As the nation’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are coming to a close, considerable attention has been given to the recruiting and retention of military veterans. This article provides employers with helpful tips on both.

Recruitment of Veterans

Did you know that annually, almost 250,000 men and women leave active military service? The skills and experience they bring to the table are wide and varied, with corollaries in almost every civilian occupation. Approximately 20% serve the 20 years required to earn a military retirement. The remaining 80% are separating short of retirement. Of the almost quarter-million people who leave the service annually, approximately 85% are men and 15% women. The U.S. military also represents a diverse talent pool, with close to 25% of the enlisted force comprised of minorities, most prevalent being African American, followed by Hispanic American, and Asian American. About 16% percent of the force are officers; the remaining 84% are enlisted.

Did you know that the largest provider of training is the U.S. Government, and within the government, the military? Vast sums of money are spent annually training the men and women in our Armed Forces on the many skills that are needed to keep the world’s only superpower operating at full capacity. There is no larger provider of skills-based training than Uncle Sam.

So why consider military personnel for your open positions? First and foremost, it makes good business sense. Military personnel have a proven record of past performance. They will stay until the job is done, and done correctly. They take and give orders with ease. They are analytical thinkers who have been constantly challenged to do more with less. They are loyal and less likely to jump from job to job. They are team players accustomed to working with a diverse array of people from all walks of life.

So where do you find military folks in career transition? There are numerous ways, including job fairs (both on and off base), military-to-civilian recruiters (“head hunters”), at the transition assistance classes offered at military installations, through military-niche employment websites, through print publications targeting transitioning military, through the Department of Labor’s One-Stop Employment Centers, and through the use of social media tools, such as LinkedIn and Twitter.

How does a company increase the likelihood of bringing in the military candidates it wants? Military veterans, like all job seekers, want to work in an environment that appreciates their skills and contribution to the mission. Through the interview process, they will get a snapshot of your corporate culture and quickly form an opinion as to whether they will fit in with the rest of your group. By projecting a positive, “military friendly” image, your company will serve as a beacon, attracting the top military talent that you seek.

What about referrals? Why not ask your military veteran employees, especially those who are top performers, to help you attract their friends and associates to the company? As we all know, referrals are historically the number one recruiting tool for companies nationwide, and military veterans, through their varied and numerous assignments, have met many individuals and can help you select those they believe would best fit your needs.

Retention of Veterans

While considerable focus over the last few years has been on the recruitment of veterans, less has been given to the retention of veterans once they come onboard. The operative question becomes, “What can companies do to ensure they optimize the performance of their veteran employees, especially those who have served in combat and return with injuries, both visible and invisible?”

As you can imagine, this question is of considerable interest to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, especially their National Center for PTSD. The VA has been a tireless force in helping educate employers and the veterans themselves on what actions and/or accommodations can be taken to improve the likelihood of their success in the civilian workplace.

Over the past two years, Corporate Gray worked in partnership with Syracuse University’s Burton Blatt Institute on a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs-sponsored project titled Veterans in the Workplace. The focus of this research study was to identify “best practices” of companies nationwide who are employing military veterans, Reserve, and National Guard personnel. Special emphasis was placed on actions companies can take to increase retention and assist Veteran employees experiencing PTSD and/or other mental health challenges. Once this study has been approved for publication by the VA, the results will be included in the VA’s Veterans Employment Toolkit, which can be found on the web at http://www.va.gov/vetsinworkplace.

The Toolkit currently has these 5 sections:

  • Veterans are Valuable Assets
  • Understanding the Military Experience
  • Supporting your Veteran Employees
  • Resources
  • Resources for Veterans

The Veterans Employment Toolkit also includes resources for Veterans looking to obtain employment and how they can make important career decisions and excel in the workplace.

If you have any questions or feedback about the Toolkit, please contact Dr. Sara Landes (sara.landes@va.gov) in the Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for PTSD.

To be sure, this study shows that companies that provide accommodations for all employees experiencing mental health issues, including their military veteran employees, will considerably improve their performance and retention, not to mention their employees’ well-being and loyalty to the firm. And that improved performance will lead to a better bottom line for the company!

For more information about the Veterans in the Workplace research study, please visit http://www.corporategrayblog.com/2013/01/18/va-makes-it-easier-to-support-veterans-in-the-workplace/