The job market is improving, if the level of interest in recruiting and hiring U.S. military veterans is any indication. According to several sources, the level of interest among U.S. employers in hiring veterans has grown during the first few months of 2010.
“There definitely was a drop-off in interest in 2008 and 2009, but recently the number of calls we’ve received and the number of employers participating in job fairs to hire veterans has increased,” said Larry Slagel, senior vice president of RecruitMilitary, a recruiting and staffing consulting group in Cincinnati.
As more businesses look to recruit veterans, the organizations which focus on connecting employers with soldiers who are transitioning from active duty are getting a number of questions about the challenges of hiring former military personnel. Topics such as identifying and dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and assimilating soldiers to a civilian lifestyle are among the top queries from employers, according to sources familiar with the issue.
“The questions are being asked, but I haven’t heard of any incidents that have stopped veterans from being hired or any complaints that employers have treated veterans unfairly,” said Bob Deisig, co-founder of Tip of the Arrow Foundation, a New Jersey-based group that specializes in connecting veterans and employers. “When it actually comes down to the hiring process, it’s usually the veterans, and not employers, who seem to think combat experience might be a problem in getting hired.”
Deisig said soldiers leaving the military who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan are reticent to talk about their experiences because they believe it could convey the wrong message to employers.
“They don’t want to give the impression that they were stressed out by the experience,” Deisig said.
Employers with experience hiring veterans understand that PTSD should be handled like any other mental or physical disability and are willing to work with recruits and new hires to ensure their needs are met.
“The key is that employers just need to be flexible and be prepared to make any reasonable accommodation requests that employees make,” said Larry Lorber, a partner in the Washington, D.C., law office of Proskauer Rose. “All cases and situations will be different, and if employers are prepared to review each situation carefully and to accommodate reasonable requests, then they will comply with the law.”
Lorber said that he was not aware of any current court cases or pending ADA complaints filed by veterans with PTSD.
“There could be some cases out there that I’m not aware of, but it just hasn’t been a very big issue or the cause of ADA complaints,” Lorber said.
Other sources interviewed for this article agreed with Lorber, saying that many employers are eager to recruit and hire veterans because they tend to be disciplined workers with well-developed work skills.
“We have found that veterans are among our best performers, and we’re very proud of our record hiring military veterans,” said Stephen Holmes, a spokesperson for The Home Depot.
The Home Depot is ranked consistently among the top employers of U.S. military veterans. Holmes says the giant home improvement retailer takes great care to comply with employment laws while seeking out the best applicants and candidates possible.
“We believe that veterans have done an incredible service for this country, and the best way we can repay that service is by offering them great job opportunities with The Home Depot,” Holmes said.
When hiring veterans and military reservists, complying with some employment laws can present different challenges. For example, businesses must be aware of provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for employees who have a family member called to active duty or deployed overseas and the rights guaranteed to employees under the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act (USERRA).
“There are some different nuances to complying with the laws when you’re hiring veterans or military reservists,” said Susan Rosenberg, a spokesperson for United Parcel Service (UPS) “And we make sure that we comply with those laws.”
Businesses like The Home Depot and UPS normally exceed legal requirements for granting leave and benefits to employees who serve as military reservists. “We are well aware of our employees’ commitment to serve as reservists and support it as best we can,” Rosenberg said.
Strong support systems for veterans and reservists who are returning from active duty and re-entering the private sector workforce is really the key to getting the best out of these workers, says RecruitMilitary’s Slagel.
“There are so many excellent support programs that are offered by the different branches of the military,” said Slagel. “And of course, many businesses provide employee assistance programs that can offer counseling services to returning veterans.”
Many businesses committed to hiring veterans have established veteran affinity groups within the organizations. The affinity groups allow veterans to meet in informal settings and talk about their service and the challenges of returning to civilian life.
Some larger companies like CSX Transportation Inc. now have a veterans’ affairs office that deals with recruiting, hiring and offering support services to veterans. The railroad and transportation giant is well known as one of the top employers of veterans and many companies look to CSX as a model when it comes to employing and offering career advancement to former military personnel.
Slagel says some employers are now recruiting and hiring human resource managers with military experience intentionally.
“Some businesses are making these HR people their organizations’ veteran affairs officers,” he said.
According to Tip of the Arrow’s Deisig, Verizon Communications Inc. has a veterans’ affairs committee made up of managers and executives who served in the military. The group reviews and helps set Verizon’s policies for hiring veterans and supporting reservists.
“Companies like Verizon are really demonstrating their commitment to hiring veterans and offering them the chance at a really great job,” Deisig said. “And that’s all a soldier who’s returning from active duty wants—a chance to work and make something out of their lives.”
Bill Leonard is a senior writer for SHRM.
Employers, Colleges Help Veterans Get Job Training, SHRM Online Organization and Employee Development Discipline, Dec. 1, 2009
Federal Initiative Launched to Promote Hiring Military Veterans, SHRM Online Staffing Management Discipline, Nov. 18, 2009
Companies Help Veterans Adapt to Civilian Workplace, SHRM Online Employee Relations Discipline, Nov. 4, 2009
Employers Urged to Recruit, Assist Veterans with Disabilities, SHRM Online Diversity Discipline, April 6, 2009
Employers Urged To Tap Skills of Disabled Veterans, HR News, Jan. 25, 2009
Returning U.S. Veterans Face Long Job Searches, HR News, Nov. 18, 2008