Veterans are the employees companies should be seeking

In her new column, Korn Ferry Institute's Tessa Misiaszek, explains how accessing the veteran talent pool provides companies with disciplined, learning agile candidates who can manage uncertainty during times of unpredictability.

By Tessa G. Misiaszek, PhD, Head of Research, Korn Ferry Institute

While we wait to see if the economy heads into a recession, something that remains true during this time of uncertainty is that, across industries, companies continue to face a shortage of much-needed skills to futureproof their business.

Roughly 58% of workers will need new skills in the coming years to continue to do their jobs well, and we are seeing occupations that once required interpersonal skills shift toward highly digitalized roles. As a result, there is a high demand to find workers who are learning agile, disciplined, and comfortable in new, diverse environments. Fortunately for leaders, there are nearly 200,000 people who enter the US labor force every year who have these sought-after qualities: military veterans.

From cyber security to logistics management, veterans working in the civil sector offer companies reliability, accountability, and a unique world perspective that allows them to work in an inclusive manner. However, according to a recent survey, nearly 36% of companies say they are doing a poor job of recruiting veterans. This is despite the fact that 97% of those HR professionals surveyed believe veterans can better navigate the new ways working thanks to the pandemic.

Veteran candidates understand diverse, global environments

We spoke with several Korn Ferry consultants who previously served in the Armed Forces, and now focus on placing veterans in civilian jobs, to better understand the enormous resource available to companies seeking specific skills. What we discovered is that organizations are missing a big opportunity by not proactively recruiting veteran candidates who can provide the talent, the capabilities, and the knowledge to thrive amidst disruption.

So, how can companies better tap into this replenishable workforce who have the proven capability to work well in uncertainty, have great communication skills, and are mission-driven? According to JP Sniffen, US Veteran and Consultant with Korn Ferry, veteran candidates, particularly those who served as military officers, are likely to have a college degree and wealth of experience working in global roles. “For companies with a global presence,” Sniffen says, “US veterans can play an important role by helping companies navigate new markets with their unique understanding of how the world works and can provide great insights into navigating different cultures.” In other words, organizations that develop strategies to recruit veteran officers will find themselves with high-potential employees who have the unparalleled know-how to work well in teams and different environments.

Another important insight we learned from our conversations is the level of diversity among veteran candidates who move into the civilian workforce each year. With a decline in the number of young adults enrolling into university undergraduate programs, which also includes a decline in international student enrollment, there has been an increase in the number of veterans seeking higher education. And according to Pew Research, the number of Hispanic veterans, who will move into the civilian workforce, is expected to double to 16% in the next 20 years, while the number of Black veterans entering the labor force will see a slight increase from 13% to 15%. Companies, then, have an incredible opportunity to expand their recruitment efforts to hire employees who reflect the populations they serve.

Strategies for hiring veterans

In our discussions, we learned how our Korn Ferry consultants help companies develop strategies for hiring veteran candidates. First, understanding that new skills development will be a requirement across industry verticals, Korn Ferry can assess for learning agility, and then place veterans with specific skillsets in a variety of roles, from commercial and consumer operations to management positions. In partnering with veteran organizations across the country, Korn Ferry consultants work with a wide variety of partners who help transition veterans from military service to the civilian workforce.

However, what is more important is Korn Ferry’s ability to understand the unique capabilities of the veteran candidate. With our own employees who have served in the military—and who work in a variety of roles across the organization, from board positions to principal consultants—we see the veteran candidate as a tremendous asset to any company, with their ability to work well with diverse populations, to be mission-oriented, and to quickly add value for employers. When a company integrates initiatives for hiring veterans in their overall talent management strategy, they gain the capabilities needed to navigate the vastly changing workplace we see today.