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As the nation honors its veterans on Memorial Day, a new survey exposes the challenges veterans face in transitioning from military service to the civilian work world.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were more than 21 million U.S. veterans in 2014. Additionally, every year 240,000 to 360,000 soldiers leave military service.
In 2014, the unemployment rate for veterans was 25 percent higher than the nonveteran rate. Service members often struggle to correlate military experience with civilian job descriptions and sometimes must deal with negative perceptions about their abilities and mental health.
Yet despite all the national attention the topic receives, 80 percent of the 700 employers surveyed by Futurestep, a Korn Ferry company specializing in talent solutions, do not have veteran-specific recruiting initiatives. Further, 71 percent said their organizations do not provide training to hiring managers or recruiters on veteran hiring, and more than half (52 percent) do not provide onboarding or transition support to veteran hires.
“Transitioning military members bring with them invaluable skills, experiences and traits, such as precise communication, individual accountability, impeccable execution and natural leadership,” said Bill Sebra, president, Futurestep North America. “Military recruiting is much more than corporate social responsibility … It’s a smart business decision that harnesses the amazing skills and talents of veterans to create successful outcomes for the company and the individual.”
When asked what military skill set translates most directly to a management role, 47 percent of respondents chose leadership, followed by 20 percent who said team mentality and 13 percent who cited goal focus.
Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Families in 2012 published a list of skills and attributes that many veterans have. The skills included high need for achievement, high level of trust in leadership, comfort with autonomy, adeptness at skills transfer across tasks, advanced technical training, resiliency, team-building skills, organizational commitment, and comfort in dynamic and uncertain situations.
“Central to the business case for hiring veterans is that these individuals make up a skilled workforce that has been found to be 4 percent more productive and 3 percent less likely to turn over than the overall civilian workforce,” said Robin Erickson, Ph.D., vice president of talent acquisition research for Bersin by Deloitte. Veterans have much more to offer companies than fulfilling diversity and inclusion initiatives, she said.
What Employers Can Do
Organizations that are committed to helping veterans find civilian jobs view supporting veteran hiring initiatives as an important part of their employment brand, Erickson said. The companies set veteran hiring targets, launch internal initiatives to educate veterans in business skills, create military-friendly careers websites and participate in military jobs fairs.
Hiring managers need help understanding the traits and experiences veterans bring to the table, said Sebra. “On the surface, military titles and experiences may not translate well to corporate positions, however science has proven that military professionals have certain competencies that cut across many career paths. Encourage hiring managers to dig deeper in the interview process to find leadership traits and experiences, such as leading through stressful situations, which would be a boon for a civilian employer,” he said.
Veteran candidates also need help in learning how to talk about their skills and experiences in such a way that they are valued in the civilian workplace, he added.
Another way employers can help veterans successfully transition to a civilian career includes inviting them to online talent communities where they can ask questions and share information about themselves. In addition, current employees who have successfully made the transition can be showcased, said Sebra.
Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
Follow him @SHRMRoy
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