Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Do You Struggle to Find and Hire Veterans? Part 1

Orion is excited to announce that one of our Strategic Account Managers, Tim Sweeney will be sharing advice on the struggles of finding and hiring veterans over the next few weeks. 

Tim graduated from the United States Naval Academy and joined Orion in 2004, following his time as a Navy Officer. 

In the article below, Tim shares the most frequent problems and challenges he hears from employers, and the best practices to overcome them. 

Do You Struggle to Find and Hire Veterans?

Did you know that the transitioning service member is the 2nd largest renewable candidate pool after college graduates, with over 200,000 military candidates leaving the service each year? Whether it is due to a desire to hire from this talent pool, OFCCP regulations, or simply learning the value military Veterans have within a company, corporations are placing more and more emphasis on hiring transitioning military.  So why do these same organizations continue to struggle to hire Veterans?  

1. Stereotypes of the military candidate

I often hear managers say that military candidates are too rigid or too structured and will therefore struggle to fit in with their current workforce.  Some of these opinions are formed from the entertainment industry and others are developed through actual experience.  The fact is the military does have a rank structure and promotes discipline within its workforce. Without it, the military would not be able to succeed in completing its mission.  However, this does not mean that the men and women in our armed forces are incapable of fitting in or thinking "outside the box."  In fact, most hiring managers I speak with value the attention to detail and organization a Veteran brings to the team.  Ultimately, teaming up employees from non-military backgrounds with a Veteran is a win for the employees as well as the company.

2. Challenge translating military experience into their industry


Sure … it is great when you hire a Veteran who also has experience in your industry, but that can be difficult to find on a consistent basis, and your Veteran hiring will suffer if you are relying on this strategy.  Therefore, you must focus your recruiting efforts on the transitioning military service member.  A common response I hear is, "these candidates do not have industry experience."  And you are correct, they do not have corporate experience; however, they have an enormous amount of training and experience performing in high pressure situations.  Their experience is very similar to many of the roles you have open within your organization, the simple difference being the end product of their work. As I mentioned before, transitioning military candidates are the 2nd largest candidate pool hitting the market each year, after college graduates.  One big difference - the Veteran has years of work experience making decisions in high impact situations.

3. Difficulty identifying best jobs for Veterans

I think we can all agree that there will be plenty of open roles that are not ideal fits for individuals who are transitioning out of the service.  So how do you know if a position is a good fit for a Veteran?  First, you must gain an understanding of the mission associated with each branch of service.  The military is operationally focused with a goal to complete missions as safely and efficiently as possible.  In order to do this, each branch of service must first be able to operate and maintain all of its equipment, to include aircraft, ships, tanks, etc.  Leaders within the military must then be able to analyze information, develop and sell a solution to superior officers, and lead their subordinates in completion of their plan.  Their experience ranges widely -- from Navy personnel on Nuclear Submarines, to Army soldiers in Iraq; Marines in Afghanistan, to Air Force pilots flying missions in the Middle East. You must also include the supply chain community that ensures our service members have all of the equipment they need to be successful.  In summary, any position within your company that supports Operations, Maintenance, Analysis of Data, Sales, Supply Chain, Engineering or hands on Technicians can be a great opportunity for a Veteran with proper training.

4. Salary expectation does not match experience

So you have overcome the challenge of translating experience and have identified the best jobs for Veterans, but now you are having difficulty finding the right pay band for a person with great performance in the military, but unrelated to your industry.  You are not alone as I face this issue with my clients on a daily basis.  I believe it is important to know a couple of things.  First, military candidates do not expect equal compensation to what they were making in the service.  They are able to earn compensation a number of different ways (housing pay, tax free benefits, hazardous pay, etc.); however, they understand that they will most likely have to take a reduction in pay to gain experience before they can promote to an equal level.  Setting a clear picture of career progression will overcome small shortcomings in initial pay.   Second, remember they are an experienced employee and have a proven track record of leading people, fixing equipment and problem solving.  This should be factored into the equation when determining initial pay. 

It's also important to note that salary for Veterans is typically set by the market.  We always advise a military candidate if he/she is too high in their expectations.  The demand and competition for candidates with military backgrounds is at an all-time high and this directly impacts the average salary.

5. Lack of outreach into the military community

Unless you are located near a large military base, it is very difficult to gain access to transitioning service members. And since Sept. 11th, 2001, it has become extremely difficult to gain access to the bases.  Job postings and job fairs can help, but do they truly have a big impact on identifying and hiring the best candidates for your organization?  I typically ask a company two questions to determine their overall outreach within the military community: If you walked on a military base, would the service members you meet 1) Be familiar with your company? 2) Know what types of opportunities are available to them within your organization?  Ultimately, your marketing efforts need to be focused on addressing those two questions.  Your goal should be to connect with candidates who have skillsets that are ideal for your company and also share your success in hiring Veterans. 

Can you relate to any of the above?  If so, you are not alone.  Sourcing and hiring Veterans is challenging, but there are companies that are doing it well.  Hire a Hero will share Tim Sweeney's five areas to focus on to become an Employer Of Choice within the military community next week. Stay tuned!

Tim Sweeney studied Computer Science at the United States Naval Academy, graduating in 2002. As a Navy Surface Warfare Officer, Tim was attached to the USS Tarawa in San Diego.  In 2003, he deployed for seven months with the Tarawa Amphibious Ready Group and Amphibious Squadron Seven, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Following his service in the Navy, Tim joined Orion’s Virginia Beach Office as an Account Executive in 2004. Tim was instrumental in the growth and expansion of the Virginia Beach office and has been a key contributor in developing Orion’s Military Talent Programs (MTP). Tim obtained Partner status within the company in 2009, and was promoted to his current position as Strategic Accounts Manager in 2015.

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