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Recruiting Veterans is Only Half the Battle

It’s probably hard to believe, but I get vendors approaching me all the time with ideas for posts. Most of the ideas really suck. Some are worthy of some attention. Very few, however, are related to things which I have a real interest in. Military Transitions is one of those few things. As with most American families these days, mine has several members currently in active service and several who are veterans of conflict new and old. Although I never did any time with the armed forces, it’s actually one of those things that I’d do differently if I had the chance (and there aren’t many of those things). It’s not often, though, that we really get a chance to thank these men and women for what they do. And the fact that most of them do it without ever really asking or expecting anything in return, makes my desire to thank them that much greater. Hire them, we thank them. Keep them, we really thank them.

I’ve always said retention is not a program, but an outcome. It’s an outcome of everything that happens from the moment an employee first associates with your organization to the moment they make that fateful decision to leave it. One of the things we’ve learned about employing military veterans, however, is that sometimes those retention efforts need to be a bit more deliberate – and tailored to their unique circumstances. Through her work in coaching individual veterans and developing veteran-retention programs for Fortune 500 companies, Emily King is a nationally recognized expert in helping corporations attract and retain veterans. I asked her to tell us a little bit more about what this all means to us. I’m so glad she submitted the following guest post. _________________________________________________________________________________________________ 3×3: Three big reasons to hire military veterans. And three ways to keep them. For HR professionals across the country, one of the most valuable – and accessible – pools of talent may be right under your noses. Former military service members constitute a largely untapped resource for a broad range of positions, including leadership.

Why? Three good reasons:

  1. They’re in your community. Every year, more than 200,000 veterans transfer from military service to the private sector. By 2014, more than 1 million will have made the switch.
  2. Leadership. Veterans at every level – from junior enlisted to commissioned officer – are experienced at leading teams toward goals. They do some of their best work under extremely stressful conditions. And they understand the importance of giving and taking directions.
  3. Discipline.  Sure, we all think of waking up at the crack of dawn to a trumpet and running five miles as discipline. In a work environment, it also translates to a positive work ethic and a commitment to completing the tasks at hand.

But like any valuable resource, it takes effort to recruit and retain veterans. And retention can be a major issue; more than six out of ten veterans choose to leave their first post-military job within 36 months. Those who stay go on to do great things for their civilian employers. Attracting veterans without planning to retain them can be a major drain on HR’s (and the company’s) return on investment. Here are quick ways to maximize your ROI:

  1. Address cultural differences. For many veterans, the military has been their first and only employer. Help them to understand the differences between your company and a military work environment.
  2. Maintain engagement. On-boarding is just the first part. Creating a continuing dialogue – listening, not just talking – about the transition is key to productivity and retention.
  3. Facilitate a veterans group. If you have enough veterans on staff, ask them if they’d like to form an interest group within the company. Even among three or four employees, sharing experiences, challenges and successes of the transition can make a major difference for employer and employee alike.

Employing veterans can be a win for everyone: employer, employee and community.  But HR professionals can really help make the transition positive…and lasting. __________________________________________________________

Emily will be teaching “Essentials of Hiring & Retaining Veterans” in Reston, Virginia February 3 – 4. The course is pre-approved for 12 Credit Hours by the HR Certification Institute. Check it out – Emily would love to have you. And she’d love to hear from you directly if you have questions… For more information, visit

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  • Yuvarajah

    I am a retired military turned HR practitioner.

    Yes, discipline is indeed that much lacking and illusive feature missing from the business world.

    For 10 years, I have struggled trying to instill some sense of discipline. My experience has been with both private and public listed (though family controlled) companies. Sad to say, reality has not been as I would have liked it to be. The deficiency cuts across all generational groups. It starts at home and comes through at work. I see it everyday at my workplace, day in and out.

    In the name of trying to live the “ROWE” concept, people trickle in late and leave on time with work still outstanding. Teamwork spirit is a misnomer because apparently everything people work for nowadays is tied to WIIFM.

    Integrity and work ethics is a joke. There’s no fire to achieve greatness. As Jim Collins wrote in good to great, it takes disciplined people, thoughts and action to achieve greatness. But, leaders must first understand and accpet good is the enemy of great!.

    I still believe, “there are no bad soldiers/employees, only bad leaders”. Harvard Business Review Issue Nov 2010 cover dedicated to leadership lessons from the Military. If the business world is serious on DISCIPLINE and LEADERSHIP, then take the cue from those seasoned military retirees. They have what it takes to overcome stressful challenges and drive goals. But, don’t subject them to the ridicule of political games, pseudo-buy into projects, and undermining integrity through unethical practices.

    Happy and Prosperous New Year.


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