On this Veteran’s Day, the National Native American Veterans Memorial will officially (albeit virtually due to COVID-19) open. The memorial has been in the works since 2013, when Congress authorized its creation for the purpose of providing an educational opportunity for the public to learn about the tradition of service of Native Americans in the U.S. Armed Forces. A statement on the memorial’s website reads:
We are a nation of patriots who believe in the United States, its democracy, and our responsibility to preserve it for future generations. We acknowledge those who have served in the armed forces as the greatest patriots of all. Though we celebrate those who dedicate themselves to defending our nation, many Americans are unaware of the exceptional service performed by American Indian, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native veterans.
Employers have long recognized that U.S. military veterans represent an important and ready talent pool. In addition to being highly trained, veterans are steeped in collaboration, mission, and purpose. They also represent a wide diversity of race, ethnicity, backgrounds, abilities, and experiences, all of which bring immeasurable richness to the organizations they join following their military service.
The Institute for Corporate Productivity’s (i4cp) case study highlighting a visionary program developed by Microsoft to open opportunities in high-tech employment to veterans and transitioning service members is just one example of an employer that has dedicated significant resources to preparing and hiring veterans. Beginning in 2013, Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA) has provided the pathways and support service members need to move into productive new lives and rewarding work as trained technology professionals working in cloud development, cloud administration, cybersecurity administration, or database and business administration.
While unemployment among U.S. veterans of working age is relatively low (5.9% in October 2020, according to the Department of Labor), there is room for improvement in veteran hiring, most especially among veterans of underrepresented groups, such as Native Americans.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, American Indians and Alaska Natives serve in the Armed Forces at five times the national average and have served with distinction in every major conflict for over 200 years.
Considering the population of the U.S. is approximately 1.4 percent Native and the military is 2 percent Native (not including those that did not disclose their identity), Native people have the highest per-capita involvement of any population to serve in the U.S. military.
And while the majority of active duty military members is non-Hispanic white, Black and Hispanic service members represent growing cohorts within the armed forces.
In 2017, 57% of U.S. servicemembers were white, 16% were Black, 16% were Hispanic, 4% were Asian and an additional 6% identified as “other” or unknown. The same year, women represented 16% of the overall active duty force, up from 9% in 1980 and just 1% in 1970.
Creating hiring programs specific to military veterans is an increasingly common strategy for employers, and there are many resources available for both employers and veterans, such as the Department of Defense SkillBridge program, which partners with industry to connect transitioning service members to career job training and reskilling opportunities within six months of their planned separation from active duty (i4cp research has identified reskilling employees as a practice consistently linked to better organizational market performance).
The Department of Labor offers resources to employers, such as the Veterans' Employment and Training Service (VETS) program, which is committed to helping veterans and separating service members by preparing them for meaningful careers and providing employment resources. Their “Hire a Veteran” page is a great place to begin for employers just getting started with military veteran recruiting.
Employers that have the bandwidth to dedicate someone in talent acquisition to focus on recruitment of veterans see positive results, but simple strategies are effective too, such as the creation of employee groups (ERGs/BRGs) for veterans, which can help to engage new hires and also function as a source of referrals.
Making the hiring and development of U.S. military veterans an integral part of diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts is a win-win for everyone—and a demonstrable way for employers to recognize and honor the service and sacrifice of veterans and their families while also strengthening their organizations through the addition of highly skilled diverse talent.
Lorrie Lykins is i4cp's Vice President of Research