An Improved Approach to Veteran Hiring

Nowadays there’s a lot of talk about hiring military veterans; yet much of it is simply words without truly effective efforts to recruit from this talent pool. Shouldn’t hiring veterans be based on sound business principles?

Authentic veteran hiring initiatives are grounded in best practices that yield measurable results and strict adherence to principles of corporate self-interest. It’s not charity; it is sound business practice when done in a clear, strategic manner.

###Empowering veterans, leveraging assets
Organizations that hire military veterans quickly realize the provable truth that, as a whole, veterans make great employees. No comparable institution in the United States exists today that socializes individuals to value teamwork, mission accomplishment, and leadership as effectively as the military.

For business leaders, veteran hiring can be confusing because of the cacophony of “support the troops” voices. In practice, there are four ways to leverage the benefits of hiring veterans:

Define: It should be obvious, but veteran hiring initiatives should begin with clear goals. The company must decide what skills, attitudes, and experiences are most important. By developing a detailed plan of targeted service branch experiences, military occupational specialties, rank, and other characteristics, employers will have a clearer path to a successful strategy.

Attract: To attract high-quality veteran talent, an organization needs to develop its brand as an employer and decide which engagement tactics fit the needs and culture. A veteran engagement program may include physical job fair events, a social media campaign, print media, and online outreach. The most critical aspect of these branding and outreach efforts is that the employer remain authentic and accessible. Former military personnel are adept at detecting inauthentic or cynical hiring efforts, and a clumsy effort can actually repel veteran interest.

Appreciate and understand: Veterans will shine on the job when they feel appreciated and understood. This means that employers need to develop some degree of military literacy. Hiring managers should know the difference between a marine and a submarine -- or an officer and an enlisted man or woman. Employers also should be wary of utilizing scoring software -- sometimes used by human resources groups -- that tend to “pigeonhole” a veteran’s potential. If you want to understand a veteran’s skills and experience, just ask.

Retain: Retention is the easiest of the four steps. In practice, veterans want what all workers want: To be treated fairly and respected for the work they do. Treat veterans well and they will reward your organization with the loyalty to the mission and culture for which they are rightly recognized.

Eliminating the guilt or obligation from the equation is key to the success of this approach. Veterans seek employers who will value their tangible skills and cherish their intangible qualities. If you seek high-quality talent for your organization, review your job descriptions and purge random “qualifications” that serve to exclude the highly qualified. For example, would you rather hire a customer service manager with three years of relevant industry experience or a former U.S. Army Ranger infantry sergeant who has negotiated with Afghan village elders? We would suggest that the sergeant, with a highly unique experience, will become a star if you just give him or her the chance.

Veterans truly represent a nation’s finest talent. If you give veterans a chance, you will be thrilled with the results.