How companies can support military service members integrating into the workforce

Patricia Lucero our consultant managing the role
Posting date: 16 May 2024

May is Military Appreciation Month in the U.S. This goes beyond simply celebrating the dedication of our active-duty service members; it’s also about paying tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives for our nation’s freedom. Additionally, it’s a time to extend support and assistance to veterans as they navigate transitioning out of the military and into civilian life.


For businesses, there is no better time than now to support military service members who are integrating into the civilian workforce - because, despite the immense value they offer, nearly one in five veterans are currently unemployed


As an ex-military service member myself, I understand how daunting and difficult it can be for veterans to transition into civilian roles. I also witness a lot of businesses wanting to make that journey easier, but not knowing exactly how. That’s why I wrote this article - so that businesses know not only why they should tap into this talent pool, but also how they can support and empower it.

What value do military personnel bring to organizations?

Facing mounting economic uncertainties and talent shortages, businesses today need people who deliver tremendous value to the bottom line by spearheading innovation, increasing adaptability and motivating teams.


This highlights the most in-demand skills businesses are looking for in 2024: adaptability, communication, leadership, management, teamwork and problem-solving. 


Military personnel epitomize these skills. Having practiced teamwork and leadership in challenging situations, they excel at inspiring others and thriving under pressure. Their camaraderie and stress tolerance are unmatched, and they possess a strong drive to learn.


Statistics go on to show that veterans:

  • Perform better than their non-veteran peers, according to 68% of managers 
  • Have higher loyalty, staying with their company 8.3% longer than non-veterans
  • Are 39% more likely to be promoted earlier


From my own experience as a soldier in the United States Army, I can vouch for the adaptable and spontaneous decision-making that service members hone in the military. 

Furthermore, their skills are in areas where organizations currently face shortages, as revealed by this Deloitte study, highlighting the significant potential that veterans hold in bridging skill gaps.


As talent shortages worsen, businesses can’t afford to ignore this significant pool of talent. When the skills of military service members are recognized and their diverse perspectives are embraced, they allow businesses to remain innovative, adapt to market trends and outperform competitors.

Why veterans struggle to transition into the workforce and how businesses can support them

Despite McKinsey’s findings that getting more military personnel into civilian roles could add $15 billion to the US economy, the unemployment rate for veterans continues to rise, increasing from 2.2% in 2023 to 3.2% in April 2024.


Military personnel face several barriers to entering the workforce, from exclusive hiring practices to workplace stigmas. These are compounded by the lower hiring activity and fierce competition in today’s job market. Now more than ever, veterans need to upskill and differentiate themselves - but organizations need to meet them halfway and be more mindful of their unique needs. 

Traditional hiring practices are alienating

Hiring processes favor experience, with 60% of businesses ruling out candidates who have no industry-specific experience. This approach excludes alternative talent pools, like veterans, who possess desirable qualities but followed different career paths. Such practices hinder innovation and inclusivity by overlooking qualified candidates from diverse backgrounds. 


Prioritizing education among candidates is similarly outdated, especially when you consider that 60% of American workers over 25 lack a four-year degree, a statistic mirrored by 61% of veterans. This highlights the importance of prioritizing skills in order to diversify talent pipelines and maximize value.


In addition to moving to a skills-based hiring approach, businesses must realize that a comprehensive DE&I hiring strategy should include veterans. Implementing targeted veteran recruitment programs ensures these individuals are considered for open positions. 


One company leading by example is Micron, whose target of hiring over 1,500 veterans means that 17% of its workforce is currently made up of military personnel. Setting precise hiring goals like this enables businesses to facilitate seamless transitions for veterans into civilian roles.

A misunderstanding of military personnel’s skills

Only 38% of employers believe veterans have transferable skills, with just 19% recognizing their strong communication skills. This contrasts sharply with the 64% of veterans who see themselves as effective communicators, revealing a disparity between veterans’ real capabilities and how employers perceive them.


This misunderstanding complicates the transition into non-military roles. Businesses can bridge this gap by offering tailored training and upskilling programs that teach veterans how to repackage their expertise effectively. Additionally, investing in career development initiatives aligned with veterans' aspirations fosters opportunities for advancement.


Once again, Micron exemplifies this commitment through its partnership with Syracuse University's D'Aniello Institute of Veteran and Military Families (IVMF), which aims to enhance veterans' skill development for smoother transitions into industry roles.

Stigmas in the workplace

Another significant barrier is the stigma surrounding veteran status. Shockingly, 40% of veterans conceal their military background from colleagues, fearing ostracism, criticism or stereotyping.


Some also worry that these biases will impact career progression opportunities. Personally, I relate to this fear; many veterans, including myself, avoid mentioning our service, fearing it may not benefit us and could even harm us.


Businesses need to do more to cultivate an inclusive and empathetic workplace culture. They must advocate for policies and initiatives that not only support veterans, but also raise awareness among employees about the value they bring. 


Examples of these initiatives include establishing employee resource groups for veterans, providing mental health support and running educational sessions on cultural sensitivity. By dispelling stereotypes and fostering support networks, businesses can create an environment that’s conducive to veterans' successful integration.

Supporting military spouses and family members

Supporting military service members means extending that support to their spouses and families, who confront unique challenges such as frequent relocations and deployments. To do this, businesses can:

  • Offer flexible work arrangements to accommodate military spouses facing relocation
  • Enable job transfers within the company for spouses relocating due to military service
  • Offer extended leave for deployments, emergencies or family reunions
  • Provide career development support like training and mentoring programs 
  • Establish affinity groups for military spouses to connect and offer mutual support
  • Offer financial assistance for things like childcare to alleviate financial burdens
  • Provide wellness programs addressing unique stressors and mental health needs 

Bridging the opportunity gap: Recognizing the potential of military service members

As a former military service member myself, I’m passionate about the obligation businesses have to leverage the veteran population in the United States and guide them into rewarding careers. I’ve seen first-hand how veterans add value to organizations. Looking at the landscape from my current position, ignoring this talent pool is not only a disservice to those who have served our country, it also impedes business’ ability to remain innovative in a time where staying ahead is critical. 

Addressing the opportunity gap so many veterans face requires employers to recognize the value of military experience, provide tailored support services and create pathways for successful workforce integration. To better understand how your business can access and support top-tier veteran talent, start a conversation with me today.

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