How companies can leverage our military community to bolster the region’s talent pipeline | Expert column

Employers understand that Hampton Roads is home to the largest naval base in the world — full of untapped talent and experience that exists within our military community. Yet, they often struggle with how to best engage with service members.

To maintain strong and effective soldiers, the Army adheres to four core values known as “The Four C’s” — courage, candor, competence and commitment. Perhaps we can take a page from the military’s playbook and apply it to our efforts aimed at recruiting, attracting and retaining transitioning service members to meet the evolving demands of our regional workforce.

Candid conversations

Companies should assess their workplace culture and hiring patterns to determine if their business is a good fit for veterans. It’s important for hiring managers to have candid internal conversations about the skills and experience required for positions in their workplace, and how these roles connect to the various types of veterans and transitioning service members.

While most companies understand the value of hiring veterans and have well-intentioned efforts to become a military friendly employer, they often lack the necessary resources, in terms of staff, time and budget, that can often lead to frustration for the employer and veteran job seeker.

Community connections

The military community is often heavily targeted through marketing ads. However, businesses must take their outreach efforts a step further and meet veterans and transitioning service members in the community.

For instance, the Hampton Roads Workforce Council, through the Hampton Roads Veterans Employment Center, hosts several 757 Career Summits and Skill Bridge Expos throughout the year. Employers should consider attending these events and become more intentional about sharing space with the military community. In addition, employers should explore meaningful ways to support veterans through mentorship programs like American Corporate Partners.

As important, social media offers several platforms to effectively engage with the military community, specifically LinkedIn. Follow online military groups and chats and join the conversation. Harnessing the power of social media, employers can also build a network of brand ambassadors that will share opportunities within their companies.

Crack the “cheat code”

The military community is a unique and niche market that employers often find difficult to penetrate. Translating military culture to the civilian workplace can feel like a steep climb, and businesses are desperately looking for how and where to start the employment engagement process.

For this very reason, and to meet the increased needs of businesses and the military community, the Workforce Council launched the Hampton Roads Veterans Employment Center in 2018. The HRVEC provides a unified community process that advances employment opportunities for transitioning service members, veterans and military spouses.

Employers can gain insight into existing and proposed legislation that might impact their hiring efforts as well as tax credits and grant opportunities. Further, programs like the HRVEC are staffed with team members, often veterans, who have established relationships with military installations and are well-informed of employer resources, such as Virginia Values Veterans. Businesses affiliated with the Hampton Roads Veterans Employment Center and other like-minded organizations reap tremendous benefits in terms of gaining real-time engagement with service members and building a solid reputation as a trusted employer within the military community.

Commitment

To tap into the military community and fully realize the vast benefits these connections offer our regional workforce, companies must be invested long-term. Creating a workplace culture that embraces and supports veteran talent requires enterprise-wide buy-in and strategic planning.

Research shows that cultural barriers in the civilian workforce continue to top the list of concerns for veterans and transitioning service members seeking employment opportunities. As such, companies must honor their commitment to hiring military personal from recruitment to onboarding — ensuring they are fostering an environment that affords employees the space to adjust, reorient and thrive in a new career path.

Sultan Camp is the director of Hampton Roads Veterans Employment Centers, powered by the Hampton Roads Workforce Council.