The Jobs Front

The first quarter of 2012 has showed promising signs for improving veteran unemployment.
By Dirk Olin
During the past year, unemployment among veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan fell more than 6 percent, from 15.2 percent to 9.1 percent. The overall rate for veterans fell from 9.9 percent to 7.5 percent during the same period, which now places them below the national rate of 8.3 percent.
But none of those numbers should be truly comforting—not the national rate nor the veterans rate, despite its improvement relative to the overall. A stand-up comic whose name I can’t remember once inverted a widespread sentiment when he quipped, “Oh, I’m in favor of the war. It’s our service personnel I’m against.” But sarcasm aside, that has often been the sum total of our public policy in this sphere.
Returning veterans can fall victim to ignorance and bias in the private sector and a failure of imagination or resolve from the public sector. This is particularly reprehensible given the social contract that exists (or should) between those who have served and the civilian populace that benefits from their sacrifice.
We don’t owe them a decent shot at jobs. We owe them jobs. But that view, alas, is not always shared, either in principle or practice.
According to former members of the military interviewed by veterans’ organizations themselves, stereotypes abound: That servicemembers are undereducated and less intelligent than civilians (derived by some from a belief that they “had to” enlist in military service because they could find no other good career options); that they’re warmongering martinets, automatons who blindly follow orders, and/or preternaturally violent people without refined moral sensibilities. The strongest expression of these stereotypes is a real or perceived attitude of condescension, and many service members and veterans are hyper-aware of that attitude. (I can personally name three—and they’re successfully employed.)
A tragic irony lies behind this misperception. As revealed in our cover package, veterans typically possess superior skills in the realms of problem solving, resourcefulness, and respect for organizational culture. As someone who’s done a fair amount of hiring in my day, I would prize those traits above domain expertise or graduate training almost any hour of the day.
That’s why the upcoming HRO Today Forum is placing extraordinary emphasis on the state of veteran employment. Our dedicated roundtable—“Hiring Heroes: Integrating Veterans Back into the Workforce”—is designed to help human resources leaders gain an understanding of veteran-hiring issues and appropriate implementation strategies. The session will feature David Coe, a veteran and director of Orion International (a military talent program provider), who offers some case study examples (see page 8) of how veteran hiring programs work. Following that, Emily King, author of Field Tested: Recruiting, Managing, and Retaining Veterans, provides parallel insights.
Learn even more at the sixth annual HRO Today Forum and Workforce Congress being held April 30 to May 2 in Washington, D.C. ( Human resources has always defined workforce stewardship in subtle and important ways, but this is one of those spots in time at which the HR profession’s thought leaders can help make historic change, and I urge you to be part of it.
Elsewhere in this issue (see page 16), you’ll find another of our market-making Baker’s Dozen Customer Satisfaction Ratings, this one ranking top providers in talent management. And on page 24, managing editor Debbie Bolla takes us inside the mind of Allegis’ Chad Lane, a pioneer in managed service programs whose career has evolved right along with this emergent discipline. Last, if you’re in the mood to see some conventional wisdom debunked, turn to page 30, where our technology guru, Brent Skinner, reveals why the death of the job board has been greatly exaggerated.
I hope to see you at the HRO Today Forum. The economy—and our veterans—need your help. 

Tags: Consultants & Advisors, HRO Today Global, Professional Contribution

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