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This year's list of standouts for military veteran recruiting and retention is made up of organizations that spend a lot of time focused on the military community.
The top 10 companies named to Monster's annual Best Companies for Veterans in 2017 are already known to recently separated veteran job seekers because they continuously engage with military servicemembers, their spouses and their families.
Topping the list for the second year in a row is ManTech International, a national security technology firm based in Fairfax, Va. Veterans make up nearly half of its workforce. "We are especially proud that nearly half of ManTech's employees—46 percent—are veterans, still serving our nation through their work here," said ManTech President and COO Kevin Phillips. "So far this year, 64 percent of our new hires are veterans."
Other highly-ranked organizations for veteran hiring include aerospace companies Lockheed Martin and Boeing; transportation logistics employers Schneider National and Union Pacific Railroad; companies with strong ties to national defense, the government and the military such as BAE Systems, Booz Allen Hamilton and USAA; and law enforcement agencies like U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
"The common denominator here is that nearly all of these companies have shown a 20 percent-plus veteran hiring rate in 2017," said Evan Guzman, former global head of military programs and engagement for Verizon and founder of The MiLBRAND Project, an agency dedicated to helping employers attract and retain veterans and military spouses.Most companies' percentage of veteran hires this year is less than 10 percent.
After a panel of experts nominated 49 companies for their veteran hiring practices, Monster evaluated each organization's percentage of veteran hires in 2017; the percentage of veterans in their workforce; the retention rate for 2016 veteran hires; 2018 recruitment plans for veterans; whether the organization uses a dedicated veteran recruitment team; and what kind of special programs it offers for onboarding, development and retention of veterans.
Guzman said that veterans want to work for these organizations because of shared affinity with the company's mission or with the work itself.
"Veterans are used to serving their country, and want to keep serving after separating from the military, just in a different capacity. A company like ManTech can place them on the front lines of protecting our country by working with advanced technology to help government and industry protect information, and support and maintain critical systems."
But the No. 1 differentiator between the organizations on the list and others is how they engage with and support their local military communities, Guzman explained. "Whether it's through employee resource groups or working with other veteran service organizations, being involved in the lives of military families is one of the best recruiting and retention tools."
Guzman said that the top-ranked companies support military spouses during servicemembers' deployment, invest in hiring programs for spouses, and prepare both servicemembers and spouses for the transition to civilian life. They also get involved in helping veterans deal with health care and mental health issues.
As head of military programs at Verizon, Guzman "heard all the time" from military servicemembers who expressed their appreciation that the company stayed in touch with their family while they were away on deployment. Other servicemembers take notice of those efforts.
The combination of a 16-year low in unemployment, a record-high number of job openings and a maturing workforce presents the perfect opportunity for recently separated veterans seeking work.
According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, employers are increasing their commitment to hire military veterans. Forty percent of nearly 2,500 hiring managers and human resource professionals plan to actively recruit U.S. veterans for their organization over the next 12 months, up from 37 percent last year. Customer service jobs are the top roles employers say they will be recruiting veterans for (35 percent), followed by jobs in information technology (32 percent), production (28 percent) and sales (24 percent). Eighteen percent of respondents said they will be hiring veterans for HR roles.
Forty-eight percent of employers said they pay more attention to applications submitted by veterans and 68 percent said that they would hire a qualified veteran over another equally qualified candidate.
"I think businesses initially looked at hiring veterans as the right thing to do, and gradually came to find that these hires were contributing to the bottom line, not only through their skill sets but also because consumers took notice and reward employers who support veterans," Guzman said. "That's something I believe organizations are tapping into to better themselves from a brand equity perspective."
Companies sometimes struggle with how best to recruit veterans. An October 2017 survey of nearly 1,000 executives by Los Angeles-based HR consulting and executive search firm Korn Ferry showed that 69 percent of their organizations do not provide training to hiring managers on veteran-specific hiring practices, 66 percent do not have clear recruitment messaging directed at veterans, and 63 percent do not have veteran hiring outreach programs in place.
"This Veterans Day, companies of all sizes should take a hard look at their veteran hiring strategy to ensure it is a fit for the company's and veterans' long-term goals," said Dave Gowel, CEO of RallyPoint, an online professional network for military servicemembers and veterans. "Hiring a vet who isn't a fit or feels underemployed is frustrating for everyone involved."
Forty-one percent of veterans feel underemployed or are in a low-paying job, according to CareerBuilder.
Jason B. Montgomery, manager of veteran programs for Randstad Sourceright, a global talent acquisition, consulting and outsourcing firm, said he's seen "the speed of hiring talent often overshadowing the placement of veterans in the right roles." He added that with almost half of veterans leaving their first civilian job within 12 months, it's important that HR prioritizes matching veterans to roles within their company based on their skills, experiences and interests. The problem is that many veterans find themselves unsure of how to translate their military experience to civilian work and employers are usually not much help.
The civilian perception of veterans' skills and abilities is still one of the biggest barriers to veteran hiring, said Zachary Iscol, CEO of New York City-based Hirepurpose, a job board and career center geared toward veterans, military servicemembers and their spouses.
"Veterans continue to face misperceptions about the skills and experiences they've built up through their military service," he said. "If companies truly want to hire veterans, they need to take the time to understand the value that veterans bring in both hard and soft skills, including trainability, leadership, teamwork, dedication, attention to detail and the will to succeed."
Hirepurpose helps the hiring organization target veteran candidates based on the skills and attributes a company is looking for and makes veterans aware of companies of that are interested in hiring them.
Audra Jenkins, chief diversity & inclusion officer for Randstad North America, a recruitment and staffing firm based in Atlanta, said that recruiters can help veterans discover careers they might not have previously considered that match their military skills and experiences. Randstad, for example, offers a military skills translator, which matches military job codes with potential job opportunities, making it easier to search for and find relevant positions.
Oftentimes a veteran who would make a great fit for a role won't apply because the job posting specifically lists requirements that the veteran thinks he or she may not have, Iscol explained.
Since Hirepurpose employs veterans as career coaches, the company can help candidates craft their resumes in terms that hiring managers will understand and bridge that perception divide. "Sales is a perfect example. There is no military job with 'sales' in its title, but veterans can make amazing salesmen."
That's exactly what Justin Ossola and his fellow co-founders of Tech Qualled thought in 2015 when they developed their training and job placement program for high-tech sales. Tech Qualled participants are put through eight weeks of virtual training on business acumen, sales skills and the technology landscape. That's followed up by two weeks of in-person training with experienced executives and industry experts—all free of charge to veterans.
"Our program is not for everyone," Ossola said. "Our vetting process is extremely thorough, with an acceptance rate of about 10 percent, but we boast a partner network of 80-plus companies that are committed to supporting our mission and our graduates have an 80 percent retention rate, outperforming the industry average of 50 percent turnover."
It's also important that employers give veterans time to transition into their new roles.
"From language and terminology differences, to changes in habits, expectations and practices and an unfamiliar corporate world, the adjustment to the workplace can be difficult for many," Jenkins said. "One of the biggest ways HR can remove this cultural barrier is by educating the workforce and teaching managers, leaders and recruiters about military culture and language to encourage common ground."
Once veterans are hired, it's critical to help them build their network, said Brian Kropp, HR practice leader at CEB, an Arlington, Va.-based subsidiary of research and advisory services firm Gartner.
"When veterans enter the workforce, they are often unsure how to ask for help," he said. "They need a group of other employees, ideally other veterans, that they can connect with in order to learn how to navigate the organization. The companies that help their veterans build these networks or tap into existing ones will reap the benefits that veterans bring to the workplace."
Jenkins added that employers can create veteran-specific onboarding or integration programs, including mentorship initiatives or employee resource groups, to connect new talent with other veterans, or get them involved with the actual recruitment process in order to make it more veteran-friendly.
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