As a recruiter, you play a key role in building teams and developing practices to promote a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace. Have you taken time to consider how you support veterans in your hiring practices? Veterans make up 5.6% of the workforce. To put that in perspective, one in 20 applicants will have served in the armed forces. This Veterans Day, consider if you’re adequately prepared to attract veterans and help them thrive within their roles—particularly since 55% of veterans report that finding employment is the most difficult transitioning process when reintegrating into civilian life.
We need to do better for our veterans. That means doing the work to ensure equitable access to employment opportunities. It means equipping our organizations with the capability to assist vets as they transition into the civilian workforce—and doing what we can to hire those who can succeed in our organizations.
It means understanding who veterans are, what they need and what we are in a position to do to help.
Veterans in our workforce
As of 2021, the U.S. had 18.5 million veterans. The veteran population skews heavily male (nine out of 10 vets) and older; over 12 million of those veterans are over the age of 55. Over 65% of them served prior to 2001.
An important consideration is the percentage of disabled veterans. Almost one-third of all veterans have a “service-connected” disability, higher than the rate of disabled non-veterans. This means certain companies are simply off the table for disabled vets because those organizations haven’t put adequate accommodations in place or simply don’t know how to assess a veteran candidate. One study found that “more than half of veterans felt like recruiters didn’t manage to assess their work experience or qualifications correctly,” and 63% of veterans were disappointed with the lack of support when job seeking.
Veterans Day is upon us again, and while social media pages and Main Streets are going to be decked with American flags and messages of gratitude, we are behind when it comes to making the hiring process equitable and fair for veterans.
Our veterans made incredible sacrifices for us, and they face daunting challenges in the civilian world. We should take a moment to reflect on what we can do to help them. As it so happens, there are several things we can do as HR professionals to support veterans in their transition to civilian employment.
What you can do
- Enable remote work options. Is the job or internship you’re offering open to remote candidates? California has the most veterans—over 1.5 million—followed by Texas, Florida, and Pennsylvania. If your office isn’t located in one of those states, being truly accessible to veteran applicants means offering remote positions. It’s also just a good business practice—why would you want to shrink your potential talent pool? Remote work can also help accommodate veterans whose disabilities preclude them from traveling to an office regularly.
- Provide relevant amenities and job perks. Speaking of accommodating veterans, do a pass through your company amenities and take a closer look at what you offer to older staff and employees. Remember, veterans skew older on average as a demographic, so making sure that there are perks that are worth it for them will help them get acclimated to the company and the position. These could be flexible working hours or conditions, retirement planning services or adult learning opportunities, to name a few. If your perks only cater to the young and agile, your organization is unlikely to be welcoming to those who don’t fit that profile.
- Support veterans with the benefits they need. As mentioned above, about one-third of veterans have a disability; do the benefits you offer to employees cover the care they require and accommodate any differences? Notably, what resources can you provide for employees’ mental health? Recent research suggests that an estimated 30% of veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI) and/or depression. Providing benefits that help with these issues and building flexibility and understanding into your own company policies will help veterans succeed.
Our companies, like our country, are better off when we take care of one another. It takes forethought, effort and kindness to make equitable, inclusive spaces for veterans—but it’s important that we do so. It starts with each of us taking the time to learn about the challenges facing those who served and figure out how we can be part of the solution. When it comes to the difficulty many veterans have re-entering the workforce post-deployment, we as HR professionals are in a unique position to help out and do our part to give back to them.
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