Groups Join Forces To Improve Veteran Hiring and Retention

The SHRM Foundation and the National Association of Veteran-Serving Organizations are marshaling their expertise on HR and veterans issues to improve veteran employment.

For many veterans, the transition from military to civilian employment is difficult. To ease this transition and better equip employers to hire and retain veterans, the Society for Human Resource Management Foundation and the National Association of Veteran-Serving Organizations (NAVSO) teamed up to launch the Integrating and Engaging Veterans in the Workforce project.

A recent SHRM survey, “Employing Military Personnel and Recruiting Veterans: What HR Can Do,” found that 60 percent of respondents have experienced challenges related to hiring veterans due to difficulty translating military skills to civilian job experience. Forty-eight percent indicated that veterans experienced difficulty transitioning to the civilian workplace culture.

NAVSO and the SHRM Foundation want to leverage their respective expertise on veterans and HR issues to address these problems. The multiyear project will target research and develop solutions to help organizations hire and engage veterans.

The first step was a summit held earlier this month. It convened key stakeholders who worked to identify successful research-based practices currently in use, discover ways local SHRM chapters and state councils can help improve veteran employment and retention, bolster arguments for investing in hiring veterans, and determine research that’s needed and issues that require evidence-based solutions.

“Now, we are analyzing all the data from the event,” said NAVSO CEO Chris Ford, and that will inform research and help “build a better business case for hiring veterans.”

NAVSO is “really focused on transforming the veterans services marketplace,” Ford said. “Like us, the SHRM Foundation has a bias toward action,” so the partnership was a natural fit.

In the last year, the SHRM Foundation has been working to refocus its strategy, and market research revealed that members were wrestling with issues of inclusion in the workplace, said Beth McFarland, CAE, director of foundation programs. The foundation identified veterans as an area of focus.

So far, 30 organizations have said they want to be involved, McFarland said. “NAVSO is an ideal partner” because they run similar projects, and they know the players in the veterans space, she added.

The main focus of the project will be hiring. “Many of our member organizations are focused, in whole or in part, on veteran employment,” and if veterans are not meaningfully employed, it’s difficult to address other issues, such as housing, Ford said.

Once the project can help “on the front end of the pipeline, to find qualified veterans, then it can focus on how to move veterans through the hiring process—which can be difficult—and integrate them into the workforce culture,” Ford said. This will help determine how to retain veterans in the long term.

“SHRM members represent about 100,000 companies,” Ford said. “If we could give them very pragmatic tools and research to help make a business case for hiring veterans, and each hires one veteran, then we’ve hired 100,000 veterans.”

McFarland pointed out that the project will help organizations that are facing skill shortages and an aging workforce. “This is a source of talent for them,” she said.

The project’s first year will be spent creating resources to help employers, and the second year will involve rolling them out to chapters and members, McFarland explained. Ford noted the project might include an online portal, as well as a series of webinars to educate employers.

“Because our veterans have served all of us and put their lives on the line, we really want to help them get good jobs and continue to contribute to society,” McFarland said.


Allison Torres Burtka

By Allison Torres Burtka

Allison Torres Burtka, a longtime association journalist, is a freelance writer and editor in West Bloomfield, Michigan. MORE

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