Employers are increasingly realizing the many benefits of hiring veterans, yet are often challenged when it comes to engaging with the military community. Accounting for only 7% of the total adult population in the U.S., veterans are a small, yet diverse group of individuals that come from varying backgrounds and ethnicities. Of the 18.4 million veterans nationwide,
- About 10% of veterans are women.
- About 12% of veterans are Black or African American.
- About 8% of veterans are Hispanic or Latino.
- About 7% of veterans identify as more than one race.
- An estimated 1 million veterans identify as LGBTQ.
- About 30% of veterans are living with a disability.
“The military has long been described as one of the most diverse organizations in the country,” says Ken Mayes, a retired U.S. army veteran and employer relationship navigator at Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF). “As more women, marginalized populations, and members of the LGBTQ+ community identify with military service, veterans reflect a broader spectrum of backgrounds and experiences.”
When it comes to hiring our nation’s heroes, employers need to take into account the principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEI&A) within their recruitment strategies. Here’s how employers can leverage DEI&A in their veteran hiring practices.
Expand Hiring Outreach
In order to engage with veterans and candidates from diverse backgrounds, employers need to look beyond their go-to sources for talent. Participating in programs like Hiring Our Heroes, which assists transitioning service members in finding fellowship opportunities with the hopes of leading to gainful employment, and Skills Bridge, which gives employers early access to those who are transitioning out of Active Duty and into the civilian world, can be great places to start. Employers can also enlist the help of Monster and Military.com, where they can gain access to more than 10 million diverse and highly skilled service members seeking opportunities across industries.
Shawn Abbatessa, chief of staff at Brown & Brown Insurance, says, “Other opportunities for veteran outreach exist in the ways businesses give back to their communities as well. At Brown & Brown, we champion volunteering with veteran-focused organizations, visiting career fairs, and partnering with colleges that provide veteran education programs.”
Additionally, employee referrals can be a cost-effective way for employers to expand upon their existing veteran workforces. “Employers can also leverage the veteran talent within their veteran employee resource groups as a lead generator to attract veteran talent,” Mayes says. “These communities often have extensive networks within both the military and civilian sectors. Employers can leverage these connections to build relationships, provide mentoring, and remove any ambiguity relating to the transfer of military skills to the private sector.”
Update Job Postings to be More Inclusive
Veterans offer unique and diversified skill sets that make them ideal candidates for businesses looking to hire. However, job postings that require specific technical skills, educational requirements, or a set number of years of experience, may dissuade qualified veteran candidates who may not have a degree or industry experience from applying.
“It is essential to use language that will resonate with candidates and other experiences beyond just traditional secondary education,” Abbatessa says. “Rather than having a rigid set of rules for job postings, we encourage recruiters to think about where potential candidates may have some crossover in their experience and what unique skill sets they can bring to the organization. When we leave room for life experience, we open the conversation to learn more about each candidate.”
Recruiters and hiring managers should include transferable skills, like problem-solving, leadership, teamwork, and communication, within job descriptions to help draw a larger, more diverse pool of candidates. Employers who are serious about hiring veterans may also consider adding language like “Veterans are encouraged to apply” to job descriptions.
Showcase Commitment to Veteran Hiring in Employer Branding
From social media and review platforms to employer value propositions and career websites, candidates have access to a wealth of information about potential employers. For employers looking to hire veterans, communicating their commitment to veteran hiring can help move the needle when it comes to attracting the military community.
“Employers should ensure that an employer’s branding is welcoming to the veteran community,” Mayes says. “An example of a welcoming website would be pictures of veteran employees within the organization or testimonials from military-affiliated employees that exemplify the employer’s commitment to the military community. As a best practice, some of the most military-friendly and military-ready employers have separate military-themed web pages to highlight their support to the community.”
As a transition master coach at Military.com, Jacey Eckhart echoes the significance that employer branding can have when it comes to veteran hiring. She says, “When we’re doing research for our top military employers, one of the things we look for is an outward sign on their website that indicates they are pro-military. In fact, one of the best things that they can have on their website is our Military Skills Translator. This tells veterans that the employer is serious about hiring veterans.”
Be More Accessible
About 30%, or five million veterans are living with a disability, many of whom, the Council of State Governments says, self-eliminate from viable career opportunities, thinking their injuries would either disqualify themselves for a job or that performing the job wouldn’t be possible given their injuries. While disabled veterans are protected under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, there are steps employers can take to help quell any fears that veterans and other candidates may have around their hireability.
On career websites and job listings, employers can highlight benefits like flexible work arrangements and schedules, access to mental health and wellness services, and the ability to take time off from work to attend medical appointments. Dr. Deborah Bradbard, an IVMF senior research associate, says employers should bear in mind that “no two veterans will be alike. Therefore, it is important to avoid assumptions and to customize accommodations to meet the needs of each employee.”
Create a Welcoming Work Environment
Transitioning from military to civilian life can be difficult for veterans. During their time of service, many felt a strong sense of purpose, belonging, and camaraderie among their peers. When looking for their first civilian job post-military, veterans often seek employers that provide a similar sense of fulfillment. Yet, according to Monster data, less than half (46%) of veterans feel accepted when starting at a new company.
“Employers can play a crucial role in easing the military-to-civilian transition by offering thoughtful initiatives that recognize the unique stressors that some veterans face during their transition,” Bradbard says. These include:
- Employee Resource Groups: ERGs or affinity groups for veterans can provide support, mentorship, and guidance for veterans, allowing them to share their experiences and learn from one another.
- Mentorship programs: Pair veterans with experienced employees who can provide guidance and support during the transition process and across the employee lifecycle. These mentors can help veterans adapt to the workplace culture and provide insights for ongoing career development.
- Regular feedback and check-ins: Conduct regular check-ins to provide an opportunity for veterans to express concerns and ask questions and for supervisors to provide concrete feedback.
Seek to Eliminate Bias
When it comes to hiring veterans, employers need to be aware of conscious and unconscious biases that exist, especially as it relates to mental health and disabilities. Employers should be careful not to assume that just because someone is a veteran, they will have a disability. For the five million veterans who are living with a disability, employers need to avoid ableist language and actions.
“Ableism, the belief that persons without disabilities are superior to those with them, can negatively influence initial employment decisions based on the actual or perceived disability status,” Bradbard says. “Across the employee lifecycle, employers should be careful to avoid ableism, which can take many different forms. For instance, ableism might include the use of slurs or derogatory comments towards those with a disability, failing to believe a person is disabled, talking down to someone, making assumptions that they will not understand a task or particular point because of disability, or purposely excluding or segregating those with accessibility issues.”
Cultural competence training can help create awareness around biases and provide solutions on how to combat them. Brown & Brown Insurance, for example, offers Belonging Sessions to associates, which Abbatessa says provides “a safe space for them to have candid conversations about their experience and share ideas and recommendations related to diversity, inclusion, and belonging efforts.” Additionally, he says, “We also champion allyship. As part of a summer learning challenge, we offer an Allyship in Action challenge to create a space for curious teammates to learn more about different perspectives, reflect on their own experiences, and gain practical insight.” By focusing on cultural competence and skills related to allyship—active listening, empathy, amplifying voices, etc.—employers and employees can seek to eliminate bias in the workplace.
Hold Teams Accountable
As with any corporate initiative, it’s important for employers to set goals and evaluate progress along the way. When it comes to veteran hiring, Eckhart says this is often where companies fall short. “One thing I’ve learned from recruiters is that even though their company has a veteran hiring policy, no one’s watching it,” she says. “No one’s asking the question, how many veterans have we hired? And how many veterans have we retained? So go ahead and link that to the recruiter’s performance review, and more importantly, the hiring manager’s review.”
When starting or reviewing a veteran hiring program, employers should first outline why they want to hire veterans and the outcomes they hope to achieve, like the number of veterans that apply and interview for jobs, the number of veterans hired, how the percentage of veterans in the workforce has grown over time, etc. From there, they can determine the amount they are willing to invest and who will be responsible for championing these efforts and tie those goals to their quarterly, mid-year, or annual performance reviews.
Make Veteran Hiring Part of Your DE&I Strategy
When it comes to building a diverse and inclusive workforce, veterans are often overlooked, despite their skills, backgrounds, and cultural experiences. From conveying your company’s commitment to veteran hiring, to attracting military talent to your workforce, learn how Monster and Military.com can help further your DE&I efforts with our veteran hiring solutions today.