What to Consider if Your Business is Looking to Hire Veterans
The decision to hire veterans for your company's workforce could be one of the best moves you can make as an owner. The benefits of hiring veterans are almost too numerous to mention, but perhaps the best place to start is looking at character.
Individuals who come from the military often have many traits that are assets in the private sector: team-oriented, trustworthy, and dedicated. These men and women also exhibit strong character and leadership skills in even the most tense situations.
Here are other common qualities of those who have served in the military that are attractive to employers:
- Strong work ethic: Many former military personnel possess a work ethic that incorporates both maturity and professionalism. And in many cases, veterans have learned skills to cope with stressful situations — so when work gets stressful, don't expect them to fold.
- Self-direction: Military training emphasizes recognizing complex problems and acquiring the skills needed to resolve them. For this reason, many veterans understand how to address workplace issues without needing significant guidance from supervisors.
- Efficiency: Veterans have experience working in a culture that stresses accuracy and timeliness. They tend to be well-versed in setting priorities, multitasking, and meeting deadlines.
- Willingness to be a team player: Military personnel learn very quickly the importance of being a strong, reliable team player. They understand the value of taking responsibility for not only their work, but for the success of their co-workers, and how working closely together can contribute to overall success.
- Eagerness to learn: The motivation and ability to learn is a key element of military culture. By the time they leave the service, most veterans are adept at processing new information and gaining new skills. Many are already experts in areas like finance, medicine, engineering, administration, and security. And since technology is critical among all armed forces, many vets enter the private sector with advanced technical skills.
- Leadership: Men and women who rise in the ranks generally have done so because they have demonstrated strong leadership skills. So, when they seek civilian employment, they come to the workplace with the ability to inspire and lead others.
Maturity, self-direction, and a willingness to learn are valuable traits every employer hopes for in their workforce. Veterans who come to the job already in possession of many of these traits are well worth the effort of recruiting and retaining.
The Work Opportunity Tax Credit
The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is a tax-incentive program that encourages businesses to recruit and retain staff from specific population groups, including veterans. A business may qualify for a tax credit of up to $9,600 per individual during their first year of employment. There is no limit on how many individuals an employer can hire in order to qualify for this credit.
And with the extension of the WOTC through Dec. 31, 2019, businesses can receive an ongoing tax incentive to hire them. The WOTC:
- Reduces an employer's cost of doing business;
- Requires little paperwork;
- Can reduce an employer's federal income tax liability by as much as $9,600 per employee hired;
- Does not limit the number of individuals a business can hire to be eligible; and
- Allows certain tax-exempt organizations to hire eligible veterans and receive a credit against the employer's share of Social Security taxes.
The DOL provides a useful chart detailing certification criteria for the WOTC.
Employers that hire WOTC-eligible individuals generally receive a tax credit equal to 25 percent or 40 percent of a new worker's first-year wages, up to the maximum for the group to which he or she belongs. Your business earns 25 percent for hires who work at least 120 hours during the first year of employment, and 40 percent if they work at least 400 hours in that first year. Use this WOTC calculator to see how much money you could potentially save.
Your company may be able to claim other tax credits. A service provider can help you identify and collect funds for which your business qualifies, creating a documented, legally compliant audit trail. Learn more here.
How to go about hiring veterans
What are the best ways to develop a veteran hiring program? How do you attract these talented individuals to your business? What are some best practices for introducing them into your workplace? Here are some ways to tackle these questions:
Get educated. If you're not a veteran yourself, understanding and meeting these individuals' unique needs can be especially challenging. Fortunately, there are many resources available to educate employers on military culture, the unique needs of veterans, and ways to help them adjust to a civilian workplace. Before launching an initiative for veterans in the workplace, it's a good idea to learn more about these important topics. Having a better understanding about veteran culture can help you build an effective program that appropriately meets their needs.
Redesign your training program. Some veterans may be active members of a reserve unit and need certain weekends off, while others may need restricted hours. Veterans who have never held a non-military position before may be accustomed to a strict, regimented training style and may need more time to adjust to a less structured environment.
To meet the unique needs of veterans in the workplace, you may need to adjust your onboarding and training program to help make veterans feel more comfortable in an unfamiliar environment. Setting your employees up for success from the beginning is a critical part of any veteran hiring initiative.
Actively search for veterans and military spouses. A challenge that employees face is knowing where to find and recruit veteran talent. While there are military-sponsored job fairs specifically targeted at helping military members transition to the civilian workforce, these can often be cost-prohibitive, especially for small businesses on a budget. You may want to consider taking advantage of online resources, job boards, and hiring fairs that can be both useful and cost-effective.
Enlist the help of a veterans' advocate. Once your newly hired employees are on board, you should provide ongoing support to help them deal with the challenges of transitioning into a new role. Veterans in the workplace who don't feel supported may be more likely to leave. By enlisting the help of an advocate who is well-versed in veterans' needs, you can offer your new hires the support they need. This could be an individual on your HR staff, an outside volunteer, or an organized group of supportive co-workers who all share the same concerns.
Use online tools to your advantage
Social media and other online tools are especially helpful in attracting veterans. Keep these five tips in mind:
- Use the right keywords. When recruiters and hiring managers search online for candidates, the tendency is to use keywords directly from the job description. However, many military jobs do not have clearly corresponding titles in the civilian workforce. In the military, jobs are assigned a Military Occupational Code or Air Force Specialty Code in the Air Force. The work might be similar, but the code is different from what a civilian hiring manager would search.
For example, a military veteran might list their experience in "mission management" instead of "project management" or their role as "commander" instead of "manager." These subtleties in language between military work and the civilian jobs can leave out military job candidates who might be worth considering.
- Use LinkedIn. LinkedIn can be used to communicate directly with veteran job seekers by posting questions and answers in various targeted groups, connecting with influencers who have trust and credibility in the veteran community, and highlighting the company's current veteran employees and their career successes. Companies that attract attention from veteran job candidates share helpful information, collaborate with veteran serving organizations, and promote tools and resources veterans find helpful in their transition to a civilian career.
- Highlight your company on Facebook. Because of its social nature, Facebook offers companies an opportunity to showcase their culture, build their brand as a veteran-friendly company, and promote open jobs. Building a company page or adding a veteran-facing company page on Facebook is a great start. Then regularly post messages, invitations, photos, and comments which highlight your company's values and goals and show how veterans are desired candidates for your business. Facebook is where companies can show their personality, which is something veterans care about.
- Don't forget YouTube. YouTube is a tremendous tool for highlighting what your business cares about and is involved with. Instead of writing a one-page marketing flyer, consider producing a video. While having an "About Us" page on your veteran-facing website is helpful, a video of your current employees — particularly veterans — talking about their jobs, why they work there, and other advantages of the company can be a powerful recruiting tool. Include contact information on all YouTube videos so a veteran knows how to pursue an opportunity with your firm.
- Engage in discussions online. Recruiters and hiring managers who quietly and discretely use social media only to identify and evaluate potential candidates could miss something important to veteran job seekers — the opportunity to hear the company's voice. Veterans care a great deal about values and vision. When an employer shares their perspectives, passion, and mission online through articles, posts, and images, the veteran job candidate could be more comfortable with the authenticity of the positioning.
Getting veterans on board
Companies that successfully recruit, hire, and develop veterans often follow these best practices:
Set clear expectations. Your civilian hires appreciate a roadmap at the outset of their employment. For your veteran hires, it is paramount. In their previous career, the veteran likely did not have to compete for new jobs and advancement and may not understand what is expected of them to perform to your standards. Clearly articulate what success should look like for them in your company. Help them understand the chain of command, rules and protocol, and what it takes to advance their career in your firm.
Conduct training. Integrating someone with a military career into a predominantly civilian workplace requires training for the supervisor and employee's team. This can be as simple as informal meetings to brainstorm and discuss challenges and successes.
Establish clear goals. Perhaps your company wants to hire three veterans in the next year. Your strategy would include resources needed, benchmarks to achieve, and return on the investment when those three hires are performing on the job. Refrain from setting goals that are too ambitious at the outset. Realistic goals which can be met or exceeded show senior management that your veteran hiring program is sustainable and scalable.
Appoint an executive sponsor. A champion for the program who sits on the executive team at your company will be able to advocate for programs, training, and funds to support the necessary costs you'll need to make your veteran hiring program sustainable. This sponsor may or may not be a veteran – it is not required that they have prior military experience, just a genuine and strong passion for helping veterans succeed at the company.
Form a veteran resource group. A veteran-specific affinity group is helpful for new veteran employees who can appreciate joining a group of people who have a similar background to their own. Successful veteran resource groups provide regular in-person meetings, online forums for discussion and problem solving, and mentoring programs matching civilian leaders with veterans, among others.
Engage all employees. A veteran hiring program should include more than just veterans and managers; engaging all employees in the company can help everyone feel attached to something bigger than their job. Employees who work for companies with veteran-hiring initiatives may feel proud of their employer, honored to work alongside someone who served their country, and can learn to appreciate the experience, talents, skills, and values veterans bring to the job.
Looking for resources to help with your hiring strategies? Learn more here.