When it comes to transitioning to the civilian workforce, our nation’s heroes need your help.
An estimated one million service members are expected to enter the civilian workforce in the coming years. The US Military spends billions of dollars training and developing competent and highly motivated leaders that would be excellent employees. However, the transition to civilian life and employment is often anything but smooth. But with your help, veteran employees can be a true asset to any organization. We’ll explore the benefits of hiring veterans and tips on how to bring them on staff smoothly.
The Advantages & Challenges to Hiring Vets
There are huge advantages to hiring former military personnel. Most veterans have already been trained and developed, and often have on the job training. Veteran candidates come with a wealth of experience demonstrated by a pattern of positive employment outcomes – including leadership skills, teamwork and performance under pressure. Plus, hiring former military personnel helps your organization satisfy Affirmative Action Planning Goals. OFCCP guidelines suggest we maintain 6.4% of our workforce as vets.
With so many benefits to hiring veterans, why are so many organizations missing these opportunities?
The biggest challenge to recruiting and hiring veterans is translating military skills to civilian skills. Job training, work background, and resumes often look different to civilian recruiters. Some employees and hiring managers think veterans are “too regimented” – a perception that is not true. In fact, a learning agility study says veterans score higher than 50% of other participants. Veterans also struggle with interviewing well, and retention can be a challenge without successful onboarding and engagement.
To unlock the secrets of hiring and retaining veterans in your organization, focus on improving five key areas of your hiring process.
Recruiting Networks Open the Door
Talent leaders know that employee referrals make the best hires. They cost less to source, onboard faster and statistically stay longer. It’s also true that life in the military creates extraordinary bonds. Veterans prefer to work with other veterans because of this shared sense of history and experience – even if from different branches of the military. Rapport forms instantly. Veteran candidates also see successful former military employees as a sign that a company has a culture and structure that will allow them to succeed.
So why aren’t more companies harnessing the power of military community referrals when hiring?
“An employee referral program is a structured, organized way for your current military-connected employees to recommend favorable candidates to open positions within your company.” says Evan Guzman, Chief Veteran Advocate at Aliro.
Aliro can help. Aliro was built exclusively to support veteran hiring initiatives by providing an innovative approach to engage and attract members of the military community through the power of referrals. This unique platform connects the military community with opportunities with Military Friendly® Companies in the private sector, to help military spouses, transitioning service members, and veterans to leverage their network not only to find a job, but to find the *right* job.
[WEBINAR] Aliro is hosting a panel discussion and interactive dialogue with transitioned veterans turned industry leaders, advocates for the military-connected community, and HR experts on November 19. You can register here:
Translate Military Skills into Civilian Successes
One of the challenges to effectively translating veterans’ skills is the “civil-military divide” which is the widening gap between the civilian nation and those who serve or have served in the military.
Currently, there are approximately 18.8 million veterans living in the US today, yet less than half of 1% of the US population is active-duty. The percentage of the population with military service declined from 17% in 1990 to just 8% in 2015 – leading to a very large “civil-military divide” and making it harder for organizations to recognize the skills veterans bring to the table. Talent leaders need to spend time working to translate military accomplishments into civilian successes.
O*NET is the nation’s primary source of occupational information. The O*NET database contains information on hundreds of standardized and occupation-specific descriptors. The database is continually updated by surveying a broad range of workers from each occupation. Have an acronym resource handy to better understand what you are reading or hearing. Titles are different, so look for individual responsibilities that match to the job description. Also, review resumes for patterns of increasing responsibility.
These difficulties affect not only veterans, but their families as well. When interviewing a military spouse, remember that frequent moves can often appear like job hopping. In fact, military spouse unemployment is 25% higher than that of the general population, due in part to misconceptions like these. Remember this experience shows these candidates are extremely flexible and bring varied experience to the table.
Always Reference Check
Most organizations reference check after the candidate interview. Unfortunately, this puts your organization at a disadvantage, especially when interviewing veteran candidates. Former military personnel often struggle with interviews. Many have difficulty relaxing and adapting from a “team accomplishment” mentality to a “my accomplishment” mentality.
Competency-based online reference checking allows you to obtain information on your veteran candidates past performance and soft skills from those who know them best – their references. While former military personnel may struggle to tout their own accomplishments, they have no problem highlighting the accomplishments of their colleagues. SkillSurvey Reference® is an easy and efficient way to get consistent reference feedback. Tracking down military references can be tough, especially if references are retired overseas or still active duty – SkillSurvey Reference automates the most inconvenient parts of the process for you. References can now conveniently answer reference surveys on their own time, no matter the time-zone. And SkillSurvey is integrated with the Aliro platform.
SkillSurvey Reference also uses predictive analytics and data-driven reporting to help you assess the soft skills needed for success and reduce first year turnover. Individual competency clusters allow talent professionals to quickly analyze a candidate’s soft skills and can highlight some of the unique strengths of veteran candidates, like whether they “exhibit self-control in situations involving stress.”
Adapt Your Interview
While many veterans may have more difficulty “selling themselves” than other candidates when interviewing, it’s not the only challenge veterans face. Former military personnel can also appear more rigid or formal which can be off-putting to an interviewer. Also, for many veterans, this is the first real job interview they have ever had!
Be empathetic to the veteran’s experience by adapting your interview. It’s always a good idea to begin by thanking them for their service. Recognize their formal training, and encourage them to relax. But don’t be put off by a formal or reserved presentation. Dig deeper in your interview questions. Behavioral interviewing is a great technique to use. Ask detailed follow-up questions and return to answers that feel vague or only highlight the actions of their teammates.
Rethink Onboarding to Improve Retention
The turnover rate for transitioning veterans is very high. 70% of veterans leave their first post-military position within the first year. Candidates who have recently left the military come from a strong culture of onboarding so it’s important to meet their expectations if you want them to stay. Assign mentors at your organization to walk them through the process of adapting to your company – another veteran employee would be a great choice. This mimics the sponsors veterans would receive when they relocated to a new base.
Recognize veterans and celebrate their service – whether on holidays like Veterans Day and Memorial Day, or just by featuring profiles on corporate social media accounts. Employees will feel appreciated and often share these posts with their networks, which in turn will attract more veteran candidates to your organization.
Establish expectations and job responsibilities early, and set-up regular communications – within HR, with managers, and with their mentor employee during those critical first 3 months. Employing surveys during onboarding, like those found in SkillSurvey Post-Hire™, allow you to capture feedback in real time, and help you to adapt your process to create a better experience for both veterans and all your new hires.
Great veteran candidates make great employees – if you know where to find them and how to hire them.
To learn more listen to this on-demand webinar A Guide to Hiring Heroes.
Thank you to all who serve and protect our country.