How to Help Veterans Transition to the Civilian Workforce

Many companies have come to understand the benefits of veteran workers. However, hiring these workers remains a challenge to corporations, as many struggle to help veterans transition their field experience to corporate responsibilities.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2011 unemployment rate of young male veterans (ages 18–24) who served in the second Gulf War was high at 29.1 percent, compared with young male non-veterans at 17.6 percent. The overall 2011 unemployment rate of all workers was 8.9 percent.

The key to successfully transitioning veterans from military life to the civilian workforce: mentoring through both corporate programs and resource groups, said a DiversityInc panel of corporate and military experts in Veterans in the Workplace: How to Help Them Succeed.

Roundtable participants included:

  • David Casey, currently vice president for workforce strategies and chief diversity officer at CVS Caremark (formerly at WellPoint) and a former U.S. Marine
  • Susan Hamilton, assistant vice president, diversity, and chief diversity officer for CSX
  • Chris Collier, director, talent acquisition for Southern Company, formerly in the U.S. Army
  • Capt. Tony Barnes, director of operations, Navy Recruiting Command
  • Vice Admiral Gerry Hoewing (retired), president and CEO, Naval Aviation Museum Foundation*

*Could not be present for roundtable, answered questions in separate conversation with DiversityInc

Also present from DiversityInc were Luke Visconti, CEO and a former naval aviator, and Barbara Frankel, senior vice president and executive editor.

“In the military, we lead people and we manage resources and equipment. And that’s not necessarily the vernacular used on the civilian side. We need to chill out and understand the corporate culture before aggressively taking charge,” said Capt. Barnes.

He emphasized that many veterans prefer a structured, disciplined work environment and are disappointed when they go to certain companies.

Other factors such as pay and compensation, consistent on-boarding and training in management skills should also be taken into consideration. Providing assistance for post-traumatic stress disorder and other disorders is important too, as discussed by Merck & Co.’s Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Deborah Dagit at another DiversityInc event (watch the video below).

Read Veterans in the Workplace: How to Help Them Succeed for more insights and best practices on hiring and developing veterans.

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