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February 18, 2020

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Veterans Help Contingent Workforce Leaders Win the Talent War

On Friday, the United States honored the contributions and sacrifices of its military veterans. Veterans Day is remembered every November 11, a symbolic date to represent the formal cessation of hostilities in World War I, which concluded at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. It evolved into our current observance in 1954. Americans celebrate the day with parades, patriotic speeches and a lot of Facebook posts thanking veterans for their service. And yet, what is it that veterans really want? More than the fanfares, marching bands and outpourings of gratitude, they seek to continue their mission of advancing the nation’s growth as vital members of the civilian talent force. Contingent workforce leaders can help. As veterans explore their employment options, contract work presents a golden opportunity for them to experiment with jobs and locate their ideal careers.

Veterans Can Help Win the War for Talent

Veterans have a wealth of skills, experiences, attitudes and qualifications that make them ideal hires. In today’s increasingly technical marketplace — one plagued by a lack of qualifications and skills — employers are placing a greater emphasis on recruiting knowledgeable and well-rounded talent with expertise in science, technology, math and engineering (STEM). They also look for versatility, adaptability, discipline and an uncompromising dedication to teamwork. These traits are all hallmarks of the country’s veterans.

As reported by Kate McCormick in the Portland Press Herald, employers in Maine have demonstrated a powerful resolve to put veterans back to work. It’s not just good for returning service members, it’s amazing for any company’s bottom line.

When Jason Levesque’s eight-year duty ended, McCormick writes, the former infantryman and drill sergeant had no idea what to do next. Fifteen years later, he has become the CEO of a thriving marketing agency. He attributes the success to his military training.

“It’s a great breeding ground,” Levesque said. “It really does prepare you for a civilian career in almost anything.”

Joshua Broder is another veteran turned CEO in Maine. He oversees a large telecom and IT company that serves government agencies and broadband providers around the world.

“I’ll interview 10 people for a management position and nine of those people will say things like ‘I like to work hard, I can manage, I can stay on schedule and budget,’” Broder remarked. “Only one will say ‘I want to lead a team.’ Chances are the person who sees that as a career objective is a veteran.”

Broder adds that veterans understand that their fortunes are tied to the rest of their team. That’s a critical attitude for any business where performance is linked to customer satisfaction or the development of complex projects.

The State of Veteran Affairs in the Workforce

Based on 2014 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, more veterans hold STEM rolesthan civilians. The percentage increases dramatically for STEM-related occupations. Their specialized training in advanced technology systems, decision-making abilities, leadership skills and team unity makes them exceptionally gifted professionals in the private sector. They’re also more likely to hold relevant degrees than their non-military counterparts, due in large measure to federally subsidized education.

The employment outlook for veterans has brightened over the past few years. Veteran unemployment rates now average 4.7 percent, down from 15.2 percent eight years ago. Yet, there’s still plenty of room for improvement. CareerBuilder’s latest study found that 22 percent of veterans reported being underemployed, or were working in positions far below their skill level. More distressing are the results from a joint survey conducted by iCIMS and RecruitMilitary, which determined that 85 percent of post-9/11 veterans are dissatisfied with their current jobs.

Why such a high rate of disengagement? Lack of communication is a big part of that. According to ERE’s research, “89 percent of post-9/11 veterans with careers have never been asked for employer feedback regarding their veteran hiring program.”

How Contingent Workforce Leaders Can Help Veterans

As ERE advises, “Companies must start putting greater emphasis on improving veteran relations to promote a healthy dialogue and prioritize the things they value.” Contingent work may hold the answer. First, as the American Staffing Association repeatedly points out, contract-based roles are excellent conduits for career exploration and discovery. The work exposes talent to new companies, industries, skills and business cultures. It’s also a proven avenue toward finding traditional, full-time work. For veterans, a stint in the contingent workforce could represent a sort of vocational boot camp. And along that journey, contingent workforce leaders can help guide these troops to their ultimate achievements.

Scouting Veteran Talent

A solid campaign of veteran outreach starts with identifying the right sourcing channels. Job boards and social media still play their part in this process, yet as a niche group, veterans may be congregating elsewhere. Government websites, veteran-specific associations, specialized directories, veteran job fairs and networking events may optimize the search.

“Absorbing this intelligence and using it to adjust your focus with job postings and veteran-related marketing materials could be the difference between slim pickings and a steady influx of top-tier candidates,” ERE explains. “Take, for example, a company like Savage Services, which used recruiting software to participate in various career fairs and target veteran specific networks.”

Creating a fully branded career page that speaks to veterans can also increase visibility and attraction. Staffing professionals have the opportunity to adopt similar measures.

  • Find in-house recruiters with previous military experience themselves, or who have overseen hiring programs that concentrate on veterans. They will understand the needs of veterans seeking civilian jobs, and they know how to capture their interest.
  • Connect with veterans in the right locations, develop relationships with them through focused job fairs, and participate in networking opportunities hosted by military bases.
  • Contingent workforce professionals without direct military experience have cultivated strong benches of potential talent using their skills at curating social media and online marketplaces. These sources, according to ADP, continue to grow in popularity among military personnel.

Mentoring New Civilians

Verizon, according to MilitaryTimes, tops the list of the best employers for veterans. One of the reasons is mentorship. Verizon offers career counseling, coaching and skills development programs that cater to veterans. The company has also formalized a recruiter and hiring manager training initiative to help “bridge the gap and increase job satisfaction and engagement,” ERE adds.

Many returning service members worked as military recruiters during their tours of duty. They implicitly understand the nuances and processes involved in complex hiring strategies. They’re also intimately familiar with the needs of veterans. Contingent workforce leaders can identify these professionals in their own ranks and promote them to positions of mentors, or actively seek to hire such talent for these roles.

Resume Coaching

Veterans have mastered an exceptional spectrum of in-demand and transferable skills. The problem they sometimes face in the commercial workforce is explaining how those skills apply. The military uses countless acronyms, codes and stylized language that civilian professionals may not comprehend.

As Morgan Stanley writes in Business Insider, you may run across lines in resumes that read “S4, NCO Brigade Officer in charge of synchronization, logistics and personnel.” The trick for contingent workforce professionals lies in translation. To help veterans land the right roles, recruiters should plan to spend more time interacting with veteran talent to learn what those phrases mean – and then rework them into a polished corporate statement.

In the preceding example, we could edit the veteran’s skill set to indicate “executive leadership experience with a strong command of managing transportation operations for over 1,500 people, including logistics planning, scheduling, metrics tracking and reporting.”

Determine Fit

There are many positions in corporate America that echo military roles. Savvy contingent workforce leaders will take the time to interview veterans and learn how their service duties mirror open positions with clients. This ensures a better match for the candidate and the client organization. For example:

  • A veteran who led highly structured teams with a tightly defined chain of command would excel as a project manager or operations leader.
  • A Unit Supply Specialist from the Army would demonstrate incredible skills in logistics coordination, asset management, ordering and invoicing, accounting and tracking.
  • Military Intelligence Specialists have a mastery of data and text mining, data visualization, predictive analytics, risk management and linear progression models. A veteran from this field would make an unbeatable data scientist for clients attempting to conquer and capitalize on big data.

Find the Ideal Employment Culture

Assessing a client’s employment culture has become a priority for effective contingent workforce professionals. Ensuring optimal candidate matches fuels high morale, productivity, innovation, thought diversity, retention and more. For veterans, culture is equally paramount. The military has created one of the most vibrant and unshakable “employment cultures” imaginable. Strong relationships, team cohesion and support are essential to service members.

To attain stellar results, contingent workforce leaders should be pay incredibly close attention to their client cultures. Understanding these key attributes will ensure that veterans find an environment in which they can shine.

  • How does the client support its contingent workers and internal employees?
  • Do talent have an opportunity to take on new challenges and move through the organization to develop skills?
  • How much emphasis does the client program place on diversity, inclusion and feedback?
  • Does the program demonstrate a strong sense of teamwork and community, or are individuals expected to work without direction and “figure it out?”
  • Do the client or program leaders truly place the success of the mission above their own personal gain?

And of course, a contingent workforce program is an ideal starting place for veterans: if one assignment, client or position fails to be a perfect fit, contingent workforce leaders can easily transition top veteran talent into more compatible cultures or jobs.

Let Veterans Day Inspire Employment Opportunities, Not Just Patriotism

Regardless of how an organization plans to attract candidates, making a concerted effort to engage veterans should be an active and serious part of that plan. A strong veteran recruiting campaign can help propel your clients beyond their competition with some of the nation’s most committed and experienced talent.

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