readiness to address these needs. SHRM Foundation works with SHRM, courageous partners, and bold investors to generate awareness, action, and impact to build a world of work that works for all. Discover more at 

About SHRM

SHRM is a member-driven catalyst for creating better workplaces where people and businesses thrive together. As the trusted authority on all things work, SHRM is the foremost expert, researcher, advocate, and thought leader on issues and innovations impacting today’s evolving workplaces. With nearly 340,000 members in 180 countries, SHRM touches the lives of more than 362 million workers and their families globally. Discover more at

About USAA

Founded in 1922 by a group of military officers, USAA is among the leading providers of insurance, banking, and retirement solutions, and serves more than 13.5 million members of the U.S. military, veterans who have honorable served and their families. Headquarted in San Antonio, USAA has offices in eight U.S. cities and three overseas locations and employs more than 37,000 people worldwide. Each year, the company contributes to national and local nonprofits in sipport of military families and communities where employees live and work. For more information about USAA, follow us on Facebook or X (@usaa), or visit


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