Despite best intentions, many organizations are failing to recruit and retain the nearly three million military personnel who have made the transition from military to civilian life and employment since 2001. Traditional resume and job matching strategies simply don’t work for veteran recruitment. Employers — particularly federal contractors who now must meet an annual OFCCP benchmark of 7 percent for protected veterans – want to increase their hiring of veterans. The problem is that they don’t know how.
To address this issue and offer pragmatic solutions, Chicago-based Society of Talent Acquisition and Recruitment (STAR Chicago) recently hosted a discussion and invited me to moderate. The panel included Erica Jeffries, director of the Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs; Gordon Paisley, talent committee chair, United Airlines; Christine Hendrickson, senior counsel, Seyfarth Shaw LLP, and Len Harris, director of veterans programs at National Able Network.
The audience of over 50 HR and senior recruitment professionals also contributed their best practices for military recruitment. Many great ideas were shared; the following made our list of “top 10” success factors:
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- Be authentic. Organizations considering a formal military hiring program should do it for the right reasons; not to fill quotas or for PR value.
- Commitment needs to start at the top. As with any major initiative, senior level leadership buy-in is absolutely critical since this type of initiative requires investments in time and resources.
- Educate and actively involve hiring managers. They need to understand why it makes good business sense to hire veterans based on the experience they bring to the table.
- Make hiring managers accountable. Veteran hiring should be part of their performance goals.
- Articulate and communicate your rationale for the program. Build a business case for investment beyond compliance or “checking a box.”
- Dedicate resources. Establish a veteran Employee Resource Group to facilitate recruiting, onboarding, development, and retention of veterans.
- Relax the requirements. Rewrite “must have” job requirements in position postings to eliminate industry specific requirements that may unnecessarily discourage veterans from applying. Instead, focus on veterans’ transferable skills, competencies, and abilities.
- Align job openings with veterans’ interests. Rewrite job descriptions to appeal (without over-selling) to a veteran’s perspective and interests.
- Approach veteran recruiting like you would marketing: with a focus. Know your target audience, determine your target roles, and build an outreach strategy that specifically targets veterans possessing the transferable skills and abilities you desire. This will generate better hiring results and alignment with OFCCP regulations than national, broad sponsorships, job fairs, and/or online postings.
- Conduct high touch onboarding. This is critical for retention and needs to start pre-hire and ideally involve current employees who are also veterans.
If your organization is eager to hire veterans, incorporating these success factors into an overarching, systemic approach will increase your changes to better attract, hire, and retain veterans. It’s a great way to honor the commitment these service men and women have made and, at the same time, add great experienced talent to your workforce.