NEWS + ADVICE
How to Grow and Retain a Long-Term Veteran Workforce
As a recruiter in the cleared community you understand the appeal of hiring veterans and transitioning military job seekers. These hard-working and efficient professionals make great hires, and they come with the added benefit of being primed to enter the security-cleared market. With roughly 200,000 veterans transitioning out of the military each year, a successful military hiring strategy can provide long-lasting benefits to cleared employers.
Veterans tend to be very loyal to organizations, but that doesn’t mean they won’t leave if their needs aren’t being met. So to make the most of your military hiring efforts, your strategy should encompass not only how to attract and hire these individuals, but also how to ensure continued retention.
We’ve put together a number of useful tactics to support your veteran recruitment and retention goals, along with specific tips from our own veteran staff and others who have made the transition to the civilian sector.
Getting on Veterans’ Radar
To attract veterans and become one of their target employers, you need to begin building relationships now. It takes time to build brand recognition in the military community, but it’s well worth the effort. Use the following methods to find veterans in your community and begin forming those vital relationships:
- Social media platforms make it possible to connect with veterans and even deployed military personnel that are gearing up to transition. Make sure your LinkedIn page communicates that you’re very open to hiring veterans, but make it sincere, not just “will hire veterans.”
- There are over 5,000 LinkedIn groups with the keyword “military.” Become a member of some of these groups and move beyond just blasting your job postings. Really connect with the members by participating—answer questions, provide advice, or ask for referrals. You can also tap into Military Spouse support programs on Twitter and Facebook, as well as attend meetup groups and events to further garner support and visibility in the community.
- You can also find hiring events directly on military bases. Focus on your employer brand and connecting with the community, rather than only concentrating on what you need right then and there.
- There are military transition programs and career counselors that support military personnel as they transition too. With very limited resources and staff, the transition programs do what they can, but they’re always looking for recruiters and companies to participate in their employer panels, hiring events, and counseling. These are great opportunities to source candidates while building your employer brand in the military community.
You can also leverage help from the existing veterans inside your organization. Take the opportunity to meet with these individuals to both educate yourself and employ the unique help they can offer. Military personnel work in large numbers and will most likely have a connection or a social media group to reach out to when you need a candidate. You’ll likely find the veterans at your company want to assist other veterans and are eager to help with your military hiring efforts.
In addition to offering referrals, your internal veterans can also serve as your ambassadors. Ask them to participate in hiring events you go to where veterans are likely to attend. While everyone representing your company should be able to talk about specific openings that will make a great fit for a veteran, “a veteran will not have to ‘sell’ your company to another veteran,” says Shanon Raab, ClearedJobs.Net Account Manager and Veteran. “There is a certain loyalty when one vet tells another that your organization is a great place to work—that’s usually about all that needs to be said. If your organization takes care of veterans, they will take care of you.”
Don’t Wait for Their Military Exit to Engage Transitioning Military
Your attempts to get on military folks’ radar shouldn’t begin after they leave the military. Many veterans coming out of the military don’t even realize just how many government contracting organizations there are. Most know the big names, but not the small or even medium-sized companies. “Getting these individuals to know your name and what you do early on in their military transition will pay dividends,” says Bob Wheeler, ClearedJobs.Net Account Manager and Veteran. Just as we counsel transitioning military that it’s never too early to start networking, from an employer brand-building perspective, it’s never too early to start sourcing and networking either.
So if you’re part of a small or mid-sized company, you need to find a way to market your brand to military personnel well before they transition out. One way to do this is to “coach your employees to be successful brand ambassadors, who not only know how to answer questions when asked, but who proactively mention your company’s name in conversations,” says Wheeler.
Checking Off Veterans’ Corporate Wish List
To recruit veterans and transitioning military job seekers, they not only need to know who you are, but how your organization will be a good fit for them. This is where your recruitment efforts really start to align with your continued retention efforts. If you are transparent in the recruitment process, the things that sell them on your company should also encourage them to stay with you in the long run.
According to US Department of Labor findings1, veterans place importance in having:
- A challenging/engaging opportunity
- Impact on the organization
- Clearly stated expectations of the position
- A known pathway for advancement and professional development
- Adequate compensation and benefits
Any successful recruitment process goes two ways, as both parties need to have their needs met. And as a recruiter who wants to make a long-term hire, you should be interested in meeting the items in the wish list above.
One of your first opportunities to begin communicating these things to military job seekers is in your job postings. Beyond posting your job descriptions where veterans can find them, consider converting them into a description that someone from the military may understand better. So clearly state the expectations of the position and try to address some of the other items of importance like how the role impacts the organization and opportunities for advancement.
Assessing Veterans on Your Side of Table
Once you’ve attracted military applicants, try to meet them half way by educating yourself to better decipher military experience. “When hiring veterans and transitioning military, it’s sometimes necessary to ‘read between the lines’ of their resumes,” explains Tracy Mitchell, ClearedJobs.Net Account Manager and Veteran. “Military job seekers often downplay the multifaceted roles they are involved in. Terms such as ‘led, lead, and supervise’ don’t just reflect a leadership role, but often include planning, development, training, and budgeting too.”
Take your most frequently recruited jobs and put them through a military skills resume translator so you can better understand what you need and how to find it on a military resume. Your internal veterans can also help you better understand military resumes and what kind of military occupational specialty (MOS) codes you should be looking for to fill key positions within your organization.
“Be open-minded when reviewing a veterans’ resume,” urges Sara McMurrough, ClearedJobs.Net Account Manager and Veteran. “Their skills ‘on paper’ may not match the position description—however, so many of those skills are teachable. Which job requirements aren’t as ‘teachable?’ Leadership abilities, teamwork skills, initiative, ambition, and the ability to work well under pressure. Those are some of the many key attributes of our veterans.”
Ensuring a Long-Term Fit for Both Parties
At this point in the process you’ve gotten on veterans’ radar in the community, attracted them to your position through a job posting that hits their priorities, and begun determining if they’re qualified for your position. Once you begin communicating in the interview process, transparency will be key for both of you to make an informed decision. If you sell them on a military-friendly culture that will offer support, ensure you have those resources lined up and ready to go throughout the onboarding process and beyond.
When asked what previous employers could have done better during the recruitment process, Maria Thompson, State Chief Risk Officer for the State of North Carolina and a Retired Marine, said companies could have explained the benefits package better. This is one example of adjusting the hiring process to suit veterans. They may actually save money by not taking your medical package, as they have this covered though the VA. The more you understand about veteran candidates, the better you can address their needs – and in this particular instance, this understanding can actually benefit your bottom line.
A 2014 study from VetAdvisor and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University found that nearly half of all veterans leave their first post-military position within a year, and between 60% and 80% of veterans leave their first civilian jobs before their second work anniversary.
In order to combat this statistic, it’s imperative that you do everything you can to ensure a good fit in the hiring process by being up front about your culture. As a recruiter, you understand all too well that low retention equals a high employee cost for your organization, so it’s important to be transparent with your veteran candidates and offer them continued support in the hiring process and after an offer has been made.
The US Department of Labor1 also states that veterans place importance in having:
- A mentor (preferably a veteran) on arrival, as well as an onboarding program specific to veterans to help them adjust
- Clear and open verbal and written communication
“Good employers will continue to check in on you after you accept your offer and walk you through an onboarding process,” says Pablo Breuer, Chief Information Security Officer at Helm Services and a Retired U.S. Navy veteran. “Most of us got used to being assigned a mentor/sponsor when we got orders to a new command, but not everyone follows that rule in the civilian sector and it makes a big difference.”
At the end of the day, fit is what’s most important, especially if you want to promote staying power. Tenable is one of the companies in the industry that offers diversity inclusion programs, which includes a veterans’ employee resource group. “They’re hugely helpful in making military members’ transition a bit easier and more successful,” says Robert Huber, CSO at Tenable and Air National Guard, Cyber Warfare Operations Officer. “Right out of the gate that’s huge. You have people to talk to and you feel like you’re part of something.”
Groups like these offer veterans at your organization a place to collaborate and find support as they adjust to working in a civilian setting. As we discussed earlier, the goal is not just hiring veterans, but retaining them. Providing support to your veteran employees serves as a recruitment and retention tool. And a company that is able to meet veteran needs is one that will continue to benefit from securing hires from the valuable veteran talent pool.
The presence of veterans in the contracting world is a given, even if you don’t commit to a full-fledged military hiring program. But if you want to really get on their radar and continually attract and retain veteran talent, it takes work. You must be committed to the process and willing to invest the time. Make sure your Careers page on your website encourages service members to apply and be transparent about your hiring process as much as possible. Veterans are a very tight knit group. If you let it be known that you’re interested in hiring veterans, they will help you get the word out. Strive to be seen as a company that veterans want to work for and you’ll reap the rewards of recruiting the best.