successful military veteran recruiting: 3 steps to get started

August 17, 2015 Chad Sowash

genuinely embracing a vet-focused mindset can help your program off to a great start

Now more than ever, military veteran hiring is a key component of a company’s workforce strategy. Savvy organizations understand the need to add prior military into their corporate ranks. Furthermore, they genuinely embrace a community that represents over a trillion dollars in spending power and can become a tremendous market differentiator and vital business asset. What organization wouldn’t want better performers and individuals who are more loyal and much less likely to turn over?

During the past decade many organizations have achieved success through honest engagement with the veteran community. Consistency and adherence to the following steps provide the basis of a veteran hiring program, which drives positive outcomes.

  1. Embed Experts. Best-in-class veteran hiring programs such as Verizon, Lockheed Martin, and Bank of America have built teams of specialists solely focused on building veteran talent pipelines and driving hires. Team size may vary and generally corresponds to the hiring opportunities within the organization. Getting the right team composition is key; most, if not all, members should consist of prior military with appropriate talent acquisition, recruiting, and technology background based on their position as program manager, strategist, sourcer, or recruiter.

    Let’s look at it form another perspective. If your organization were expanding operations into China, one of the first steps in recruitment would be to build a team that can actually speak the language and truly understand the different Chinese dialects, cultures, and communities.

    Hiring from the military is a very similar situation. In most cases, organization cannot understand or translate military branches, ranks, occupations, experience, skill sets, culture, or even the language. Building a team is vital to understanding and genuinely communicating to the community that you are trying to target, attract, hire, and retain.

  2. Assess. To become best in class, companies need to survey the landscape before building a solid foundation on which it can grow the program. Once the veteran hiring team is assembled, an assessment is structured, and a review of the many different interfaces of veteran hiring can commence. These include hiring processes, job descriptions, veteran candidate profiles, veteran locale density, genuine community engagement, partnerships, and vendors to list a few.

    The importance of understanding where you need assistance is immensely important. Most organizations mistakenly believe they only need to announce they are “veteran friendly” to make their veteran hiring challenges go away. Unfortunately, it is not that simple. If it were, we would not be having the veteran hiring conversation today.

    Part of real commitment is recognizing your weaknesses and strengthening them. Ask yourself, “Do you truly know where your veteran hiring is breaking down and how will you address it?” I can assure you that another “We love Veterans” press release or “Stars and Stripe” webpage will not be the answer.

  3. Integrate. Identification of changes and enhancements should lead to fluid execution at the strategic and tactical levels. For example, once candidate profiles are developed for specific locations, partner and community outreach should be set in motion. Not all aspects of an assessment should wait until the final report, when immediate action focused on hiring outcomes is necessary.

    Building targeted local partnerships is a key part of driving hiring outcomes. Partnerships at the national level are not worth the paper the press release is printed on if they do not translate into the creation of local veteran talent pipelines.

Over the years, I have personally witnessed hundreds of organizations attempt to create veteran hiring programs that ultimately fail (read more here). I have also been fortunate to work with organizations that, through thoughtful collaboration, have taught me the importance of embedding dedicated specialists, identifying gaps through assessment, and integrating the processes into their very fabric of their organization.

The three steps described here can provide the basis for a very successful veteran hiring program, but they are merely a starting point to understanding the major components needed to anchor a successful and sustainable program.

Winston Churchill, a veteran of the British military, once said: “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” Use your subject matter experts to drive change by continually assessing the veteran community and overall market while fluidly integrating those elements of change into your veteran hiring program.

About the Author

Chad Sowash

Chad is Director, Veteran Recruiting (RPO), Recruiting & Innovation Center of Expertise. For over a decade, Chad Sowash has been a leader and key architect in the development of hundreds of successful programs and partnerships. Chad has chosen to focus his energy on making a difference in workforce, economic, business and technology development within the recruitment and staffing industry. Examples of his leadership include innovative digital schemes wrapped in world-class job distribution model

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