For a business, hiring veterans is the right thing to do. It is patriotic, has community appeal and can carry tax incentives. This sounds like a winning proposition for veterans and businesses alike. Yet, while Nov. 11, 1918, is hailed as the end of "the war to end all wars," veterans and employers are still contending with the "war of all wars" on veterans' employment, satisfaction, productivity and retention.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says veterans change jobs twice within the first three years of civilian employment. It takes veterans on average three employment experiences to find a best-fit job match. And that is for the lucky ones who get civilian jobs. While the jobless rate for all veterans is down to 6.6 percent, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics, a recent VetAdvisor study shows that the dropout rate for veterans is at an all-time high.
As we observe Veteran's Day and honor those who served, let's celebrate veterans for their many talents. They are known for integrity, a bent toward diversity and inclusion, short learning curves, wide-ranging skills, strong management and leadership ability, teamwork and continuity in hard work. So with enhanced business incentives for recruitment and veteran's joblessness shrinking, why is veteran job retention still a problem?
Findings from a recent VetAdvisor study link veteran job satisfaction and retention with opportunities to use their skills and abilities, and with solid benefits and doing meaningful work. Psychologist Dr. Abraham Maslow's work remains relevant. Maslow found that individuals have an innate desire to be self-actualized. They are motivated to fulfill basic needs before moving on to more advanced needs.
It's known as Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs: physiological (water, air, food, and sleep); security (steady and purposeful employment, shelter); social (belonging, love and affection); esteem (personal worth, recognition and achievement), and self-actualization (self-awareness and personal growth).
It is not sufficient for businesses to hire veterans. Understanding individual motivation and happiness should be at the core of hiring. To stem the tide of attrition and safeguard a healthy return on veteran investment, it behooves businesses to create programs that promote retention and success for the new veteran hire. Along with applying Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, a sustainability program should include five components:
1. Develop a communication blueprint that acknowledges, in a positive manner, the uniqueness of veterans. Individuals who separate or retire from the military and return to civilian life exchange a structured culture for an unstructured one. Veterans are faced with learning to adapt to a change in culture and starting over in the workforce and lifestyle.
2. Create an effective onboarding and assimilation plan that gradually integrates veterans into the civilian work environment. On day one the plan should focus on natural assimilation and inclusiveness.
3. Adopt best practices such as establishing affinity groups, peer support and mentoring. This connects veterans with someone who can empathize with their concerns, while motivating and helping them adapt to and stay engaged in the work environment.
4. Customize diversity and employee-assistance programs to include veteran-specific education and support.
5. Retain the services of a military-relations professional to facilitate ease of transition.
Observing Veterans Day and celebrating America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country and sacrifices to protect our way of life and freedom is laudable. Understanding that hiring has to be balanced with a business need is reasonable. However, an effective sustainability program is vital to stemming the tide of attrition, increasing veteran satisfaction, productivity and retention and preserving a return on investment. It is the right - and best - thing to do.
Harry Croft, MD is a psychiatrist and co-author of "I Always Sit with My Back to The Wall: Managing Combat Stress and PTSD." Sydney Savior is a retired military officer, applied behavioral scientist and author of "Camouflage to Pinstripes: Learning to Thrive in Civilian Culture."