Wake up daily to our latest coverage of business done better, directly in your inbox.


Get your weekly dose of analysis on rising corporate activism.


The best of solutions journalism in the sustainability space, published monthly.

Select Newsletter

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy. You can opt out anytime.

Tina Casey headshot

For Veterans, There’s Hiring - And Then There’s Meaningful Hiring

By Tina Casey

Many leading companies have recognized that veterans enter the civilian workforce with a set of valuable skills. However, not all veterans hiring is the same. A new study by LinkedIn suggests that companies are missing opportunities to hire veterans into positions that match their skills and experience, and that enable them to move up the corporate ladder.

Hiring veterans: more than an employment rate problem

LinkedIn developed the new Veteran Hiring Report, released last week, to explore how its data could provide could provide insights into a disturbing pattern that has emerged in recent years.

Though the overall rate of veterans’ employment has improved along with the general employment rate, veterans still face many barriers to advancement up the corporate ladder.

As described by LinkedIn, the problem could be rooted in a view that military experience does not provide the kind of training that leads to career development in a corporate environment.

The statistics, though, tell a different story.

In the new report, LinkedIn surveyed users on its platform who identified as being veterans, and who had a bachelor’s degree or higher.

The survey found that veterans with bachelor’s degrees have almost three times the work experience of their civilian counterparts. Veterans are also 160 percent more likely than nonveterans to have a graduate degree or higher.

Once in a civilian job, veterans are also 39 percent more likely to be promoted earlier, and they stay with their company more than 8 percent longer than nonveterans.

Those longer stays are significant, considering the extent to which some companies invest in on-the-job training and education.

A step down into civilian employment

Unfortunately, many companies seem to be unaware of these advantages.

According to the study, veterans entering the workforce receive far more recruiter messages than civilians, but they don’t win employment at a corresponding rate. The report found that many companies hire veterans at a lower rate than civilians, despite the stepped-up recruiting.

Many companies also fail to perceive the value of the skills and experience that veterans possess. Compared to their position in the military, veterans are significantly more likely — 70 percent, according to the LinkedIn report — to get an initial job below their skill level.

Veterans and the race for talent

The problem may also cut both ways. Employers may not fully realize the depth of talent in the pool of job seeking veterans. Meanwhile, LinkedIn suggest that veterans may not fully grasp their potential for employment in fields outside of law enforcement and other familiar military-to-civilian pathways.

It is also possible that veteran-friendly fields are skewing the results somewhat, by aggressively recruiting veterans who might otherwise explore other opportunities.

The burgeoning solar industry, for example, has been ramping up the pipeline from military service to solar jobs. Part of the strategy is to offer training to members of the armed services at their bases, while they are still on active duty. That includes the “Solar Ready Vets” program, launched in 2016 with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy.

The wind industry has been especially successful in recruiting veterans. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) notes that its members employ veterans at a rate 67 percent higher than the national average.

Getting beyond the basics

AWEA highlights the fact that its members employ veterans throughout the corporate structure. Still, when making the pitch for hiring veterans, the organization focuses on basic skills.

That includes teamwork, experience with heavy equipment, a clear sense of mission, and possessing the ability to work outdoors and in challenging physical environments.

What is missing is the education, training, and experience that can groom veterans — or potentially qualify them — for upper management positions.

With that in mind, the LinkedIn report recommends that employers “look beyond the idea that you have ‘jobs for veterans.’”

Among other guidance, LinkedIn suggests that employers take a close look at their hiring practices and identify bottlenecks that exclude veterans. The report also exhorts employers to focus on nuances like “functional dispersion, full time vs. hourly or skilled roles [and] seniority.”

Education is the key

Some companies are already adopting a more sophisticated view of veterans’ hiring.

JetBlue provides one good example. The airline began focusing on veterans in 2012 with a relatively basic approach, and now those efforts are now dovetailing with the company’s new JetBlue Scholars college degree program. The initiative provides assistance and mentoring for adult employees who left a bachelor’s degree program before graduating.

Any JetBlue employee can apply to the program, but it is broadly tailored for veterans. The company’s educational partner is New Jersey’s Thomas Edison State University, which has extensive experience in veterans' services. That includes transferring aspects of military service into certified college credits, enabling participants to complete their degrees more quickly and economically.

The program launched in 2016 and it has already motivated JetBlue to take an additional step. Last summer, the company announced that it is offering support for a Master’s degree, with the specific aim of enabling employees to advance their careers.

In addition, Walgreens stands out for how it has been recruiting military veterans – and for good reason. Veterans come into the civilian labor market with an impressive set of work skills that can first translate into store aisles and on to top management positions.

The technology angle

There are other signs that employers are becoming more sophisticated in their approach to veterans’ hiring.

Last spring, Military Times listed 200 private sector companies vying for recognition in its list of “best places to work” for veterans.

The list includes companies in the energy field, but there is ample variety. For example, First Data Corp. nailed down the #1 slot due to its “best-in-class” education resources and career opportunities for veterans.

The #4 slot went to a relatively small company called Intuitive Research and Technology Corp., which Military Times cited for its focus on veterans’ recruitment and its 30 percent rate of veterans’ employment.

The military-serving banking and insurance company USAA came in at #5, with Military Times noting that “the banking and insurance powerhouse has veterans in the positions of chief executive officer, chief of operations and president of USAA Federal Savings Bank.”

Companies like these are tuned into the fact that today’s military is a high tech, data-intensive environment that can provide veterans with training, skills, and insights that parallel the broader technology transformation of the U.S. economy.

The bottom line: As LinkedIn suggests, companies that have been skating on their recruitment efforts of veterans should step it up and take a good look at what the leaders are doing.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Keith Brown/Wiki Commons

Tina Casey headshot

Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes.

Read more stories by Tina Casey