12 May 2015

Your Business Needs Veterans

If you’re looking for a lesson in clich├ęs and platitudes, the argument for hiring veterans is chock-full of them. Words like leadership and teamwork populate every report or article that is written on the subject, as well they should. However, the conversation requires a depth and substance that is often missing when these cases are made. To make a positive difference in the advancement of veteran employment opportunities, we must not rely on the same tired language. If pictures paint a thousand words, statistics and data driven examples will be the da Vinci of this movement. 

At this year's Council of Colleges and Military Educators symposium in Anaheim, I spoke on the topic of marketing student veterans for employment. I set out to supply a guide to the language and research that supports success. Two things became clear as I prepared my presentation: the language is pretty standard across the board, and not many statistics were included in the research I found. The few I discovered were mostly character driven, culled from the anecdotal responses of CEOs and human resource professionals. While these responses were almost universally positive, subjective language and opinions do not stand up well to opposition. I saw this first hand during a conversation; I spouted off the positive character traits that veterans bring to the workplace, and the other party countered that I was biased. I am a veteran, after all, so my response sounded self-serving. Many civilians boast the same great qualities that veterans possess, so how could I paint all veteran employees with the same brush?

The stats actually do support the argument that veterans are good for business. A 2013 study by the Corporate Executive Board Company (CEB) “shows that veteran hires are more valuable employees. Veterans, on average, perform at higher levels (avg. +4%) and are less likely to turnover (avg. -3%) generating significant business outcomes. Doing the math: For a company of 1,000 employees and average revenue per employee of $150,000, decreasing turnover by 3% saves $1.3 million annually, and increasing performance by 4% improves revenue by $6 million."

The veteran employment movement needs more data like the CEB stats above. Unfortunately, for all the companies advertising their efforts to hire veterans and appear “military friendly,” few are making the effort to track this segment of their employee population. Collecting and sharing that data will strengthen the argument that hiring veterans is good for business. Until then, we’re shooting blanks in a live-fire battle. It doesn't take a military historian to figure out the odds in that scenario.

Andy McCarty is the Director of Veteran and Military Services at Northeastern University. He is also a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and a board member of the National Association of Veteran's Program Administrators. 

To learn more about Northeastern’s commitment to servicemembers and veterans, please visit: http://rly.pt/northeastern-uni

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