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Quiet Professionals

WAC Signal Corps field switchboard operators in 1944 Photo Credit: public domain

WAC Signal Corps
field switchboard operators in 1944
Photo Credit: public domain

Did you know? Women military veterans make up 0.57%  of the entire U.S. population.

That number probably doesn’t mean much for you. So, for everyone out there who skims over dry statistics, let’s make this more visual.

Since it’s football season, and I am feeling especially nostalgic, let’s try this:

Imagine if Broncos’ Mile High stadium was filled to capacity (that’s 76,123 people, for you non-football fans out there) –  only 434 seats in the stadium would be women veterans.

Whoa!  We are a pretty small (but distinguished!) group of ladies.

It’s even more impressive when you take a moment to think about the fact that these 434 brave women were not obligated to serve in any way.  They saw that our country needed their service and they volunteered.

So why is unemployment among these brave few soaring? Why does women veteran unemployment remain higher than their male counterparts? Why is it that their service is largely undervalued or unrecognized by employers?

I believe their value is simply lost in translation.  In general, there is a lack of understanding and awareness of military culture – and especially of the role women have played in the armed forces for decades.

Now before we get our hackles up, get bent out of shape, or grab ammunition to defend ourselves on this uncomfortable topic, let’s just take a look at the numbers. Fair enough?

In July 2015, the Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Report showed that women veteran unemployment was between 28% and 109% above the national average (of 5.3%), for people under 45 years old.  Further, the unemployment rate was two to three points higher for women veterans than men veterans.

But it’s not all doom and gloom – there is good news!

When women veterans do find jobs, they tend to earn more than their non-veteran peers.

However, the bad news is that in order to enjoy this earning advantage, women veterans work longer hours and more weeks a year than non-veteran women.

To compound the problem, women veterans do not experience the same level of equality outside of the service, and often face the gender wage gap when they enter the civilian workforce.

While great strides are being made to improve unemployment among veterans as a whole, we need to do more to recognize and understand women’s roles within the armed forces.

As women veterans, we serve alongside our male counterparts every day, often doing the same job for the same pay, making the same sacrifices, and enduring the same hardships.

As new jobs open for women within the military, these positions will only strengthen the contribution women have made for decades.

As we head toward Veteran’s day this November, please take time to acknowledge the service and sacrifice of our women veterans. These brave few who, when their country called, had the courage to stand up, raise their hand, and say “send me”.


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Are you compliant?

Word cloud on federal veteran hiring regulations

Is your company in compliance?

Did you know that the federal government has established hiring benchmarks for federal contractors and subcontractors?

I’m sure you are aware that affirmative action and equal opportunity employment laws have been in place since the 1970s. However, did you know that disproportionately high unemployment rates among veterans and citizens with disabilities provoked congress into action in 2013. In other words, contractors and subcontractors who enjoy federal contracts are now being asked to be part of the solution and hire more veteran and disabled candidates.

This is where it gets a little complicated, but more information can be found here and here. The law became effective in September 2013, and new regulations became effective in March 2014. By October 2014, U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs published a Final Rule which resulted in a streamlined form and more detailed reporting requirements for 2015. Use of the new form, VETS-4212, will begin in August 2015. In April 2015, based on 2014 reporting data, the Department of Labor reduced the veteran hiring benchmark from 7.2% to 7%, which is reflective of the percentage of veterans in the workforce!

So what does all this mean?

Companies with U.S. Federal contracts or subcontracts are required to report their veteran recruiting and hiring data. This reporting requirement impacts an estimated 200,000 companies in the United States. In addition to working toward the 7% veteran hiring benchmark, companies must also assess the effectiveness of their outreach and recruitment efforts as part of the compliance reporting procedures.

To further complicate matters, the benchmark is for protected veterans only. Unfortunately the way the laws are written not all veterans are considered “protected” and the classifications can omit a narrow margin of veterans. Be careful not to unintentionally undervalue someone’s military service simply because Congress did not deem their time of service as “protected”, this can lead to poor recruiting and retention practices.

So how is a company supposed to improve outreach and recruiting efforts?

1) Acquire a veteran lens.

Veteran candidates are not the same as traditional candidates. They are motivated by and attracted to different things. Taking a look at job descriptions, marketing materials, and recruiting approach through a military lens will help a company be more successful in recruiting and retaining their veteran workforce.

2) Learn the skills and benefits all veterans bring to the workforce.

Veterans, regardless of MOS (military occupational specialty, aka job) develop a tremendous set of soft skills. Learning how skills such as adaptability, flexibility, teamwork, and leadership are developed in the military provides a foundation for understanding the deep value veterans bring to your workforce. Check out our professional development page for more information.

3) Focus on retention at the onset.

Veterans are quality employees that will be loyal, mission driven, and accountable leaders. Employers seeking to hire a veteran for the sake of recruiting metrics or compliance alone, misses out on the valuable benefits veteran employees bring to their company. When leveraged effectively, veterans can positively impact employee engagement and improve productivity in any department.

Diversity and Inclusion

An emerging diversity and inclusion demographic, Veterans bring strong culture and traditions with them to the civilian workplace. The employers who take the time to invest in learning these cultural differences and how to leverage their veteran employees, will see the greatest return on investment and position themselves as leaders in their industry.

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You’ve Hired a Veteran … Now What?


I am thrilled to see the corporate world embracing the skills and abilities of today’s veteran population.  The initiative, started in 2011 by JPMorgan Chase and eleven coalition companies, to hire 100,000 veterans by 2020, has seen significant growth.  This initiative, barely four years old has doubled their original goal and with 180 coalition companies in 2015, they are poised to hire even more veterans in the coming years.  These companies not only see the value of giving back to those veterans who have served to protect our freedoms and our way of life; they also understand the value each veteran brings to their workforce and know that these highly skilled and knowledgeable individuals will continue to improve our economy.

With all the attention congress, veteran organizations, and employers are placing on hiring veterans more veterans will be positioned to obtain gainful employment in the coming years.  While these groups are doing great work to prepare the veteran to obtain a job, there is little support or process for integrating veterans into the new corporate and civilian culture.

So what does the veteran need to successfully integrate into the civilian and corporate culture?

Communication and understanding. 

To successfully integrate into the corporate culture, veterans need clear direction and guidance. This is easier to understand when we take a quick look at what they were accustomed to in the military.   The military offers a highly structured environment.  Everything the servicemember needs to know is easily accessible and explicitly detailed.  Are your company or organization policies as descriptive and robust as the military?  If not, your veteran may have some trouble adjusting to your corporate culture without clear guides.

Veterans leave the service with a can do attitude, prepared to take on the civilian world and believe that with hard work they will find as much success in the private sector as they did in the government sector.  Unfortunately that is not always true.  Veterans are unprepared for the challenges associated with acclimating into a new culture.   They have highly developed adaptation skills, honed over years of responding under pressure and frequently changing missions and landscapes.  They believe they are ready.  While they certainly have the skills, knowledge, and ability to acclimate quickly, the steep learning curve is often overwhelming and can bring on feelings of frustration and failure early in the process.  When this happens, the veteran can experience significant self doubt and not know exactly where to turn since all the previously successful tactics are no longer working or available.

As your company takes the strategic step to hire veterans you must also consider what steps to take in order to assimilate these veterans so they are adequately prepared for succeeding in your environment.

Veterans will face minor challenges from the start. 

Seemingly meaningless customs and tasks such as dress code, expense reports, and personal greetings can be completely foreign to a veteran.  While this may be addressed in your company’s orientation documents and policies, they may include assumptions and therefore not offer clear direction and guidance to the military veteran.  For example, a dress code that indicates business casual attire as the required apparel for your company may not resonate with a veteran who has spent several years with three choices of uniforms that are clearly identified for specific occasions and environments.

These minor challenges are merely growing pains for the veteran, and will pass quickly.  However, companies who take the time to review policies and procedures through a military culture lens will reap huge benefits when it comes to retention.  Veterans are a loyal bunch.  When they are sincerely supported throughout their transition they are more likely to be highly engaged in their work and stay longer at your company.  Consider investing in military cultural awareness and review policies and onboarding procedures through this new lens, you won’t regret it!

There are greater challenges associated with assimilation that cannot be taken for granted.  Taking a deeper look at the top 5 challneges veterans face as they assimilate into your culture will provide insight to how best support your veteran hire.

Structure – military culture is centered and dependent on the team environment.  Everything that is accomplioshed in the military is successful because everyone on the team pitched it.  In the corpaorte environment, the culture is largely focused on individual contribution  and personal achievement.  Adapting to this culture requires the veteran to understand the philosophy and background, it cannot be merely communicated or wait for them to learn it along the way.  The veteran starts the race behind and must work extra hard to make up the difference.  Educating your veteran at the onset about this cultural difference and the culture of your organization specifically will go a long way to acclimating that veteran and reaping the benefits.

Motivations – Veterans join the military for a variety of reasons, however, a sense of purpose and duty is instilled in every servicemember as they move through their career in the military. This sense of purpose and belief in what they are fighting for is the foundation of their courage and moves them into action.  While they may be motivated by the traditional offerings in a corporation such as money, bonus, more responsibility, an office, or a new title, consider that those motivations will pale in comparison to their previous motivation of protecting their country, its citizens, and their freedom.   Consider alternate ways to engage veterans and have them buy into the mission of the organization.

Rules of engagement – In the military there are clear rules of engagement.  They know when and where they can and cannot move, what their mission is, and how to accomplish it.  They also have a variety of contingencies floating around in their minds and are constantly working out new solutions within the ROE.  When they move to the business world, the rules of engagement are not as clear.  There may be a language or jargon barrier that prevents them from understanding where the boundaries are.  This goes beyond the general sentiments of how to do their job.  It speaks to the larger culture, communiation, and interaction between all employees at the company.  Understanding the new lingo, and how to appropriately communicate with peers, subordinates, and supervisors is a critical component to the veterans success.  Certainly, the veteran will (and has) been learning this through trial and error since they left the service, however what can an employer do to help them learn this language, customs, and manneurisms before they make a mistake and learn from it.

Turnover – Turnover is a costly challenge facing all companies whether there is a recession or not.  Losing key talent can be expensive, especially when you consider retraining, and institutional knowledge.  Why take the risk with a veteran you have already inve3sted so much into.

Military servicemembers and their families are accustomed to frequent change.  They change positions and/or location every 2-3 years. In the event of frequent deployment they may change as frequently as 3-6 months.  They do not have a choice, they cannot negotiate a better assignment, they cannot leave the company for a different opportunity.  They must adapt, they must move, they must start over all over again.

This is an important distinction for veterans since they possess confidence that they can start over if they need to.  Companies who invest in their veteran hires and support them as they integrate into this new way of life, will build trust and raport with their veteran hires and succeed in retaining this coveted talent for many years.

Benefits – So what is the benefit of investing in assimilating the veteran?  By investing in your veteran and integrating them for corporate success you access their core values of duty, honor, loyalty, dedication, and leadership.  Investing in the veteran employee is actually an investment in your company. As they acclimate successfully to your culture they will engage other employees around them.  Once they know the language of your company, they can articulate the mission, assign duties, and ensure accountability as they reach for success.

Investment in integrating a veteran will allow you to leverage all the greatest assets that veteran has, help them adapt to their new culture, and find greater success.

In the military we say, train as you fight.  Prepare your veteran for the corporate world and then reap the benefits of their corporate success.

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Sacrifice and Responsibility: For America, For You

feb newsletter

Sacrifice and Responsibility: For America, For You
by: Dawn McDaniel

Why is it that less than one percent of the population serves in the military? Have you ever taken a minute to really think about that? 

I interact with a lot of people veterans and civilians alike and I gauge their reaction to military and veterans. The hard reality is the generations of today do not reflect the same level of pride and honor for their country, for their freedom.

Decades with an all volunteer force, has made this country forget what the true sacrifices are for freedom. Sure, people talk about it in a cavalier manner, but do they truly reflect on what it would mean to be without freedom?

Throughout my travels I have seen an increasing lack of appreciation for freedom. I even question, at times, if these younger generations could comprehend what it was like without freedom. The greatest generation was and still is a prideful group. They worked hard, fixed things that were broken, took their time to get it right the first time, and they valued their freedom. Many even left their homelands for the land of opportunity.

The United States of America used to be filled with people who were proud of themselves and their actions, took care of their neighbors and built communities, and knew how valuable freedom is. This is what made them the greatest generation. This is what prompted them to fight for freedom and their way of life. Everyone was invested and the Nation was unified.

Today, the focus has shifted. As a result the appreciation for freedom and the understanding of what it means to be without it has virtually vanished from the majority. There is an expectation that things will be given rather than earned, replaced rather than fixed, and happen at the speed of light.  These thoughts are not grounded in reality. Instead, someone makes the sacrifice so that these things can take place as they appear.

This responsibility and sacrifice falls squarely on the shoulders of our military and their families. They volunteer to fight the hard fight while others demand and replace things. They sacrifice time with their families, miss weddings, births, and deaths of close family and friends, all so that the rest of the nation can experience them in real time.

The military respects and appreciates freedom in a different way than most. It is easy to respect and appreciate something you do not have. While many may think that the military is an easy lifestyle, this just shows how little they understand. When you cannot take that vacation, the one that took two years to plan and save for, because Uncle Sam needs you to help the nation, you have no freedom. When you must wear a specific uniform, morning, noon, and night; you have no freedom. When you have no choices and no control, you have no freedom.

The USA has a wealth of freedom, and with all things that are in over abundance they are easily taken for granted. Consider what a few sacrifice for the many, so that the citizens of the USA can maintain their desired lifestyle. Taking some time to educate yourself on the military culture and sacrifice can go a long way to building your own appreciation for your freedom and opportunity in this country. Perhaps if more people did that, we could emerge as the greatest generation again!

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Military welcoming job descriptions

I was at a meeting, a summit really, where we were discussing corporate job descriptions and how they are not military welcoming.  This is a continuation of the concept that only Veterans must take the steps to integrate. Well my friend, it is more than a two way street and civilians, veterans, business leadership, and government all have a stake in this game.

But, I digress.  During this conversation, one company shared how they changed their job description to read college education or military experience equivalence. This was ultimately met with a law suit that said that it put those without a college degree, no military experience, but 20 years worth of experience at a disadvantage.

Two things come up with this scenario.  First, military experience, education, and training are seen as less valuable than a college degree.  Likewise, decades of experience are also seen as less valuable than a college degree.  I ask why?

What about a college degree makes it more valuable than experience or military training?  Does hands on training account for nothing?  What about those who are well read, brilliant, and still couldn’t afford a college degree, are they somehow less valuable people, employees, contributors to our society?

I think that notion is absurd!  We all have something to offer.  Will our experience, education, or training qualify us for every position we seek, not likely.  However, to rule out the possibility and potential within someone simply because one box isn’t checked is illogical.

I understand that there was a time where education set candidates apart.  I understand that a job description that pulls in 10,000 applications needs some barometer with which to whittle down the candidates.  I understand that some jobs also require specific book knowledge and experience that is gained in a bachelor’s or master’s program.

However, I think we can do better!  As a nation of highly educated, free people, we can identify a way to evaluate the potential of a candidate on more than just the credentials they paid for.  I believe that we can support and encourage our fellow Americans to reach for their fullest potential and not just a job.  By shifting the focus off of these paid credentials and providing opportunities for candidates to illustrate their potential we will have a stronger workforce, a stronger community, and a stronger economy.

As hiring managers, we need to start looking for aptitude for skill sets and core competencies.  The truth is that every company trains their new hires.  Some train a lot, while others train a little.  However, I have yet to see a single position that required no adapting to the company culture, product, or people.  These are things that are learned.  A candidate that is adaptable, trainable, and has a strong work ethic will succeed with the right guidance and training. Veterans with or without college education are strong candidates for any company.

So I ask you, how will you leverage your employees for success?  How will you empower them to illustrate their true potential, rather than quickly dismissing them based on a series of letters after their name?

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