I’m putting it out there that today’s 72nd anniversary of D-day and Memorial Day a week behind us should serve as reminders of the need for employers to keep veterans in mind when hiring time comes along — including all the reminders we’ve posted and published on this subject over the years.
As much attention as the subject has gotten, the numbers are still not where they should be — though a phone call to Kyle Kensing, online editor for CareerCast Veterans in Carlsbad, Calif., a group devoted to helping veterans into new careers, revealed a little good news. They’ve gotten better.
According to him, the unemployment rate among all veterans has been comparable, and even slightly better than, that of the general population for the last two years (5.3 for vets versus 6 for the general population in 2014). However, for the veteran class identified as “Gulf War era-II” (e.g., Iraq and Afghanistan), the 2014 unemployment rate was 7.2 and fell to 5.8 in 2015, showing “the positive impact of hiring initiatives,” he told me.
Also, since the launch of the 100,000 Jobs initiative in 2011 (which we’ve written about on this site), Military Times reports 1.2 million veteran hires since its launch. “So yea,” says Kensing, “that goal was met.”
Still, despite these improvements, “and the fact that more companies are making more of an effort to reach veterans,” he says, “there’s still work to be done. The numbers aren’t really where we want them and there are specific things employers could be doing that many still are not.”
For one, he says, businesses could be reaching out more to new hires from the military to defuse the isolation they feel when they enter corporate America.
“A lot of vets say one of the biggest challenges,” Kensing tells me, “is that, when you’re in the military, you’re in a cohesive family environment, but in business, especially when you start out, you can feel isolated and alone.” So employers could be doing more through managers and HR departments to set up mentoring, coaching and buddy programs for these hires.
Secondly, companies could be making even more of an effort to place veterans in human resource roles. The research is out there underscoring the importance of this. This story appearing on the Society for Human Resource Management site pinpoints the HR manager as one of top eight jobs for military veterans, according to a CareerCast Veterans Network report (here is the specific piece of the report citing HR manager as a top job).
So why is that, I asked Kensing? First, he says, the skills developed in the military translate well into HR: responsibility for others, opening up lines of communication, being able to understand what skills people have and what skills people need, and where they need help and where they can shine.
But beyond that, having someone in HR with military experience, someone who can relate to and understand these job candidates, can make all the difference for their success. There again, Kensing says, “more and more employers, from large corporations to smaller and mid-sized ones, are starting to understand this,” but those numbers could be much better as well.
For the sake of stoking this fire as much as possible, here’s a Fox News piece by veteran Rich Eich, a captain in the U.S. Naval Reserve, on “The Real Reason[s] to Hire a Veteran,” like how they hit the ground running, are used to dealing with multiple challenges, move quickly and are used to learning something new every day.
And here’s our HR Leadership Columnist Susan Meisinger’s piece last year, also detailing the merits of veterans in the workplace and the ongoing efforts to get them there.
And here also is Mark McGraw’s piece three years ago on helping veterans in the workplace as they struggle with post-traumatic-stress syndrome, a problem that persists today.
I guess it all comes down to doing your service for their service. Are you doing enough?