Whether it be Iraq, Afghanistan, Japan, South Korea or even in a U.S. territory, service members spend countless days, weeks and months away from homes and their families. While we can never thank them enough for their sacrifice to protect their fellow Americans, hiring them is one way we can begin to show our gratitude. But that is not the only reason companies should recruit military personnel. There are many compelling, practical reasons why employers should hire veterans.
Tapping into the veteran talent pool is a valuable way for organizations to stay ahead of the competitive recruiting environment. Many industries are in the midst of a war for talent, where there are more open positions than viable candidates. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national economy is experiencing extremely low unemployment, with the rate hovering at just 3.7 percent. Further compounding this challenging labor environment is an aging workforce, a pending mass exodus of experienced professionals, a widening skills gap and a continued challenge in attracting and engaging young professionals.
In today’s competitive recruiting environment, employers must embrace the value in hiring former service members. An organization’s recruitment goals ultimately come down to finding candidates with the right skills, experience and personality for open positions. Regardless of their military rank, veterans hold many transferrable skills and characteristics forward-thinking companies cannot afford to ignore. Military is, in essence, a hub of opportunities and training applicable to nearly every career track.
In particular, commissioned military officers demonstrate exceptional leadership skills that should not be overlooked. Starting in their early 20s, military officers are responsible for supervising dozens of soldiers and managing multi-million-dollar budgets. Their years of experience in an analytical, strategy-based environment guarantees these individuals are well-equipped to make informed decisions in extreme conditions while weighing and mitigating risks. Military officers often exhibit valuable servant leadership behaviors in coaching, mentoring and cheerleading their soldiers.
While commissioned military officers are an obvious fit for leadership roles, non-commissioned officers (NCOs) also exhibit proven leadership and management skills. These enlisted soldiers have specialized skills and duties and supervise lower ranks to ensure assignments are conducted properly. For example, during physical training from 6:30 a.m. to close of business at 5:00 p.m., NCOs execute training schedules for their units and evaluate the performance levels of their enlisted members. They also hold major decision-making responsibilities when it comes to planning combat exercises and strategies.
Even enlisted soldiers below NCO levels possess attractive transferable skill sets and qualities. Their tenure in strict, bureaucratic systems implies they are armed with discipline and a proven work ethic. According to the Department of Labor, nearly 80 percent of enlisted service members test in the top half of the mental group ability distribution, compared to less than 50 percent of the civilian population. These qualities are further honed in those that advanced into leadership roles or achieved promotions.
Moreover, all veterans have extensive skills in their military occupational specialties gained through rigorous training programs and practical experience. The skills needed in many civilian jobs are also represented in the military. The U.S. Army alone has 190 military occupational specialties divided into branches and fields for their enlisted members. Veterans specialized in areas ranging from finance, human resources and marketing to data analytics, supply chain and project management.
Some argue these former military members lack substantial industry experience and knowledge. According to Edelman’s 2018 Veterans Well-being Survey, 60 percent of employers believe veterans may need additional training or education before they are qualified for public or private sector jobs. The study also found that 53 percent of employers feel most veterans do not have successful careers after leaving the military. Unfortunately, these underlying misconceptions significantly impact business leaders’ views toward hiring veteran candidates.
However, there are already well-established federal and state programs to help veterans adjust to civilian employment. For example, the Veteran Employment Services Office supports veterans by providing transition assistance programs, relevant assessments and free access to business network platforms. On top of that, former service members are fast learners, proven by their ability to settle into military units and excel in training programs, which are highly difficult for most civilians.
A careful look into their backgrounds and skillsets proves that military veterans hold the traits employers look for when recruiting top talent. They possess the technical and soft skills needed to work at civilian companies; and with limited guidance, they can quickly transform into highly desirable top-performing employees.
Furthermore, companies enjoy substantial public relations benefits from hiring veterans. Recruiting former service members helps businesses build an affinity with their customers and reflects an organization’s commitment to corporate social responsibility. According to Double the Donation, 55 percent of consumers are willing to pay more for products from socially responsible corporations Being a veteran-friendly employer can improve brand awareness and attract additional business opportunities.
Additionally, veteran recruitment can also increase employer brand, translating to a significant advantage in recruiting emerging talent. The 2016 Cone Communications Millennial Employee Engagement Study found that 76 percent of Millennials consider a potential employer’s social and environmental commitment when deciding to apply for a position. Sixty-four percent of Millennials responded that they would not accept a job offer from a company that does not have strong corporate citizenship practices. Hiring veterans is a relatively efficient way to appeal to this young group of talent, while staying ahead in the challenging recruiting environment.
As the fierce competition for top talent continues, companies should understand that hiring veterans is a cannot-miss opportunity. Veterans come with various skillsets and experiences, from which any organization can expect to benefit. Hiring former service members is not only a way of repaying them for their service, but also a chance to increase brand awareness and attract emerging talent. As the holidays are upon us, let us take a moment to thank all current and former service members who are fighting for our freedom in distant lands.
By Evie Moschel
Evie Moschel is engagement director of The Jacobson Group, the leading provider of talent to the insurance industry.