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6 Ways to Become a Veteran-Friendly Employer

Soldier and businessman shaking hands

Quick look: Nearly 200,000 veterans search for a civilian career each year. These candidates possess a variety of skills and experiences that provide much value to SMBs. But how can employers recruit these workers, and once they’re hired, what can companies do to retain them and help them grow?

Occurring each year on November 11, Veterans Day is a federal holiday honoring military veterans who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces (the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, and Coast Guard).

There is a reason this holiday falls on November 11. During the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, major hostilities of World War I ended due to the Armistice with Germany going into effect. What used to be known as Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day in 1954.

The latest data reveals that approximately 19 million U.S. veterans reside in the country, comprising nearly 10% of the national population. And while Veterans Day is important, there are ways companies can make their organization a veteran-friendly workplace all year long—and even more reasons why they should.

Veterans in the workplace

While many veterans are seeking a civilian job at any given point, Pew Research reports that only one in four veterans have a role lined up after their military service ends, and approximately 200,000 veterans job hunt each year.

As of September 2022, the veteran unemployment rate was 2.7%, down from 3.7% in 2021. This is compared to a non-veteran unemployment rate of 3.4% during the same month. While progress is being made in terms of veterans stepping into civilian roles, there is still much to be done.

Why hire veterans?

Due to their experience in the Armed Forces, veterans tend to hold a unique set of highly valuable skills and traits that can prove beneficial to employers, including:

  • Strong leadership skills
  • A mission-focused approach to work
  • Experience in diverse teams and organizations
  • Strong work ethic and loyalty
  • Ability to perform under pressure
  • High level of integrity
  • Technical skills
  • And more

Challenges facing veterans in the workplace

Despite the talent they bring to the workforce, veterans, unfortunately, face challenges as well. These setbacks include:

  • Skills or experience gaps: While veterans hold many skills that translate to civilian careers, employers sometimes look for a specific skill set. This unfortunately may leave some veterans unqualified for work in certain fields, especially those with limited civilian work experience who joined the military shortly after high school.
  • Missed networking opportunities: Many employees find their jobs by networking with other professionals. Since veterans may have yet to be a part of the civilian workforce, many may lack these career connections and miss out on potential opportunities.
  • Unclear civilian career path: Veterans’ skill sets are vast, but they may need to evaluate them and determine how they can best fit into the civilian workforce. If veterans have a career in mind but lack some of the role-specific skills required, they may need to seek further education or certifications.

Becoming a veteran-friendly employer

Veterans have a lot of potential as civilian employees, but to best attract and retain these talented workers, there are several things employers should keep in mind.

1. Refined recruiting strategy

One of the most critical parts of employing veterans is initially finding and attracting them to your organization.

As your company recruits, tracking which career fairs and job boards are most successful for hiring veterans is key. Organizations may also refer to the Society of Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) list of places to source veteran candidates.

Equally as important is remaining unbiased and understanding veterans’ values during recruiting efforts. Businesses can achieve this by:

  • Understanding how military career skills carry over to civilian ones
  • Educating their hiring managers on the value that veterans can bring to the workplace
  • Informing those who will be hiring and interacting with veterans on cultural issues facing the military community
  • Thanking veteran applicants for their service at the beginning of the interview
  • Including a statement about your company being a veteran-friendly employer within your job postings
  • Emphasizing your company’s values, as many veterans seek value-based work

When it comes to recruiting, word of mouth is priceless. To encourage the organic growth of your candidate pool, business leaders can ask current veteran employees to let their military connections know about their positive experiences working at your company if they’re comfortable.

2. Invest in veterans’ skills

Role-specific skills gaps are a common occurrence amongst veteran employees. Organizations can fill these voids by implementing a reskilling or upskilling program, which helps workers build upon existing skills or develop new skills of interest.

Employers may also create a mentorship program to connect veteran employees with other professionals within the company, allowing them to tap into their experience and explore potential career paths.

3. Focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion

Ideally, a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiative should strive for equitable inclusion of veterans, women, people of color, LGBTQ+ employees, workers with disabilities, and other demographic groups.

It’s important for employers to integrate DEI strategies into their recruiting process, training programs, leadership assessments, and more. A tool like ExtensisHR’s DEI Dashboard can also allow organizations to leverage real-time DEI data on pay equity, salary trends, employee turnover, promotions, and more.

4. Offer flexibility

By adopting a flexible company culture, employers can show they understand their military employees’ needs.

For example, if your employees are military reservists, they may need to attend trainings or could be deployed in the future. It’s critical that your business accommodates this. In fact, it’s federal law that companies must hold military employees’ jobs for the duration of their deployment. If their job becomes obsolete, organizations must find them another relevant position within the business.

This flexibility should also extend to your workers with a military family member. According to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), eligible employees are entitled to job-protected time off to care for an injured servicemember, arrange childcare, attend arrival ceremonies when a loved one returns home, and more.

5. Provide relevant benefits

Personalized benefits are vital to attracting and retaining employees, including veterans. Employers should assess their benefits packages and ensure they’re offering benefits to meet veterans’ specific needs.

Unfortunately, 11-20% of veterans experience PTSD yearly (compared to less than 4% of the general population). As such, employers should consider providing access to an employee assistance program (EAP) which offers free, confidential access to professionals who can help employees with their mental health, emotional well-being, addictions, legal and financial situations, and more. Additionally, organizations should offer affordable, comprehensive medical, dental, and vision insurance that includes coverage for mental health and telehealth services, if possible.

6. Honor your veteran employees’ service

Veterans put their lives on the line by serving the country to protect our freedoms, and there are several ways to honor this within your business.

  • Celebrate Veterans Day in the workplace by offering a free lunch with patriotic-themed food and encouraging veterans to wear their uniforms and tell their stories, if they’re comfortable
  • Commemorate the “birthday” of the military branch(es) in which your employees belong
  • Highlight your veteran employees and their achievements in your corporate newsletter, social media posts, or on your blog or intranet

The right partner to help you prioritize patriots

Many small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) want their organizations to be inviting to veterans but may need help figuring out how to do so. Professional employer organizations (PEOs) can help you do that, whether you’re wondering how to celebrate Veterans Day in the workplace or the best way to identify which military occupations align with your job openings.

A PEO like ExtensisHR can help SMBs become veteran-friendly employers by providing:

  • Access to Fortune 500-level benefits, including an EAP and comprehensive medical, dental, and vision insurance plans
  • Full-cycle recruiting services that include job advertisement creation, consultations with a recruiter, interview assistance, salary/skill assessments, offer letter creation, and more (at no additional cost)
  • Dedicated HR guidance to help you create a variety of policies, as well as mentorship and reskilling/upskilling programs, and access to our DEI Dashboard

We’re here to help. If your organization is looking for assistance with attracting and retaining veteran employees, contact the experts at ExtensisHR today.

The Veterans Crisis Line is available 24/7 for veterans and their loved ones who need support. The Crisis Line is confidential and can be accessed by dialing 988 then pressing 1, texting 838255, or chatting online at VA benefits or health care are not required to connect.

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