By Karen Ross
Military veterans are some of the most disciplined, relentless and technologically-savvy people in the world. However, according to new research from the South West News Service, more than 80 percent of American business people don’t think veterans are able to seamlessly integrate into the workforce.
The study, commissioned by Sharp Decisions, reveals this belief is rooted in three ideas: first, that veterans don’t have translatable private sector skills; second, that they suffer from physical or mental health issues; and third, that there are not enough training resources available to bring them up to speed.
These concerns, while understandable, are without merit – and are a disservice to veterans, U.S. businesses and the broader U.S. economy. As President Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” economic policy gets signed into reality, the industry fears a deficit in talent selection. Looking for American labor is a start, and veterans are a compelling part of the solution.
Uniquely Skilled and Equipped to Contribute
American businesses, particularly those requiring high-skill labor such as the technology sector, should reconsider veterans as an important resource for private sector work.
First, American businesses often confuse ‘incompatibility of skills’ with ‘direct experience in my industry.’ In truth, veterans’ skillsets are highly transferrable. Not only have they been responsible for understanding, maintaining and operating some of the most complex systems and technologies in existence today, they are entrusted with interpreting and responding to the most sensitive military intelligence.
The Sharp Decisions research study showed that only 18 percent of those polled feel companies do enough to integrate veterans back in the workforce. And while that number is low, the statistic gives us an opportunity to improve.
In the quickly transforming political and economic landscape, which has reduced the technology industry’s access to foreign skilled workers, military veterans allow for American businesses to access a new market of highly trained workers that are essential to reducing the growing deficit in talent selection.
Veterans are uniquely equipped to contribute to American business in ways civilians can’t. Very few outside the military truly understand how to operate in life and death environments. They are trained to work under pressure, prioritize the needs of the team over the individual, communicate directly and effectively and review and evaluate everything to facilitate continuous improvement.
The Truth About PTSD
A second, and unfortunate, misconception preventing veteran hiring is that the majority of veterans suffer from PTSD. This is inaccurate. According to the study, Americans assume that more than 50 percent of all veterans carry some sort of serious emotional and behavioral trauma from their deployments. The real number of veterans with PTSD is far lower, though – the actual figure stands close to 20 percent.
Lack of Training Resources
Retraining and deployment of veterans is not as hard as many suggest. In fact, there are many resources available to source, train and deploy resources effectively and quickly. In 2013, Sharp Decisions created its V.E.T.S. Program to hire, train and deploy veterans to its various Fortune 1000 clients throughout the country.
The program hires veterans as full-time employees and trains and deploys them, often in teams of three, to simulate the platoon training in which they thrive. This kind of comprehensive program not only suits the needs of the client and the company itself, but also allows veterans to use their military experience as both members and leaders of a team.
In its four-year existence, the hundreds of veterans who have gone through the program have shown a knack for getting critical projects done on time and under budget.
Reconsider Vets as a Talent Resource
It’s time for American businesses to abandon misconceptions about veterans and re-think their hiring strategies. In this business and political climate, veterans are an important – and potentially game-changing – resource.
One additional consideration on the topic is that you may get far more from veterans than you realize. For example, as we’ve grown the program and our business, we noticed we were learning as much from the veterans we were hiring as they were learning from us. We’ve institutionalized these learnings into an operational blueprint that contributes significantly to our success and the success of our client engagements. It is a unique and powerful model that, we believe, any business leader will find interesting and profoundly useful. Hire vets; you’ll be thankful you did.