The tech industry is reeling from a tumultuous Q1 characterized by layoffs and hiring freezes. But as the dust settles, tech companies will look to rebuild albeit in a changed market. Eventually, they’ll need to rehire — and veterans should be a key part of their recruitment efforts.
Veterans are an underappreciated talent pool with the skills and experience to thrive in an unstable economy that demands adaptability. In their military careers, veterans learned soft skills like flexibility and teamwork while navigating fluid missions, unit realignments and shifting conditions. Coupled with advanced technological expertise gained in the field, these intangibles uniquely equip veterans to help tech companies adapt to changing market conditions during a period of economic volatility.
Veterans Possess Valuable Transferable Skills
The veteran unemployment rate has been trending downward, falling from 6.5% in 2020 to 2.4% in 2022. Although this is an encouraging sign, it doesn’t tell the full story. In other words, many veterans can secure jobs, but they are limited to ones that don’t match their specialized skill sets or offer enough compensation to pay the bills.
The problem is lack of awareness among private sector hiring managers who lack the training to evaluate veterans’ unconventional resumes. Many veterans possess the skill sets and experience to fill highly technical positions — in fact, many managed information technology (IT) and operated complex technology in the service. But these transferable skills may not be immediately apparent to managers looking to fill a systems administrator role.
In addition to these hard skills, veterans are also skilled in leadership, resiliency and communication — and this is where former service members can bring tremendous value to your organization in an unstable economy.
In the military, veterans build relationships with each other based on trust and respect, allowing them to push through adversity to achieve a common goal. Not only that, but they had to restart the process of building relationships and trust whenever their role or unit changed. No strangers to setbacks and roadblocks, veterans are predisposed to take uncertainty in stride and work to develop creative solutions to complex challenges.
How To Expand Your Talent Pool
Simply acknowledging the advantages of bringing veterans into the fold isn’t enough. Your mission to hire more veterans needs to be intentional, actionable and community oriented.
Here are three key takeaways for how to accomplish this:
1. Lay the groundwork by building a community.
The first step toward hiring more veterans is to recognize that hiring is only one piece of the puzzle. You also need to make veterans’ transitions as seamless as possible and develop a strategy to retain them long term (which training should undoubtedly be a part of).
This means reevaluating your organization’s approach to company culture and onboarding — both of which are key indicators of retention. Remember, community is a driving force in military life, and veterans want to feel a similar sense of community in your organization.
Consider whether new hires have opportunities to meet other employees (and veterans) outside of their team through initiatives like employee resource groups (ERGs). It’s also important to make sure the veterans you hire have access to all the technology they need on day one so they benefit from a seamless onboarding experience. Optimizing these processes before veterans walk in the door is key to making them feel welcome in the organization.
2. Identify programs that connect businesses with veteran job seekers.
Over the past decade, a growing number of nonprofits have emerged to help match veterans with private sector jobs. These programs can make recruitment a lot simpler, but it can be difficult to know where to begin. This is where the power of community enters the picture again.
Your organization’s commitment to hire more veterans provides an opportunity to engage the veterans you currently employ. For example, the company I work for, Deltek, a software and technology provider, created an ERG called “Veterans at Deltek” to support our veteran colleagues. This group helps to build camaraderie and can also serve as a catalyst for collaboration. We can trade notes about which job match programs we’ve heard are effective and share information about organizations that support other military causes.
These types of brainstorm sessions serve two purposes. First, they allow for crowdsourcing of institutional knowledge on how to recruit veterans and share those insights with company leadership. The insights from these sessions are much more immediate and actionable than information gathered through online research. Second, they give the veterans on your team the sense that their voices are being heard. Like everyone else, veterans want to make a difference, and soliciting their opinions on how to support causes they care about is the most effective way to do it.
3. Provide flexible opportunities — and keep an open mind.
Many returning veterans are looking for work experiences that differ from those they experienced in the military. Keep an open mind when considering these applicants. Their resumes may not look like other candidates you’re interviewing, but that doesn’t mean they are any less qualified.
When posting open positions, be cognizant that your job descriptions are inclusive of candidates that don’t have an exact skill set match. During the interview process, tailor your questions to gain a sense of the candidate’s transferable skills and adaptability to new situations. Think of ways to provide them with flexible job paths within the organization. And be mindful that every veteran has a different level of comfort when it comes to how much they want to disclose about their military experience. Some are outspoken about their time in the service, while others prefer to keep this part of their past private.
Veteran Employees Stabilize Teams in Times of Uncertainty
The veteran community offers your business a culturally and professionally diverse talent pool that can help your organization navigate uncertain times. For years, most business leaders have undervalued veterans’ potential, a trend that’s only now beginning to change.
As a learning leader, you can join the fight against the unemployment and underemployment of veterans by educating yourself on the challenges veterans face in the workforce and taking intentional steps to support their professional journeys. Veterans have a lot to offer today’s workforce — now it’s time to build a community that allows them to thrive.