Want dedicated, loyal employees? Hire veterans!

By: Grace M. Conti, Executive Vice President and Director of the Affirmative Action Compliance Department
Portnoy, Messinger, Pearl & Associates, Inc.

Want dedicated, loyal employees? Hire veterans!

When Veterans Day comes around we mark the day by parades, placing wreaths, displaying the flag and grand speeches. The next day we all go back to doing what we do. How quickly those grand speeches are forgotten and, often, the veterans along with them. Mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters leave their families to fight for what we Americans hold dear and perhaps take too much for granted: freedom. Except for Veterans Day, we rarely reflect on the sacrifices that our soldiers and veterans have made as part of their day-to-day lives.

We, as a country, invest huge amounts of time and money in training these men and women before they are sent overseas. They are taught to use critical thinking, the ability to work under horrific conditions and to always get the job done. Then these brave heroes come home. We don't give them parades. We don't even guarantee a job. In fact, very often the road for them to transition to the private sector has more landmines then when they were overseas. Employers too often perceive their skills as "too military" or are afraid that they may have PTSD. And while so many people express outrage about the inadequate resources available to our returning veterans, too few people take personal responsibility to lend a hand.

A great many returning veterans want to get on with their lives and need to find work to support their family. The unemployment statistics for veterans are unacceptable. Each year the military separates more than a quarter-of-a-million service members. Those numbers are expected to rise in the coming years as the military looks to cut troop levels across the services.

What about you as an employer? What can you do?

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) last year issued an important regulation that goes a long way toward putting more focus on hiring veterans. This regulation is forcing the hand of federal contractors and subcontractors to look more closely at this issue. With its March 24, 2014 regulations, OFCCP mandated accountability for outreach to protected veterans including disabled veterans and individuals with disabilities from all federal contractors and subcontractors. Patricia Shiu, Director of OFCCP, has long been of the mindset that "good faith efforts" should not just be lip service. The federal contracting community must now establish a more solid relationship with veteran organizations and proactively seek qualified protected veterans for all open positions. The OFCCP has set a hiring benchmark of 7%, which will be adjusted each May depending on the unemployment rate for protected veterans. Additionally, contractors must analyze whether these efforts are "good enough." If contractors are finding that they are not getting a sufficient pool of qualified veteran applicants, they are obliged to seek other veteran sources in order to have a large enough pool of veterans when looking to hire. Federal contractors and subcontractors' ability to secure and maintain federal contracts will depend upon their ability to satisfy a much more aggressive analysis of the steps they take to seek and employ veterans.

In working with federal contractors and subcontractors on their affirmative action compliance matters, I know first-hand that with the increased number of Executive Orders and OFCCP regulations, the HR departments are overwhelmed. However, this recent initiative has put the spotlight on the importance of hiring veterans and is slowly chipping away at the large number of unemployed. It's not that my clients did not want to hire veterans prior to the regulations of March 24th, but since their efforts were not analyzed there was no way of knowing if any progress was being made. Prior to this, it was a "hit or miss" situation without any pro-active force toward increasing the number of veterans hired. Now we have a structure which lets the company analyze if their veteran outreach efforts are successful. It also calculates how many veterans are actually being hired.

Besides the government mandates, hiring veterans is just good business. Both the federal government and many states have tax incentives for hiring veterans. A company can reap substantial tax savings for each veteran they hire through the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Additionally, companies have found that veterans make exceptional employees because of their life experience, leadership skills and training. Veterans have the proven ability to quickly learn new skills and concepts and have superior problem-solving skills. While companies struggle with turnover, veterans tend to make years-long commitment to their employer.

The internet has become a great resource for hiring veterans. There are internet sites for translating military skills to business skills and employers can easily find searchable data bases that specifically target veterans where companies can post jobs or search for the skills they need. There is no excuse for not making veterans an important part of the focused recruiting process and our workforce.

What can you do as an employee? Besides employers, we can all do our part for veterans. As we prepare for another Veteran Day, take the time not only to enjoy the holiday but to be proactive in encouraging your company to hire more veterans. We can all do our part to lower the number of unemployed veterans. If we keep this at the forefront, we will be honoring veterans in the best way possible.

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