Why, How and When Should You Hire Military Veterans?
Since our founding in 2014, TangoAlpha3 has been engaged in working with military veterans and enterprises to help them optimize their value in one another.
We have been involved in a lot of conversations along the way and are hopeful to have made a difference to the ecosystem of vets and businesses we have partnered with.
Sometimes we coach, sometimes we listen, but we are always learning so that we can become a better partner and better bridge for bringing these two communities together.
When it comes to engaging with private sector enterprises that are investigating incorporating military veterans into their talent acquisition strategy, a few themes have emerged:
WHY Hire Military Veterans?
An exhaustive list is impossible, but when you start considering reasons that are most easily and consistently mapped back to business value, there are a few that stand out.
Scale Your Hiring Quickly
About 200,000 military veterans transition annually. In fact, veterans comprise approximately 7% of the population in the United States.
The state with the fewest vets is Vermont, which has just over 35,000. Moreover, the military provides a very structured framework for training and advancement.
This means that once an organization understands how to map the military’s skills to their requirements (more on this later), it can target individuals with specific military occupations and have a very good idea of what to expect.
Every veteran is provided a DD214 upon their separation from the military which provides a quick snapshot of their military training, occupation, honors and reason for discharge.
Likewise, by maintaining these records over time, organizations can identify which attributes are most frequently associated with successful outcomes for particular roles.
They can iteratively improve which veterans they target for which roles based upon empirical data.
Likewise, with a good strategy in place, an enterprise can scale into almost any geography, at any time, and have consistent reliable results by hiring veterans.
In fact, at TangoAlpha3 we have developed a methodology (Build, Measure, Learn, Adapt) founded on lean principles to help our customers do just that on time, on demand, and on budget.
So while veterans are not necessarily rare, a military veteran recruiting program can be an immensely valuable and potentially transformative scalable resource for your business.
Veterans Are Resilient
Military service members will oftentimes have experience working in very stressful and austere environments, and as such, the government has increasingly invested in resiliency training.
Numerous studies show that, when compared to those who have not served, veterans demonstrate both an enhanced ability to act decisively when faced with change and uncertainty, as well as recover from failure.
This can be very valuable for positions in which veterans are exposed to stressful conditions, when they have to work unusual or lengthy hours, or when they have unique physical or psychological challenges.
The resilience that the military instills in veterans, combined with their exposure to stressful environments and experience performing in those environments, prepares them well for a vast range of roles that civilians may not be as suitable for.
Tax Credits Such as the WOTC
Enterprises of all sizes that hire eligible unemployed veterans can take advantage of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC). In fact, through the WOTC, employers can receive between $2,400 and $9,600 in tax credits depending upon the circumstances.
This year, there is a substantial potential pool of veteran candidates who may qualify for the WOTC, reducing onboarding and training costs and providing your organization with a reliable, skilled labor force.
Employers that hire veterans from a list of certain targeted veteran groups are eligible for the WOTC, which has been extended to 2025. These groups include long-term unemployment recipients, disabled veterans, veterans receiving certain benefits and other groups.
Form 5884-C is utilized by employers to claim the credit against the employer’s share of Social Security Tax, effectively reducing overhead costs.
As a veteran-focused talent acquisition firm, TangoAlpha3 is highly familiar with the procedures involved with claiming the WOTC and can help your organization find appropriate WOTC-eligible veterans to fill open positions.
Learn more about the Work Opportunity Tax Credit in our detailed blog about the topic – this information is up to date other than the fact that the WOTC has now been extended to 2025.
Because the military is able to enforce multi-year commitments, it can spend a lot more money training its members than any private sector organization.
And as the time one spends in the military increases, leadership development is increasingly emphasized.
After six years of military service, many individuals will have achieved the rank of E6, which (in the Army) usually means they are leading teams of 10 or more in the execution of critical missions.
Furthermore, veterans are more effective than civilian counterparts in quickly organizing a mission, to include identifying roles of various members, and laying out a strategy everyone can execute against.
In the civilian world, this translates to more efficient leadership, a better ability to organize teams and accomplish objectives, natural assertiveness and leadership skills, the ability to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each team member to delegate tasks effectively, and other unique leadership capabilities.
Trainability and Openness to Feedback
A core emphasis of military training is learning how to adapt skills to various environments. In fact, military simulations are designed to help service members adopt their core skills to new situations
Likewise veterans tend to be very adept at transferring a competency from one domain to another by adjusting for context.
For example, mechanics in the military often make for excellent field engineers in the private sector, as they have developed an expertise around electromechanical principles and tools in order to maintain highly complex proprietary equipment, and can quickly repurpose these skills to benefit private enterprises with relatively little training.
The same goes for other jobs in the military such as military nurses and doctors, dentists, medics, animal care specialists, and other healthcare roles in which there are many similarities with civilian roles.
Diversity and Exposure to Diverse Cultures
Perhaps due to the nature of their international mission, members of the US military have an increased sense of cultural sensitivity compared with their age-group peers that have not served.
Moreover, the makeup of the all volunteer US military is itself ethnically diverse, racially diverse and ideologically diverse. Veterans are used to working within incredibly diverse teams and uniting to accomplish a common goal. Similarly, a veteran centric approach to talent acquisition not only helps enterprises achieve diversity, but diversity with unity.
Today, many organizations have global teams and it is a natural fit for military veterans to know how to effectively work in these teams and respect others’ traditions and customs.
In summary, numerous reasons exist as to why you should hire veterans including tax credits, leadership, scalability resiliency, and trainability. Taking it a step further, a bigger question is why not fully invest in a military veteran talent acquisition program? The result is a diverse, scalable workforce designed to lead in austere or any other conditions.
We often recommend that our clients create a military veteran acquisition program. This is especially true if needs are growing for certain roles in which veterans may excel at, and they have not found an effective long term solution by hiring the traditional workforce.
How Should You Hire Veterans?
Many organizations over complicate the process of hiring veterans, or neglect key areas that can make the transition much smoother. Simply put, being practical and business minded will help guide you as to how you should hire veterans. Establish a goal, get some quick wins, then scale based upon ROI.
A good option for many firms is to work with an experienced military veteran talent acquisition firm like TangoAlpha3, as this can significantly speed the process up and improve outcomes.
Define The Objective
Our experience is that most corporate military veteran recruiting objectives are very well intentioned, but don’t start with the end in mind. Often being largely sentimental in nature, these objectives are often not aligned with larger business goals.
With that said, while it takes a bit of planning, the skill sets coming out of the military–even once you subtract all the soft skills we outlined earlier–are imminently transferable.
The US military has the largest and most widely dispersed assortment of equipment and technology in human history. The vast majority of it is repaired and maintained by its service members. Subsequently, they have training in and experience with an incredibly wide array of electromechanical devices, systems, as well as all the tools associated with keeping a heterogeneous enterprise of everything running.
The more sophisticated private sector enterprises have developed elaborate skills maps and the instruction necessary to quickly achieve ROI, as it relates to assimilating talent from the military. But that kind of legwork isn’t necessary to start. Instead simply identify components within your business whose value would most increase with a scalable solution served by veteran talent, and then come up with some success parameters.
We would encourage you to engage companies like TangoAlpha3 or individuals who have some lessons learned from previous efforts to avoid usual pitfalls. More than anything don’t begin without defining an objective that equates to sustained business value.
Be Lean and Scale
Start small, with measurable quick wins:
- Even if your enterprise has 15 recruiters, begin your veteran recruiting efforts with one recruiter and a subset of ideal requirements.
- Keep your mistakes inexpensive. Learn. Measure. Adjust. And then, once you have a win, celebrate and repeat.
- After you have that down, examine areas most tangential to your success and pursue another win there.
The reason we encourage this conservative approach is because we have so often seen organizations go “all in” too early, which leaves a larger footprint of failure, to the detriment of a sustained success for veterans and businesses alike.
If we were to work with your organization, we would take a scaled approach and focus on the most accessible opportunities and the most attainable wins in order to make your veteran hiring program lean and scalable.
Scale When You Have a Working Model
Once you have a veteran hiring model that is proven to work, reinvest in it. Develop a sub-brand of talent acquisition whose sole purpose is to attract military veterans. Start a military veteran employee resource group (ERP).
Share your success story and have your veteran employees share theirs. Give back to the community that enabled such success, enabling a larger and larger veteran friendly ecosystem to emerge.
Do everything you can to make this hard earned success a sustained business differentiator.
WHEN Should You Hire Veterans?
Today – There’s No Time Like the Present
Keeping the principles we have outlined above in mind, given that the pool of military veterans is always being replenished, there is no better time to start than the present. There are veterans transitioning today, tomorrow, not to mention the ones that transitioned both yesterday, yesteryear, and years previous.
A well-kept secret is that the military sometimes allows service members to work for a business in their last 6 months of service before transitioning.
Internships provide an excellent opportunity for veterans to be onboarded to your organization in a low cost and efficient manner, while preparing for the potential of a full time role.
It’s a lower risk opportunity for your organization to test out a particular candidate to see if they are a good fit prior to a full-time hire.
That said, there is paperwork involved and it can take quite a bit to navigate (TangoAlpha3 is happy to help) and you would need to be able to make a longer term commitment should things work out, but some things aren’t too good to be true.
Hire When You Are Ready to Hire Them
At the risk of being repetitive, we both highly encourage your business to employ veterans, and encourage you to be as intentional and disciplined regarding any military veteran recruiting efforts as possible.
We obviously believe ourselves a valuable resource worth engaging, but there are others. There is no reason to reinvent the wheel. That said, you might discover your enterprise has already had some wins, and all you need to do is reverse engineer your successes.
There are lots of paths to a sustainable and fruitful relationship between your business and the military veteran community.
Hopefully what we have laid out in this resource adds value to your journey. And, regardless of where you are in your veteran hiring journey, we are happy to help.
Contact TangoAlpha3 today to discover the possibilities that veteran service can bring to your department.
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