As service members return home, say ‘yes’ to hiring a veteran

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February 25, 2015
By Maureen Casey
From Yahoo! Finance

By all accounts, U.S. Army veteran Mark Luneburg‘s transition from the military has been successful. Hired by a Fortune 500 company into a three-year rotational program for junior military officers in 2013, Luneburg began his civilian career after serving over seven years as a field artillery officer, including a 2009 deployment to Afghanistan. On leaving the service, he had to overcome a challenge facing many veterans: translating his military skills for a private sector career. Doing this led to several promising job prospects. A year and a half later, Luneburg considers himself fortunate to have found a job where his skills are being put to good use. Others have not fared as well.

While unemployment for veterans has improved during the past four years, there is still a need for private sector companies to hire veterans. vet-unemploymentHundreds of thousands of servicemen and women will transition out of the military over the coming years and return to civilian communities across the country looking for meaningful careers.

As the president stated during January’s State of the Union address, “…As a new generation of veterans comes home, we owe them every opportunity to live the American Dream they helped defend.”

Without question, we as business and community leaders have an obligation to give back to the people who have made great sacrifices so that we may pursue our interests. But it’s more than an obligation. It’s an opportunity as well. These new job seekers are a talented pool for employers who want to hire dependable, tenacious people who have experience working in and leading teams, thrive in stressful, fast-paced atmospheres and are comfortable in culturally diverse environments.

Many companies have already seen the value veterans bring to their workplace, as evidenced by the overwhelming success of the100,000 Jobs Mission, a coalition of more than 180 companies that have hired north of 200,000 U.S. veterans over the last four years. These employers seek out military-experienced talent because they understand this fact: Veterans offer rare and valuable skills that are coveted by employers. Here are three things employers should keep in mind about hiring veterans:

Veterans are educated and familiar with modern technology.Today’s military is technologically advanced – all major military operating systems are computerized, including command and control, logistics, intelligence, and weapons — over 90% of military personnel use computers, either at work or at home. Many use the most cutting edge technologies and equipment and have received hundreds of hours of professional or technical training and experience. About 98% of active duty military personnel have at least a high-school diploma, and about 20% have a college degree.

Veterans are accustomed to responsibility and meeting high expectations. The military stresses accountability, and service members are often trusted with leadership roles earlier in their careers and well before their non-military peers. As a rule, veterans perform well in their civilian roles. In a study conducted last year by RAND, companies participating in the 100,000 Jobs Mission indicated that veterans’ performance was on par or better than their civilian peers. Further, the Corporate Executive Board Company published a report in 2013 that stated veterans perform 4% higher than their non-military experienced peers.

Veterans possess unique skills that can be hard to find. Many veterans have worked and lived abroad, are comfortable in unfamiliar environments and speak multiple languages. Others possess valuable security clearances that are transferable to civilian work. All have worked in teams.

Despite the advantages of hiring veterans, many employers do not hire them because of perceived skill gaps between military experience and private sector job requirements. Often these gaps can be attributed to the differences between military and corporate cultures. Companies seeking to hire veterans can overcome this by making an effort to better understand how a veteran candidate’s experience correlates to the demands of their organizations. This does not have to be a complicated process; it can be as simple as the employer asking veteran job seekers what they did and how they did it—not just their job titles. Many organizations have successfully employed recruiters who can recognize and translate the skills, responsibilities and management experience associated with different types of military positions. Others have used web-based tools and resources to solve the problem. Even when faced with limited resources, employers should not be intimidated or deterred by this challenge. With minimal effort, they can learn enough about military culture and experience to understand the value veterans can bring to their company.

As business leaders, we are all looking for top talent, so why not start with a talented, reliable and determined workforce? We have a responsibility to our companies as well as our communities to work with veterans to successfully transfer their valuable skills and help them through their larger transition to civilian life. Doing so not only benefits the men and women who have served our country, but also the companies that hire them.

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