Despite the impressive images earlier this week of Special Op forces landing on a mountain top in Iraq to scout out a possible rescue option for refugees stranded there (and, in turn, help prevent an even more nightmarish situation from occurring), the reality is the U.S. military has been in the process of drawing down personnel from the Middle East, with the last U.S. troops currently due to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2016. A natural outgrowth of this drawdown, of course, is the need for these individuals to find jobs in the private sector. You’d think that might not be an insurmountable challenge, considering many of these vets bring with them amazing skill sets that make them ideal candidates for a long list of positions, including many at the leadership level.
Yet while there certainly have been plenty of stories about the commitment forward-thinking organizations are making to the recruiting and hiring of vets — including some published in HRE and on its website — there still remains a significant number of stumbling blocks that stand in the way of making this happen. True, many companies are taking significant steps in that direction. Earlier this month, 100,000 Jobs Mission, an organization with the goal of bringing together companies committed to the hiring of U.S. military veterans and military spouses, reported that member firms have hired, since its founding in 2011, a total of 161,752 U.S. military veterans through the second quarter of 2014. (The 165 companies now involved in the group pledged to hire 200,000 veterans by 2020.) But there’s little question plenty of barriers remain for these returning vets, including many put in place by employers themselves.
So what factors are standing in the way of returning vets landing jobs? In an effort to answer that question, Christopher Stone, a University of Texas at San Antonio Ph.D. student, is in the process of leading a research study — announced yesterday in a press release issued by the UTSA — aimed at uncovering what might be at work here. Stone, who is about two years into his research and has, thus far, developed a model for understanding factors affecting the hiring decisions of vets, recently co-authored an article titled “Factors Affecting Hiring Decisions About Veterans” (requires purchase) that appeared in the July edition of Human Resource Management Review and proposes several hypotheses and potential solutions. (No surprise Stone — who also discussed the research earlier this month at the 2014 Academy of Management annual meeting in Philadelphia — selected this as a research project, considering he served in the Air Force for eight years, first in an aircraft-maintenance unit overseas and then as a military training instructor.)
As might be expected, two of the primary barriers identified by Stone and his colleagues include stereotyping and a lack of understanding as to how military skills transfer over to civilian roles. According to the UTSA press release, the researchers used a model based on the treatment of people with disabilities to suggest specific steps employers might want to consider as they reassess their veteran hiring strategies (or lack of them), including:
- Using education programs to dispel stereotypes, publicize veterans’ job successes and change the organizational culture to emphasize the value of hiring veterans;
- Employing decision makers who value hiring veterans, recognizing and rewarding those who hire veterans, expanding recruiting to find talented veterans and giving bonuses to employees who refer veterans to the company; and
- Familiarizing decision makers with military jobs and the associated knowledge, skills and abilities that are similar to civilian positions.
I’m sure many of your organizations are already doing some, if not all, of the above. But, that said, considering the significant talent challenges companies are facing today and extraordinary skills many of these vets are bringing to the table, I would think the timing couldn’t be better for employers to take inventory of what they’re doing and ask themselves, “Are we doing enough to ensure we’re not standing in the way of our progress?”