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How to bridge the military-civilian divide and unlock veteran talent pools

By Ian Handley | |7 minute read

As the new year commences, digital skills shortages continue to persist. Emerging technologies are changing the nature of work and, with it, the capabilities organisations need for the future.

According to Deloitte Access Economics, occupations requiring soft skills are expected to grow at 2.5 times the rate of others in the coming years. This new focus on areas like problem solving, adaptability and critical thinking reinforces the need for diversity of thought and experience in the workforce.

In this new world of work, individuals with military experience who have been trained to perform in rapidly changing, high-pressure situations are one of the most significant untapped talent pools.

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Highly motivated, diligent and adaptable, military veterans have a broad set of qualities and skills that add value to any team. But, speaking from my experience as a veteran who has transitioned to civilian employment, the sudden culture shift from service to the corporate sector can hinder veterans’ ability to demonstrate their true value.

Any organisation eager to tap into the veteran talent pool will benefit from adopting an approach that considers and seeks to bridge the military-civilian cultural divide.

First, ensure you have the support and understanding of leadership.

It’s easy for any organisation to hire veterans, but creating a workplace that is supportive throughout their transition requires buy-in from all levels. HR teams may be required to adapt screening processes or the types of questions asked at interviews to ensure they’re identifying and acknowledging veterans’ transferable skills.

Management teams may need to undertake research or training to provide better mentorship to veteran employees, and marketing teams may need to explore alternative talent attraction methods.

To engage leadership in a veteran employment initiative, consider the following:

  • Communicate the value of diversity: A study by Harvard Business Review found enterprises with above-average diversity had 19 per cent higher innovation revenue and 9 per cent higher EBIT margins. Reinforcing the business case for diversity and inclusion can help garner support for your veteran hiring program.
  • Share examples where similar programs have been successful: Case studies are a great tool to show how other organisations have established veteran hiring programs that resulted in a positive social or business impact. A good example is BAE Australia’s veterans and families program, which provides support across a broad range of community services to improve employment outcomes.
  • Leverage veteran advocates: While a cross-section of team members will need to support and drive your program, one person should be the face of it. Do any of your colleagues have ties to the veteran community – or are veterans themselves? If so, enlist them as an advocate for leadership and the point of contact for veterans within the organisation. This person can act as a translator between the military and corporate worlds.

Next, attract talent by tapping into the veteran network.

A veteran hiring program can only be successful if your job ads reach the right people. You can use established channels, including ex-service organisations or attending veterans hiring events, but often, the most effective way is through social media.

Social media houses countless local veterans’ groups and pages for transitioning members and their families. Advertise your open roles as a means of building rapport with the community and directing interest to your website. Describing job requirements in a straightforward manner and highlighting sought-after transferable skills will help encourage the right candidates to apply.

Finally, ensure your workplace maintains an inclusive and supportive culture.

Some effective ways to establish a veteran-friendly workplace include:

  • Communicating with employees: Existing employees, especially those in HR and management, may need additional information to understand the differences between military and civilian workplaces. Taking the time to explain the significance of military transition nurtures a mutual appreciation for the experiences of team members.
  • Tackling misconceptions head on: As with any diverse group, veterans are often stereotyped based on misconceptions about military culture and physical or mental health. While a minority of veterans may experience health conditions as a result of their time in service, this rarely impedes their ability to perform in the workplace. Your advocate can play a key role in answering any questions other employees may have.
  • Enabling flexibility: During a veteran’s transition journey, they will likely have carry-over requirements, including attending medical appointments, assessments or other administrative tasks that they have little control over without impacting post-service entitlements. Be prepared to offer a level of flexibility during this period, even if it’s not afforded as standard in your organisation.

Efforts made to actively bridge the gap between the military and civilian experience will demonstrate your organisation’s commitment to supporting veterans through their transition. Word of mouth is powerful in the veteran community, and if done right, a veteran hiring program will see you unlock a fresh pool of highly capable talent.

Ian Handley is the vice-president of Oceania at WithYouWithMe.

RELATED TERMS

Recruitment

The practice of actively seeking, locating, and employing people for a certain position or career in a corporation is known as recruitment.

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.