How to Engage Veterans to Really Boost Your Small Business

Companies with less than 500 employees are facing incredible hurdles in today’s highly competitive market. With growth being top of mind for today’s small business leaders, these organizations must now look to adopt new strategies in order sharpen their competitive edge. 

However, business growth is primarily driven by an organization’s ability to successfully attract and retain top skilled talent that will drive company performance and increase revenue. As the labor force continues to decline in its growth, these businesses now find themselves in heated competition with well-established enterprises to attract this type of top talent.

As if the seemingly impossible challenge for a smaller business to successfully compete to attract and retain top talent isn’t enough, many are under-resourced and rely on ineffective hiring practices and legacy human resources processes. Hiring costs are already staggering, and when recruitment goes wrong, the impact of employee turnover is devastating to the bottom-line. According to the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM), the average cost-per-hire for a company is $4,129, and when an employee leaves it can cost between 90% – 200% of that person’s salary to replace them.

It’s no wonder why so many leaders at the helm of these organizations recognize that they must embrace new strategies to be able to compete and succeed today.

The good news, however, is that there is a proven strategy to help smaller businesses attract top skilled talent while reducing their hiring costs and driving business growth.

The answer – Military Veterans.

Hiring veterans is not just a moral imperative; it is a business imperative too. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Reduced hiring costs – Employers can reduce their hiring costs through an array of significant federal and state tax credits offered for hiring veterans. Businesses can earn up to $9,600 in federal tax credits for each qualified veteran they hire. They can also take advantage of the many state tax credits that are now available as well – For example, in California, an employer can earn over $37,000 in state income tax credits over five years when hiring a single qualified veteran.

  • Increased employer and consumer brand value – Companies that hire and support veterans increase their brand equity in both the consumer market and the talent market. When a company develops a program to recruit military veterans it not only reflects social responsibility, but also results in building goodwill with customers, employees, and the community at large. Veteran households spend 16% more overall than the average U.S. household, and 87% of consumers will support brands that support military causes. Further, 90% of veterans seek out employers that have programs in place to actively engage and hire military veterans.

  • Increased employee ROI – Veterans are a uniquely skilled and finite segment of talent with over 200,000 military members entering the workforce each year. There is a myriad of military occupations that match directly to private sector roles, such as IT specialists, business operation managers, healthcare workers, heavy equipment operators, construction workers, human resources specialists, truck drivers, and so many others. Further, there are even more military skills that translate directly into private sector job requirements. On average, veterans also have higher rates of retention over the bell-curve of their careers and perform at higher levels in the workforce compared to their non-veteran counterparts.

  • Increased market-share and industry performance – Because of all the other reasons outlined above, businesses that successfully recruit and retain veterans are more likely to have financial returns above their industry medians, as well as capture new market share.

As you can see, hiring qualified veterans offers employers significant financial incentives through a wide range of federal and state tax credits, as well as overall recruitment and employee cost-savings. So, it is no wonder why there is a rising demand for veterans.

However, to be able to hire and retain military veterans successfully, a business must develop a well-structured program that is positioned for maximum impact, benefiting both the employer and veterans, alike. Creating a veteran hiring program is not just something that an enterprise-size organization can do. Any business – small or large – can create a highly successful military veteran hiring program, but it does require planning and preparation to get it right.

 

A Step-By-Step Guide to Creating a Military Program For Your Business

Developing an effective military veteran hiring program requires a strategic and phased approach that flows throughout the entire business – it is much broader than merely recruiting. For a company that has less than 500 employees, here are the required steps to create an effective program from the ground up:

Step 1: Plan.

First, you need to identify the needs of your business to develop and align a program strategy to it. Are there talent gaps that exist within your organization that are critical to fill? Do you need to build better brand awareness to drive new customers? Once you can define the goals of your business and identify the gaps that are preventing you from getting there, you can begin planning where and how to integrate veterans to have the most significant impact on your business. You will also need to establish goals for your program and identify the resources your business might need to accomplish them. If your company has other business leaders, ensure everyone is working together in full support of the program and its needs.

Step 2: Prepare Your Business.

Next, you will need to take the plan you have created and begin preparing your business, accordingly. This includes identifying the tax credits that are available to your business, as well as the compliance requirements associated with hiring military veterans and Reservists/National Guard members. You should also think about how you currently engage job candidates, as well as the recruiting and HR practices you might have in place to support your employees. There are many ways in which you can adjust your current practices and equip your team with the right knowledge to be better prepared to hire and retain military veterans successfully. This is done by providing team training on critical topics such as military experience, skills translation and matching, and informed best practices to create a better employee experience for military veteran employees. 

Step 3: Launch Your Program.

As you launch your program, you will need to work in parallel to begin attracting military talent to your business. This starts by promoting your company to the broader military community. Ensure your message to veteran job-seekers is authentic and speaks to why your business values their service and the commitment you have in place to hire them.  As you begin promoting your open positions to military veterans, ensure you write job descriptions that use language which references the military skills and military occupations you are seeking. You should also create recruiting materials (print and digital) specifically for military veterans with relevant military-focused content. Just be sure that any imagery or text you use is both sensitive and accurate – as an example, you wouldn’t want to use an image of a service member wearing a “uniform” that is not an authorized U.S. Military uniform, or feature a service member in uniform with facial hair, as this is not allowed in the military.

Hiring and Retaining Veterans:

There are many free resources your company can use to post its open jobs to the military community and as well to find, and screen qualified military job candidates. Federally funded programs and veteran organizations are in place to help employers at the state and local level to help you connect with eligible military veterans in your community.

As you work to attract and hire top military talent, you must also take steps to ensure your business works to keep that talent. While many factors influence employee retention, the key to retaining top military talent boils down to two fundamental actions: ensuring you understand and correctly match military skills to the appropriate roles within your company, and engaging and empowering those military veterans within your organization to be able to unleash their full potential.

Depending on the size of your company and the scope of the military program you intend to build, many other necessary steps and actions need to be taken within these three phases to prepare and support the program correctly. However, the action plan outlined in the three stages above provides a fundamental framework for a business with limited resources to establish a military hiring program positioned for maximum impact.

No matter how large or small your program is, ensure you are always assessing results and measuring them against your goals. Make sure you are also actively collecting feedback from your veteran new-hires on the hiring process to identify and adjust any areas that may need attention.

 

The Take-Away:

We live in a hyper-competitive world that continues to intensify, and employers must take a new approach to attract and retain top talent that will drive their business forward. For smaller firms, in particular, military veterans offer a significant competitive advantage. However, to realize both the organizational and performance benefits they deliver, those businesses must create a program built with a strong foundation to ensure it will be successful from the start.

Market competition will continue to increase over time. Are you ready to give your business the boost it needs by weaving veterans into the fabric of the organization?

 

…. Because if not now, then when?

Karin Childress-Wiley