People with military experience tend to make stellar employees. They’re adaptable, honest, and have a tremendous work ethic. Many are used to problem-solving in high-pressure situations and are natural leaders. Military careers also incorporate a wide variety of skills that cross over into countless civilian industries. In the US, the unemployment rate in April was 3% for veterans compared to non-veterans at 3.6%. Organizations are eager to hire them, and doing so isn’t a problem—but keeping them can be.
Studies have shown that as many as 80% of veterans leave their first post-military jobs before the end of the second year. Yet, when you look at their entire career lifespan, veterans stay with employers longer. The problem transitioning service members face is finding the best job from the start given their skills, and HR can help.
Hiring veterans into the right positions and retaining them as employees requires you to do your homework as an HR professional. Your team must educate themselves on the unique issues faced in the military community. With that knowledge, you can develop a strategy to better support them by focusing on their employee experience in four areas: recruiting, interviewing, onboarding, and ongoing support.
Nearly 70% of organizations don’t train hiring managers on best practices for hiring veterans. Recruiters are also often in the dark, unable to relate, and to a certain extent, not speaking the same language as transitioning service members. Common terminology used in offices, such as “business casual,” doesn’t mean anything in the military, and most recruiters don’t understand what military job titles mean.
Nine out of ten veterans consider using their skills and abilities the most important aspect of civilian employment. When reviewing resumes, it’s vital that your recruiters and hiring managers use resources such as the Civilian-to-Military Occupation Translator, sponsored by the US Department of Labor, to grasp how candidates spent their time in the service. By digging into the details, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the candidate’s responsibilities and talents. Then, you can help them find the ideal job from the start, thus lowering your organization’s attrition rate.
Additionally, phrases used in job descriptions can be problematic and keep qualified candidates from applying in the first place. For example, requiring two years of outside sales experience automatically disqualifies most transitioning service members, even though they may have the necessary skills. You’ll attract a broader range of quality veteran candidates if you focus on competencies instead, such as accountability, leadership, and experience working with diverse groups—as suggested by the US Department of Labor in their Employer Guide to Hiring Veterans.
For many people leaving the military, interviews can be unnerving. It may have been years or decades since they last had a standard HR interview. For others, it’s an entirely new experience. As a recruiter, you’ll need to adjust your approach, especially when asking the candidate about their duties in the military.
Servicemen and women are conditioned not to brag—which a candidate needs to do to a certain extent in an interview. Listening intently and asking follow-up questions are a necessity. SHRM cites a great example where a candidate at a career fair said he drove a truck when asked about his responsibilities in the service. The recruiter dug deeper and discovered that he was accountable for safely transporting 90 direct reports and millions of dollars’ worth of inventory through active war zones. If the recruiter didn’t ask the right follow-up questions, they never would have realized the candidate’s full potential and the impressive skills necessary to accomplish this stunning feat.
Once veterans start with your organization, HR still has work to ensure a good employee experience. Start with the basics, such as explaining the culture, expectations, and team dynamics. Discuss how paid time off, promotions, career development, and compensation work at your company. Encourage questions to help veterans transitioning out of the service better understand their new surroundings and designate an HR representative they can contact anytime with inquiries.
You should consider supplementing the traditional onboarding program to support veterans too. For example, Oracle created the Veteran Guidon Program, which pairs new hires with a fellow veteran whose already made the shift into corporate life. Our program also connects military spouses within the company. Having a connection who’s gone through what a veteran or military spouse is going through makes a real difference and eases the process.
Camaraderie is vital to the military community. Employee resource groups are another terrific way for veterans to build their network and support system within your organization. No one understands what it’s like to be a veteran better than a veteran. Therefore, an employee resource group, such as Oracle’s Military Affiliated Veteran Employee Network (MAVEN), can spark ideas and help shape initiatives for how your company can address the specific needs of these employees.
Furthermore, career development is essential, especially considering nearly one-third of veterans are underemployed, meaning their potential isn’t realized. While your goal is to place veterans in the right jobs at the time of hire—encouraging them to use their full range of skills and abilities—sometimes expectations don’t match reality, or a better fit becomes available later. HR needs access to a continuously updated inventory of employees’ skills and must prioritize internal hiring when new positions become available to keep veterans and other workers engaged. Additionally, training will help veterans upskill and gain control of their careers while helping organizations future-proof their workforce by closing skills gaps.
Veterans are dedicated, loyal, and hardworking people who generally stay with a company longer than non-veterans. However, many struggle to find their place when first leaving the military and need guidance to find the right fit for their unique skills. You can support them from the hiring process to retirement by educating your team on the challenges former service members face and using that knowledge to offer support at each stage of the employee journey.
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Amber is the Senior Content Marketing Manager, HCM Global Campaigns. She's passionate about writing, dogs, lifting others, and personal growth.