National Military Appreciation Month, May 2016, includes Loyalty Day (1st), Military Spouse Appreciation Day (6th), VE Day (8th), Armed Forces Day (21th), and Memorial Day (30th). This month we honor, remember, and recognize all military personnel — those men and women who have served throughout our history, including those who have given their lives in defense of the freedoms we all enjoy today.
Both during their training and in their active service, members of the armed forces develop highly valuable job skills. For example, they become adept at critical thinking, and they are able to work under tremendous stress and pressure — frequently working under horrific conditions while still managing to get the job done. Then these brave heroes come home. We don’t give them parades. We don’t even guarantee them jobs. In fact, very often the road for them to transition to the private sector has more landmines than they encountered when they were overseas. Employers too often perceive their skills as “too military” or are afraid that they may have PTSD. And while so many people express outrage about the inadequate resources available to our returning veterans, too few people take personal responsibility to lend a hand.
Returning veterans want to get on with their lives and need to find work to support their families. The unemployment statistics for veterans are unacceptable. Each year the military separates more than a quarter of a million service members. Those numbers are expected to rise in the coming years as the military looks to cut troop levels across the services.
What about you as an employer? What can you do?
The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), in 2014, issued an important regulation that went a long way towards putting greater focus on hiring veterans. This regulation is forcing federal contractors and subcontractors to look more closely at this issue. With its March 24, 2014 regulations, OFCCP mandated accountability for outreach to protected veterans, including disabled veterans, from all federal contractors and subcontractors. Patricia Shiu, Director of OFCCP, has long been of the mindset that “good faith efforts” should not just be lip service. The federal contracting community must now establish a more solid relationship with veteran organizations and proactively seek qualified protected veterans for all open positions. The OFCCP has set a hiring benchmark of 7 percent, which will be adjusted each May depending on the unemployment rate for protected veterans. Additionally, contractors must assess, on an ongoing basis, whether their efforts are sufficient. If contractors are finding that they are not getting enough veteran applicants, they are obliged to seek other veteran sources in order to have a large enough pool of veteran candidates when looking to hire. Federal contractors and subcontractors’ ability to secure and maintain federal contracts will depend upon their ability to satisfy a much more aggressive analysis of the steps they take to seek and employ veterans.
Having worked with federal contractors and subcontractors on their affirmative action compliance matters, I know first-hand that with the increased number of Executive Orders and OFCCP regulations, HR departments are overwhelmed. However, this initiative has put the spotlight on the importance of hiring veterans and is slowly chipping away at the large number of unemployed veterans. It’s not that my clients did not want to hire veterans prior to the regulations of March 24th, but since their efforts were not analyzed there was no way of knowing if any progress was being made. Previously, it was a “hit or miss” situation without any pro-active force toward increasing the number of veterans hired. Now companies have a mechanism for assessing whether their veteran outreach efforts are succeeding, including calculating the number of veterans actually being hired.
Besides the government mandates, hiring veterans is just good business. Tax incentives for hiring veterans are available under federal tax laws and in many states as well. A company can reap substantial tax savings for each veteran they hire through the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Additionally, many companies have found that veterans make exceptional employees because of their life experience, leadership skills and training. Veterans have the proven ability to quickly learn new skills and concepts and have superior problem-solving skills. While companies struggle with turnover, veterans tend to make long-term commitments to their employer.
The internet has become a great resource for hiring veterans. There are sites that assist in translating military skills to business skills, and employers can utilize searchable job databases that specifically target veterans. There is no excuse for not making veterans an important part of the focused recruiting process and of our workforce. As we prepare for this month of recognition, take the time to be proactive in encouraging your company to hire more veterans. We can all do our part to lower the number of unemployed veterans. If we keep this issue at the forefront, we will be honoring veterans in the best way possible.
Written by Grace M. Conti, Executive Vice President (and Director of the Affirmative Action Compliance Department) at Portnoy, Messinger, Pearl & Associates, Inc. PMP has been providing employers with full-service HR consulting for over 52 years. You can contact Grace Conti at 1-800-921-2195 or email gconti@pmpHR.com.
This article is intended for general information only and should not be construed as legal advice.
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