OP-ED: Hiring Veterans as Strategic Assets

By Henry Clemmens and Bethany Young / As of 2017, there were 20.4 million veterans in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this is 8 percent of the total population today. Yet, according to this source, veterans have a higher unemployment and underemployment rate than their civilian counterparts. This article will discuss the benefits of hiring veterans and why they should be considered “strategic assets” to hiring managers and human resource professionals.Strategic AssetsStrategic assets are assets that a company/business needs for it to remain competitive and profitable. Not having access to, or not utilizing, strategic assets can put the future of the business in jeopardy. A strategic asset can be a specific manufacturing process or access to needed production resources, but it is most widely held that the most important asset to any business is its employees. It follows that the employees can be considered strategic assets in general, and a veteran’s unique skills, abilities and experience can be an even greater strategic asset when properly recognized and utilized.Why Hire Veterans?All businesses recognize skills they see as essential to their operations. Some are universal, such as computer skills or language ability. Others are specific to the business or industry itself, such as operating heavy machinery or analyzing financial statements. When looking at a veteran’s resume, it is important for human resource professionals to realize that most (if not all) veterans bring an entire general skill set with them that any company would benefit from. Some (but not all) of these skills are adaptability, problem solving skills, attention to detail, security qualifications, loyalty, a sense of community, perspective, integrity, and sometimes, government provided benefits.For example, when veterans leave the service they are looking for a career, especially after attending college. When they find a good career fit they tend to stay. This loyalty stems from the loyalty to the military, the nation and their units while in the service. This is a benefit to companies that already invest in their employees because the risk of losing a veteran employee is somewhat less. Investing in employees requires extra effort to make sure they don’t lose them –businesses need to “value” their assets. The inherent loyalty of veterans increases the likelihood that the business will get a good return on their “investment,” particularly in the long term.Another skill to highlight briefly would be adaptability. Men and women in the military live a life of constant change, forcing them to adapt to shifting circumstances on a moment’s notice, even making life or death decisions in a split second. This translates to the business world very easily; for example, meeting changing deadlines, dealing with operational or supply chain bottlenecks and/or working for multiple managers all with different leadership goals and styles. These are just two examples of how the general skills that veterans carry home from military service can be positively translated into skills in the business world.In addition to general skills, veterans also bring a long list of very specific skills with them as well. There are currently over 190 different jobs available in the U.S. Army alone – from motor vehicle mechanic, to satellite technician to linguist. Depending on the needs of a given business, odds are there is a veteran to fill a specific role. To illustrate, every branch of the military has medical personnel, every job in a hospital, doctor’s office, pharmacy or clinic is currently being done in the military already. The military trains, tests and licenses doctors, nurses, x-ray technicians, respiratory therapists and many other medical specialties. Additionally, veterans returning to the civilian workforce bring years of work experience along with the certifications and licenses, saving both time and money in the hiring process.Hiring Practices and Legal IssuesShould companies seek out and hire veterans? As stated above the answer is yes, of course, but there are other reasons why this should be the case. Veterans are a close-knit community and many belong to veteran’s organizations. There is a great deal of networking that happens at these organizations, as veterans are always looking to help each other, therefore hiring veterans can lead to an ongoing recruitment pool of talent that is also sustainable.As of March 24, 2015, veterans were legally defined as a protected class under federal law due to changes in the Vietnam Era Veteran’s Readjustment Assistance Act. This act requires any company conducting business with the federal government to employ veterans protected by the act and prohibits discrimination against veterans. This also means that veterans are protected under affirmative action.Socially Responsible HiringIn the wake of Enron, AIG and other corporate scandals, there is a new interest in ensuring that corporations are also good citizens and that they act ethically and responsibly as members of the greater community. The most important act of corporate social responsibility is the responsibility to people. Protecting people, providing jobs and improving the community by re-investing in infrastructure are just some of the ways a business can be socially responsible. Hiring veterans is looked upon favorably in most communities as veterans are held in high regard throughout the country. Hiring veterans will not only provide tangible results as illustrated above, but can also generate intangible results as well as good will and generate a favorable opinion in the community of the company.One Veteran’s StoryA female soldier (who served with in Iraq with one of the co-authors) was trained as an x-ray technician through the Army. As a reservist she began working in her field in a medium sized local hospital while continuing to go to school. After receiving her master’s degree in health care administration, she was hired by Northwell Health, the largest employer on Long Island, serving as the director of radiology and cardiology at two of the hospitals in the health network. She was hired as a direct result not only of her academic qualifications and her job experience in the military, but also as a direct result of an ongoing veteran’s hiring program conducted by that health system. She is now actively involved in the hiring and retention of veteran employees as well.ConclusionVeterans bring both a unique set of universal skills as well as a vast array of job specific skills that can and should be considered assets by any business. They should absolutely be considered a strategic asset to companies looking to remain competitive and profitable. Furthermore, at any given time less than 1 percent of the population is actively serving in the military. If the men and women who all volunteer to put themselves in harm’s way for everyone else cannot be considered a strategic asset when they return home … who can?Henry Clemmens is currently employed as a sergeant in the Ocean Beach Police Department, and served as a combat medic and air defense crewman in the U.S. Army (active and reserve) from 1985-2012. Bethany Young served as a radio operator in the U.S. Navy from 1998-2002. She is currently employed at the Northport VA in the mental health clinic. Both earned undergraduate degrees in criminal justice at St. Joseph’s College and are presently working toward their master’s degrees from the institution.