A program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
In a competitive search for qualified candidates, hundreds of companies have found a talent pool with leadership skills and diverse perspectives. These men and women thrive in a team environment. They are adaptable, have a strong work ethic, and are loyal employees.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes refers to this talent pool as “military talent.”
The military talent pool is comprised of military veterans who may have served as few as four years, as well as soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and National Guard members who retired after more than 20 years of service.
These men and women have met — or will soon meet — their military commitments and are in the process of planning their next careers. Some are looking for opportunities at their current military installations. Others are willing to relocate, while their counterparts are moving to their home states and enrolling in colleges.
Last, but certainly not least, are military spouses and military caregivers. These individuals don’t wear a uniform, but they serve our country by faithfully supporting our service members on the homefront at great impact to their own career goals.
Now that you know who military talent is, you may be wondering why your organization should spend time and resources recruiting this unique talent pool. What skills and experiences do veterans and transitioning service members have? How is hiring military spouses beneficial to your workplace?
To find those answers, we asked members of our Veteran Employment Advisory Council to share their reasons for recruiting and retaining military talent. Here is what they told us.
Repeatedly, our partners said that leadership is the most important skill that military talent brings to their organizations.
“All branches of service invest heavily in leadership development at all ranks, and they put those skills to the test with incredibly demanding roles,” said Dave Johnston, director of Continuous Improvement and Step Change at Arconic.
But leadership is just one skill in a long list of qualities that our partners witness in military talent.
“Work ethic, leadership, adaptability, versatility, adherence to an ethical code of conduct, and a drive to succeed are some pretty good reasons to hire veterans and military spouses,” Johnston said.
Arconic attracts talent from all military branches by recruiting at Hiring Our Heroes Career Summits. Our Career Summits, held at military installations throughout the world, provide military-ready employers with the opportunity to connect with service members before they leave the Armed Forces.
Arconic needs job applicants who are ready and willing to work in a manufacturing environment. They find them at Hiring Our Heroes’ hiring events.
“Veterans must be able to work in teams, learn new skills quickly, adapt to changes rapidly, and they always strive for ‘mission accomplished.’ In the Armed Forces, there are no awards given for second place,” Johnston said. “The military is a hands-on learning organization where skills learned are skills put to use. So, when you hire a veteran, you know you are hiring someone with experience.”
Kristin Saboe, Senior Manager of Employee Listening and Talent Strategy at Boeing, said that leadership and integrity — critical skills common in military talent — are cultivated in the Armed Forces.
“The proven leadership, commitment to purpose, camaraderie, and selflessness that these men and women demonstrate are valuable assets that benefit Boeing or any employer,” Saboe said.
What skills do veterans have? It depends on the individual, but as John McGarrity, executive director of Talent Delivery Programs at USAA, pointed out service members are required to attend more than weapons training. They must become experts in their fields to support large operative teams, aggregate data, or analyze complex data to formulate action plans.
“The military provides a lot of training for service members. In some cases, the employer has a lot of skill requirements and there’s an opportunity to match skill for skill. Then, the employer doesn’t have to make that investment in the employee,” McGarrity said. “A veteran comes into the office on day one with those skills.”
In contrast to the formal training that service members receive, and in addition to their own careers, military spouses receive their training through unique, and often stressful, life experiences.
“There are a lot of management and leadership skills that are developed through experiences that come with relocations and deployments. Many military spouses use leadership qualities in their daily lives, and they don’t even realize it,” McGarrity said. “Military spouses may not have the same formal training, but they have the skills. The skills may be hard to quantify, but they are concrete and meaningful.”
Managing multiple deployments and relocations, military spouses become adept at scheduling multiple deadlines to meet end goals, negotiating with multiple parties to meet those goals, and balancing budgets to ensure the moves are affordable to the family.
Alongside the demonstrated skills, hiring managers said the next thing they noticed about military talent is they are self-starters and problem-solvers.
These vital skills are difficult to quantify on a resume. Yet, these are exactly the skills that are formed through the military experience.
“When military spouses see a gap, they step in and fill it,” McGarrity said.
Jim Beamesderfer, vice president of veterans initiatives at Prudential Financial, said that military spouses bring their self-starter skills to the workplace.
“We don’t hire military talent out of charity. We do it because it makes great business sense,” he said. “We want to raise our talent average with each new hire and hiring military talent helps us do that.”
Problem-solving is an important skill, said Laura Schmiegel, head of Military and Veteran Affairs at Booz Allen Hamilton.
“We understand the unique value that veterans and military spouses bring to our clients. They understand our clients’ missions, have unparalleled leadership skills, and are natural problem-solvers,” she said. “As a consulting firm, that’s critically important because we’re tasked with solving some of our clients’ most pressing challenges every day.”
Approximately a third of Booz Allen’s workforce is military-affiliated, including veterans and military spouses, as well as members of the National Guard and reserves.
“It’s easy to look at these broad veteran and military spouse talent pools and say, ‘yes, I want to hire them,’” Schmiegel said. “The challenge for companies wanting to hire veterans and military spouses is to take a closer look and marry your needs as an organization with the unique skills and perspectives these individuals can bring to your organization — and in our case, bring them to our clients. Companies have to look at veteran and military spouse candidates not only for their experience, but for their potential.”
A study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management states that the average cost to hire an employee is $4,129. Then many employees typically spend five years or less in every job, according to a 2019 Bureau of Labor Statistics’ report.
With that in mind, retention is a focus for many human resources departments and is another reason why many companies recruit military talent.
“The time commitment and costs associated with recruiting also seem to skew in favor of veterans,” said Julie Barnes, director of Recruiting and Licensing at First Command.
Barnes cited an Orion Talent’s 2018 Veteran Hiring Survey where survey respondents indicated that candidates with military experience are more likely to be hired, more likely to accept a job offer, and more likely to stay at the company for a longer period of time than those without a military background.
“What organization would not benefit from having more self-motivated people with superior work habits, technical and leadership experience, and composure under pressure? Especially if those people are more likely to stick around?” Barnes said. “With all these positives, it’s no surprise that organizations are upping the ante on veteran recruiting initiatives.”
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A Program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation