How can private-sector best practices be implemented to improve talent management in the United States military and the broader national security enterprise? Serving military officers answer here in a new series of features in collaboration with Military Leadership Circle (MLC).
Currently, 200,000 service members leave active duty each year. They enter an environment in which half a million veterans are unemployed, and an unknown number are underemployed. Veterans tend to possess skills and qualities that would make them valuable contributors in the private sector: work ethic, leadership experience, and the ability to work within a team to meet an objective, for instance. Yet, despite each branch of the military having a transition assistance program, studies show that among the 10 factors that hamper service members’ transition to the private sector, the inability to translate military skills and experience into the civilian business world figures prominently. Put simply, many veterans lack the tools and skills to market themselves appropriately.
In addition to this, on the corporate side, most hiring managers have little if any military experience. They are unable to understand and interpret a service member’s qualifications. As a result, they cannot adequately match veterans to available positions.
Online skills translators are available to military members, but they vary in quality. More importantly, without a thorough knowledge of private sector options and lexicon, a veteran will find limited utility in even the best skills translator. Strikingly, the inability of veterans and employers to understand each other is a significant factor in 44% of enlisted people leaving their first post-military job during the first 12 months.
Those familiar with the military’s highly-structured personnel system might find this lack of adequate skills-translation odd. Every enlisted service member has a Military Occupation Specialty (MOS) code or rate. Officers have similar designations. In addition, personnel have many other designators such as Army Additional Skills Identifiers and Navy Enlisted Billet Classification codes that further specify their skills and experience. Combined with a service member’s years in service and rate or rank, these designators actually offer a high degree of specificity as to an individual’s qualifications and experience.
Indeed, some have recognized the value of using already-established military designators to inform civilian hiring. Currently, the State of Texas requires all job advertisements to include MOSs and similar designators that match the qualifications for an opening. While the program is somewhat rudimentary, it points the way to solving the communication gap.
There is also an economy of scale that can be exploited in the civilian hiring process for veterans. Whereas a veteran is looking for one job, the typical private sector employer has many positions to fill. Among those who are especially interested in hiring service members, a consortium could be formed to create a more robust system that would translate the qualifications they need for various openings into specific military designators and sub-designators. Military advisors, either on a volunteer basis or as seconded by their respective services, could assist the consortium in fine-tuning its matching process. Thus, if a company needed to hire a GIS Support Analyst, it could market this position to those who served as an Army 12Y/35G, a Marine Corps 0261, a Navy AG, or an Air Force 3E5X1, all of whom would have at least some of the experience needed.
Once such a system was designed, a company could train one or more of its human resources people in its use. In this way, a culturally-ingrained, replicable understanding of military specialties—so vital to appropriately hiring veterans—could be established, thereby increasing veteran employment in appropriate civilian roles for years to come.
About the author: Rabbi Kevin Bemel is a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy Chaplain Corps and a member of the Military Leadership Circle. The views expressed here are the author’s own and do not represent the positions of the Department of Defense, United States Navy, or any government agency. More information on the Military Leadership Circle can be found at https://militaryleadershipcircle.com.