Monday, June 25, 2012
10 Steps to Becoming a Military-Ready Employer
SteP one: undeRStAnd tHe iSSueS
what we have before us are some breathtaking
opportunities disguised as insoluble problems.”
John W. Gardner (1921-2002)
Not since World War II has the nation demonstrated such great respect for the
women and men who have served in the armed forces with a concerted effort to reach out to them with job opportunities and support. By complying with
relevant laws, expanding benefits and pay programs that go beyond the required
minimum, and instituting other innovative workplace policies, employers are in
a position to have a significant impact in the lives of those who served both in
front of and behind the lines. Understanding the issues that military-connected
applicants and employees face is the first step in that direction.
According to the SHRM Poll: Military Employment (2012), organizations continue
to value highly the skills individuals with a military background bring to the workplace. Over 90 percent of respondents that hired military talent in the 36 months
preceding the poll agreed that those employees demonstrated:
• A strong sense of responsibility.
• Working as part of a team under pressure and with a high degree of professionalism.
• The ability to see a task through to completion.
• Strong leadership and problem solving skills.
• The ability to adapt.
These same skills appeared among the top ten skills cited in Critical Skills Needs
and Resources for the Changing Workforce (2008) copublished by SHRM and
Wall Street Journal/Career Journal. These findings confirm the reasons candidates with a military background are considered highly desirable contributors to
an organization’s performance.
According to the Employment Situation of Veterans Summary released by the
Bureau of Labor Statistics in March 2012, the average monthly unemployment
rate for all veterans during 2011 was 8.3 percent—about the same as the overall
civilian unemployment rate. However, the unemployment rate for Gulf War-era
II veterans (those who served in the armed forces sometime since September 2 Support from Behind the Lines: 10 Steps to Becoming a Military-Ready Employer
2001) was 12.1 percent overall. For the youngest veterans of that era—those 18
to 24—the unemployment rate was 30.2 percent (compared to 16.1 percent in
that age group of non-veterans). The rate for veterans 25 to 34 years old was 13
percent (compared with 9.3 percent among non-veterans in that age group.)
In light of the White House plan to pull 33,000 troops from Afghanistan by September 2012, however, the unemployment rate for veterans can be expected to
climb. In addition, the unemployment rate for military spouses was an alarming
26 percent, a figure 8.3 percent higher than the unemployment rate for the general labor force during the same period.
Considerations for Military Talent
The transition from a military to a civilian career can be daunting. Upon returning
home, service members think primarily of reconnecting with their families and
getting some much-needed rest as they try to acclimate to a “normal” home-life
While service members transitioning out of the military may receive information
during debriefings about potential job assistance and resources, there is no formal, mandatory career transition training program for all services. Consequently,
these honorable women and men turn in their gear, sign papers and return home
without training on how to take that next all-important step in their careers. Accustomed to a regimen of functioning as a unit with clear goals and assignments,
they often find themselves in unfamiliar territory as they compile their resume
and begin to apply and interview for positions.
HR professionals need to be aware of the difficulties members of this talent
pool may encounter as they maneuver through their job search. For example,
when creating a resume, veterans may not know how to express their military
experiences in a way that applies to a civilian workplace. Consider military talent
applicants—who have been trained not to boast about “just doing their job”—
suddenly finding themselves face-to-face with an interviewer who expects them to
speak up and elaborate on their skills and successes.
Engaging with this talent pool is comparable to approaches that HR professionals
might take with an international applicant new to the U.S., or an applicant who
had long service in another organization suddenly facing a job search without
career transition assistance. Blending the skills of clarity in communication,
patience, active listening, and awareness of diverse needs, the HR professional
begins to connect in meaningful dialogue with the military-connected job seeker.
Considerations for Spouses and Family Members
At one time, service members were primarily young, single male draftees. Our
all-volunteer armed forces now include older, as well as married service members
of both genders who are more likely to have children. Profile of the Military Community figures in 2010 indicated that nearly all of married service members also
have children and 42.5 percent of reservists are single parents.
Most military families, like most families in the general population, rely on the
combined income of two working spouses. In addition to dealing with the challenges of managing a household, helping children adapt to life without the
deployed parent, and adapting to frequent relocation, 35 percent of military
spouses work in professions that require state licenses, an obstacle to employment after relocation that some states are addressing through legislation.
viSupport from Behind the Lines: 10 Steps to Becoming a Military-Ready Employer 3
Ongoing Challenges for HR
Employers continue to report th