Getting Veterans Back to Work
By Jill Cueni-Cohen
Emily King, vice president of The Buller Group, based in Herndon, Va., is an expert on the challenges military veterans and their employers face when transitioning into the civilian workforce. She recently published the first guidebook specifically for employers, titled Field Tested: Recruiting, Managing & Retaining Veterans. The Buller Group will host a free webinar Nov. 28 titled "The Market Challenges of Veteran Hiring." In honor of Veterans Day, we asked the award-winning author and speaker for advice on how HR leaders can do right by their veteran employees.
HREOnline: What is the current state of hiring for veterans?
Emily King: There's a tremendous spirit of support for companies wanting to help veterans right now. Unemployment is bad for everyone these days, but many companies are investing in getting veterans hired, and that's a good thing. However, some of the issues that contribute to high unemployment for veterans persist, which I attribute to what I see as a "competency gap" at the level of front line recruiters.
Organizations need to change their performance metrics for recruiters in a way that will incentivize them to take the extra time that's needed to get through the process with a veteran candidate. This is why I developed the Certified Veteran Recruiter Program; it gives recruiters the tools they need to help veterans thrive in the civilian workplace.
HREOnline: What can employers do to help veterans acclimate to their jobs after being hired?
Emily King: The military doesn't prepare their people to become competitive candidates for civilian jobs, which puts them at a disadvantage. So, we have transition courses for veterans to help them quickly engage, because they have to learn everything from scratch. They don't even know what they don't know, because they assume life will be like it was in the military. It takes a lot of humility, and those who struggle and resist won't last for long.
When it comes to employee retention, having an early connection is very important. In large companies, there's currently a trend for supporting an Employee Resource Group for veterans. ERG's give vets a softer landing once they get into a company through onboarding and mentoring programs with existing employees who are also veterans.
HREOnline: How are employers addressing concerns such as veterans experiencing the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder in the workplace?
Emily King: If you're Americans with Disabilities Act compliant and have the ability to employ anyone with a disability, it's no different. In fact, PTSD is overused, it's really PTS: Post Traumatic Stress. It's a disability when it becomes a "disorder." Work with your employee assistance program and make sure you have a provider set up and ready for the emotional issues that arise. PTS can happen to anyone who goes through a traumatic experience, not just soldiers.
HREOnline: What lessons have been learned regarding employees who are called up for National Guard assignments?
Emily King: Some organizations discriminate against reservists, but I also have some big organizations that embrace their reservists and really support the families when they're deployed. It brings a sense of community and teamwork.
However, one blind spot is re-entry. Saving their job for them isn't enough. If someone is deployed for a year, much has changed, and they will need help with re-entry, because they're coming and going from one world to another.