Boots To Briefcases White Paper


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Boots To Briefcases White Paper

  1. 1. Boots to BriefcasesThin Red Line Consulting, LLC On-Boarding Veteran Talent in Your Organization February 2011 544 Pine Lawn Parkway Verona, WI 53593 Phone: 608-333-2949 E-Mail: Web:
  2. 2. 2 Boots to Briefcases BackgroundDiversity initiatives have grabbed increasing attention in all business sectors over the pastseveral decades. Recognition by executive leaders of the benefits to championing diverserecruiting and retention programs aimed at enhancing demographic representation withincorporate walls is on the rise. The return on investment (ROI) for such initiatives, both in termsof workforce productivity and organizational bottom line, has extended their recognizedvalue proposition beyond traditional EEOC diversity factors focused on racial, cultural, andgender representation. More than ever, organizations are elevating their understanding ofthe potential benefits to including military veterans within active diversity programs.Since 2001, more than three million veterans of the global War on Terror have transitionedfrom “boots to briefcases.” The skills, experiences, and leadership abilities of these veteranspose tremendous opportunities to organizations poised for an impending (or alreadycommencing) war for talent. However, many of the issues and experiences of former servicemembers also create significant risks for civilian employers unequipped with strategies forsupporting this at-risk population.The organizational benefits associated with increased focus on veterans’ issues as theyimpact workplaces are clear. Being a champion of diverse is recognized as an importantdriver of recruiting and engagement réputation for most companies. Beyond that, however,are issues of the growing talent and leadership shortages that will accompany the exodus ofBaby Boomers from the American workforce. Organizational risk management should alsobe considered with regard to the employment of veterans’. With Post-Traumatic Stress(PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) likely to affect an estimated 15-20% of all OIF/OEFreturning vétérans, organizations with vétérans employées have a unique need tounderstand thèse issues and to providing mitigating and preventative stratégies.Addressing vétéran intégration and réintégration needs through compréhensiveorganizational stratégies bolsters existing risk management policies and practices, but alsosupports and leverages the positive skills and expériences with which military vétérans returnto the workforce. Those companies and organizations that actively promote vétéransupport and intégration programs will reap a definite compétitive advantage over the nextseveral décades.The elements of a successful veterans integration/reintegration program are presented inthis white paper. While certainly not comprehensive, the focus areas provide the foundationfor building and customizing a veterans program within any organizational culture.Thin Red Line Consulting, LLC
  3. 3. 3 Boots to Briefcases Veteran Facts • Over 300,000 active duty and reserve component service members exit the military annually, according to recent Department of Defense (DoD) figures • Over 22 million current veterans in the United States • Unemployment rates for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts have risen to over 15% • Current Veterans Administration data indicates nearly ¼ of returning Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) • Only 4% of Fortune 500 companies report targeted on-boarding and internal veterans’ support programs • Less than 15% of Fortune 500 companies actively identify military veterans as targets of established diversity initiatives, despite reporting veteran EEO demographicsThin Red Line Consulting, LLC
  4. 4. 4 Boots to Briefcases High-Level StrategiesEnhanced Veterans’ RecruitingStrategic staffing has become a sophisticated function in most organizations. The use ofsocial media, as well as myriad recruiting websites and job posting sites, increasinglyautomated sourcing and screening tools, and comprehensive HRIS systems, have changedthe landscape of corporate recruiting in the past decade. However, HR executives (andeven more so, staffing specialists) are finding themselves in an increasingly crowded andcompetitive marketplace, particularly in the search for specialized skill sets and experiencedexternal leaders.Organizations relying primarily on large online job boards are likely to struggle in diversityrecruiting. It is difficult to tap into specific ethnic, cultural, or gender populations with such awidespread sourcing strategy. Similarly, in the sourcing of veterans, a shotgun approachmay result in a high quantity of potential applicants, but very possibly a distressingly lowpercentage of high quality veteran candidates. Instead, recruiters would be well served todevelop active search and sourcing strategies that recognize the unique online affinitycommunities to which military veterans are both attracted and directed. Understanding therecommended veteran job search strategies and avenues that have sprouted over the pastdecade and engaging in social media dialogues with these affinity groups will pay muchhigher dividends than more traditional sourcing practices.For example, many larger corporations recognize the synergy between marketing businessintelligence functions and military intelligence and cryptology skill sets. But recruitingtraditional sourcing strategies are often ignorant to the job search and resume posting sitesdeveloped specifically for veterans possessing Secret and Top-Secret security clearances(often a proxy for intelligence and/or cryptologic experience). Even where corporaterecruiters do have knowledge of these targeted sites, direct access to these sites can bedifficult without having developed relationships and a sourcing network with “keyholders” tothese affinity sites.Building Cultural AwarenessResearch shows that misperceptions abound regarding the gap between militaryand corporate cultures. Veterans bring many misperceptions of the civilianworkplace, and corporate America holds equally inaccurate perceptions of militaryculture, leadership, and transferrable skills. Focusing organizational attention onbuilding bridges with veterans and breaking down biases and misrepresentations onThin Red Line Consulting, LLC
  5. 5. 5 Boots to Briefcasesboth sides of this cultural divide takes time. But those companies who haveundertaken such efforts, typically through guided focus groups and transparentacknowledgement of cultural issues, have become beacons for attracting veterantalent.The foundation for such a cultural bridge lies in organizations immersing themselves inthe acquisition of knowledge about what it means to be a military veteran, as well aswhat it does not mean. By leveraging existing veterans already employed by theorganization, key internal leaders (not simply those in HR doing the hiring) gainvaluable understanding of where their own perceptions of military service may bemisleading. Equally important, such focus groups aid in identifying where existingstrengths within the organization can help facilitate broader cultural awareness ofveterans’ issues.An easily recognized misperception, for example, is that military leadership isauthoritative, hierarchical, and overly transactional. In actuality, many veterans havereported surprise at finding corporate leadership sometimes less emotionallyintelligent than those under whom they served in uniform. Clearly these are bothover-generalizations. But the stereotypes (and the accuracy of them) are importantto uncover if the full potential of veteran talent is to be leveraged. Just as there aremore or less transactional and transformational leader in any organization, so too arethere transactional and transformational leaders found at all levels of the military. Thekey is to identify which leadership style best fits the organization and role being filledand to accurately assess the talent available (veteran or not) for suitability of fit.Internal Affinity GroupsA growing trend in the diversity movement is the leveraging of internal affinity groups.Social psychologists have long known the power of commonality in helping driveinterpersonal bonds, friendships, and supportive work environments. It’s nocoincidence that leading workforce engagement applications focus attention onthe internal relationships individuals report in their work setting, with their leaders andwith their peers. Diversity initiatives frequently develop internal support anddevelopment teams (formally and informally) focused around particulardemographic groups. The same energy should drive organizations to erect similaraffinity groups to serve, encourage, and support military veterans.Thin Red Line Consulting, LLC
  6. 6. 6 Boots to BriefcasesInternal affinity groups (whether formally structured or loosely affiliated) provide asource of common understanding, support, and recognition for their affiliates. Asmilitary veterans integrate/reintegrate into corporate work environments, particularlyfollowing combat deployments, there often exists a significant perceptual chasm as aresult of the traumatic experiences a veteran has undergone. Yet, having anidentified individual or group of individuals who have also witnessed and participatedin the types of experiences combat veterans have is often a vital link to easing thetransition period back into society and the workplace.Interestingly, a 2005 survey of corporate employees who had served in the militaryrevealed significantly higher levels of altruistic and empathetic yearnings to welcomeback fellow returning soldiers than were held by non-veteran employees. The samestudy also demonstrated a high level of frustration by veteran employees due to aperceived lack of corporate structure and/or support for their involvement inreintegration situations.The benefits of internal affinity groups is doubled, in that it aids in the transition ofveterans into the organization and it builds a sense of community and ultimatelyconnection and commitment between other military veterans at the organization.It’s a win-win all around!Outreach Program MarketingWithout a doubt, the on-boarding of any group of employees can be a complexundertaking. For diversity groups, extra steps often need to be taken to create anenvironment that is both welcoming and supportive. When done well, these on-boarding efforts succeed in tapping into a deeper level of commitment andperformance than would be otherwise possible. With veterans, there exist significantexternal resources that can greatly facilitate organizations as they embark on thejourney to fully embrace the experiences, skills, and leadership of veterans within theirwalls. And these are resources that can also offer significant protections toorganizations whose employees are faced with the possibility (or likelihood) ofsignificant transition issues. Some of these resources include: • Mental health services, including local Veterans’ Administration programs and offerings • Military community support networks and outreach centersThin Red Line Consulting, LLC
  7. 7. 7 Boots to Briefcases • Veterans’ educational benefit programs (State & Federal) • External veterans’ affinity groups & community involvementThe point here is not to identify all germane resources available in an organization’scommunity. Rather, it is to emphasize that fully embracing the on-boarding ofveterans into an organization can only be accomplished through a holistic andcomprehensive understanding of the network of resources available. The morepublicly an organization reaches and the strong its marketing of available (andencouraged) resources, the more attractive that organization becomes as beingperceived as both veteran-friendly and veteran-supportive.Taken a step further, many organizations are pursuing broad partnerships with localsocial, economic, and educational institutions focused on building strong veterans’resources for this diversity group. Some have even extended their focus to includesupport for veterans’ families, a strategy of particular relevance to the thousands ofNational Guard and reserve soldiers and their families throughout the workforce. SummaryFor all organizations, the pressure to attract, land, and retain key talent is building.The next decade could prove to be the tipping point between those companies whohave devoted time and resources to understand the changing landscape of theAmerican workforce. Among the underutilized, and often misunderstood, talent poolfall military veterans. Business leaders who recognize this relatively untapped sourceof technical skill and significant leadership experience may very well be those whosurvive the upcoming War for Talent.Organizations must: • Strengthen the targeted and strategic sourcing of military veterans with skill sets aligned with organizational direction • Raise awareness of military culture and the corresponding perceptions & misperceptions of veterans’ experiences and leadershipThin Red Line Consulting, LLC
  8. 8. 8 Boots to Briefcases • Leverage existing veterans in the development of veteran-focused, internal affinity groups • • Fully develop and market external veterans’ support resourcesBy utilizing, leveraging and expanding upon the programs and approaches alreadybuilt to support diversity initiatives, organizations can position themselves to not onlysuccessfully seek out valuable veteran talent, but to retain and fully unlock thepotential of these individuals. For more information on how to better manage veteran talent in your organization, please contact us at: Thin Red Line Consulting, LLC 608.333.2949Thin Red Line Consulting, LLC