How Businesses Can Support Veterans Reentering the Workforce

This Veteran’s Day, examine how your hiring practices and workplace culture can be more inclusive for veterans. At Kindred, we believe in responsible and empathetic leadership, which means supporting and empowering veterans as vital members of the community. 

Veteran’s Day, originally called Armistice Day, was founded to mark the end of World War I, but evolved to honor all veterans. It is a day of recognition, a day for telling the stories of veterans, showing appreciation, and thanking them for their service.

However, tracing Veteran’s Day back to its World War I roots and its prominent place in U.S. history, one wonders if it retains the meaning it once had. Every year, along with the countless public shows of support for veterans, there is an onslaught of Veteran’s Day retail deals that seem to undermine the significance of the day.

What does it mean to truly honor those who have served in the armed forces? Organizations can honor veterans by providing access to quality jobs and support systems to aid the reintegration process. This can be achieved in the workplace by developing diverse hiring practices, implementing training and mentorship programs, and cultivating inclusive workplaces. Companies can also support veterans by sourcing materials from veteran-owned small businesses as part of their diverse supplier policy.

Covid-19 pandemic job loss, along with existing challenges, impacts veterans.

The Covid-19 pandemic created higher unemployment levels, and veterans were no exception. Prior to the pandemic, the veteran unemployment rate was 3.5%, but it increased to 6.5% in 2020. As of October 2021, veteran unemployment decreased to around 4% while the overall unemployment rate remains at 4.6%.

These numbers may seem to indicate that veterans are less economically impacted by the pandemic than the general population. However, there are major age disparities in veteran unemployment, and persistent underemployment worsened with the economic downturn.

Nearly 50% of post-9/11 veterans say they experienced difficulties readjusting to civilian life after serving in the military, especially those who served in combat roles or suffered post-traumatic stress. One of the main challenges veterans often experience is translating their military skills and experience to civilian work; in a 2015 study of veterans’ transition to civilian life, 39% said they struggled to apply military skills to civilian life and 55% said it was difficult to find employment.

Employers play a key role in helping veterans transition back into civilian life by opening job pathways and creating supportive workplace cultures. As the economy recovers, veterans may not see the same level of job recovery as the wider population because of preexisting employment barriers that are now worsened by the pandemic.

Veterans need access to training programs and other meaningful employment pathways, especially as the future of work shifts towards a green economy and a growth in STEM sectors. 

Here’s how your company can actively support veterans. 

Implement diverse hiring practices

Recruitment strategies are the first part of implementing diverse hiring practices. Companies can actively seek out potential candidates by posting open roles on job boards for veterans, such as Recruit Military and Hire Veterans, and by expanding where candidates are sourced.

Hiring managers and recruiters can learn what to look for in veterans’ resumes and how their military experience translates to specific roles. Veterans often overlook their transferable skills, but recruiters can help translate past experiences to new job requirements during the screening and interviewing process. 

A company’s careers page also makes an impression on veteran jobseekers. The webpage should welcome applicants with a military background, as part of the company’s diversity efforts, and explain how the company supports employees who are veterans. Job descriptions can even reference what military experience may be appropriate for the role and encourage veterans with matching backgrounds to apply. For example, hiring managers can use a military skills translator to describe desired skill sets in a way that resonates with veterans. 

Offer mentorship, reskilling, and training programs 

Veterans bring a wide range of transferable skills from their military experience, but it can be difficult to align past experience with the demands of a new role and future growth opportunities. Employers can support veterans and increase retention by offering programs that invest in employee growth and development.

Mentorship programs pair veterans who are junior employees with more senior colleagues, ideally those with military experience or understanding. The mentor offers professional guidance to navigate the company and launch career development. Ideally, the mentor also expands the new employee’s network and helps them integrate into the company. 

Training programs build an internal talent pipeline for future roles at the company, preparing the workforce for jobs of the future. Formalized training allows veterans to further assimilate into their new roles and sets them up for future career development, including any necessary reskilling. Quality jobs create opportunities for advancement, so companies should help veterans access promotions and leadership roles. 

Create a supportive and inclusive workplace culture

Employers should have a strategy to support the unique needs of veterans as they transition into their new career. Cultivating a sense of belonging is crucial to DEI because employees need to feel like they can bring their authentic selves to the workplace and will be accepted for who they are.

This journey starts with the onboarding process; supervisors should have the proper resources and training to successfully support veterans on their team. Orientation training for veterans should cover available resources for support. Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) are one such support system where veterans can access counseling, referrals, and other services.

Employers should select an EAP provider that is veteran-friendly and understands the unique challenges that veterans face when reentering civilian society. Providing EAPs as a benefit to employees, especially veterans, indicates the company’s cognizance of  the importance of mental health.

Companies can also foster an inclusive workplace by supporting an Employee Resource Group (ERG) to bring together fellow veterans and provide a platform for their contributions to the workplace. ERGs help employees collaborate on initiatives that allow the company to better serve veterans, and create natural opportunities for mentorship and coaching. The group can aid recruitment and retention strategies and provide input on veteran-related business strategy.

Support veteran-owned businesses

If the company does not have one already, leadership should develop a diverse supplier policy that specifically references veterans. Supplier diversity programs formalize a company’s commitment to sourcing materials from businesses owned by underrepresented populations, such as veterans, women, and minorities.

Sourcing from diverse suppliers demonstrates a company’s commitment to supporting these communities and aligning business strategy with these values. Companies can establish supplier diversity goals, such as the total percentage of sourcing dollars they wish to spend on diverse suppliers. 

Kindred members taking action

There are already many companies taking action and developing initiatives to employ and support veterans, including Kindred members: Verizon, Wells Fargo, and Johnson & Johnson. 

Verizon has consistently been named as one of the Military Times Best for Vets employers. The company, which currently employs over 8,000 veterans, has dedicated resources for veteran jobseekers and their spouses, including a military skills matcher and a military recruiter. The career page features insights from veterans who joined the company and highlights the work of the Veterans ERG. 

Wells Fargo, another Kindred member, was also named one of the Best for Vets employers. Their many programs include the Military Talent Strategic Sourcing team that coaches applicants through the recruiting and interview process as well as the Veteran Employment Transition Program, an internship program that provides veterans with on-the-job training, mentorship, and networking opportunities.   

Ranked #10 in Best for Vets, Johnson & Johnson also has notable veteran hiring practices, including several talent partnerships to recruit veterans for open roles. The company runs its Military Veteran Leadership Development Program (MVLDP) to help veterans transition into the civilian workforce. MVLDP is an 18-month rotational program that exposes participants to various functions within the company while providing networking and mentorship opportunities.  

Diverse hiring and responsible leadership go hand-in-hand. 

With the Great Resignation and evolving workforce, companies need to rethink how they attract and retain employees. Recruiting veterans is one way to reach a skilled talent pool that is often overlooked or inadequately supported once hired. Veteran’s Day is a great opportunity to reflect on your company’s hiring practices and consider how employing veterans can fuel your business objectives.

At Kindred, we believe in diverse and inclusive workplaces that create value for all stakeholders and champion responsible business practices. Employing veterans is one ESG strategy that we encourage all to consider. 

Jessie Miller

Published on November 11, 2021