The Home Depot, the US’s largest home improvement retailer, announced last Thursday that it would donate $50 million to a decade-long project to train 20,000 Americans, including veterans, returning military service members, high school students, and disadvantaged youth, as construction workers, USA Today reported. The donation is part of the company’s corporate social responsibility efforts, but there’s also something in it for Home Depot:
Sales at the nation’s largest home-improvement retailer are dampened if contractors and partners can’t find enough workers to undertake projects. Sales to plumbers and other tradespeople comprise 40% of the company’s revenue, [Home Depot CEO Craig] Menear says. The initiative, he says, also builds on the company’s donation of $250 million through 2020 to provide housing to veterans. Soldiers and veterans will make up about 15,000 of the 20,000 construction workers turned out by the training program.
They could make a noticeable dent in a big problem. There were 158,000 job openings in construction in December, up from 140,000 a year earlier. Eighty-four percent of contractors surveyed by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and Wells Fargo in December cited availability of workers and cost as their most significant problems last year, along with rising materials prices.
The announcement comes at a time when many large US employers are taking high-profile steps toward developing the workforce of the future. Lowe’s, the main competitor to Home Depot, recently announced a partnership with Guild Education to help its employees complete training and apprenticeship programs for skilled trades such as carpentry, plumbing, and appliance repair—fields in which the labor market is expected to face a gap of 500,000 workers by 2026.
The US workforce includes roughly 9.8 million veterans, roughly 32 percent of whom served in the armed forces after 2001. These veterans and their spouses have become a focal point for progressive employers seeking to hire from a diverse and often highly qualified pool of talent that is often underutilized. Thanks in part to these efforts, as well as the work of many organizations dedicated to connecting vets with job opportunities, the number of unemployed veterans in the US has declined substantially over the past four years.
Organizations that make veteran hiring a priority do so not only out of respect for their service and sacrifice, but also because they recognize the value veterans can bring to their organization as employees. Our analysis at CEB, now Gartner, finds that veterans are slightly more productive than non-veterans and have lower turnover, by 2-3 percentage points. In fact, the average veteran employee contributes an additional $7,500 to an organization’s overall performance.
Yet despite the extra value veterans have to offer, many employers still shy away from hiring them due to misconceptions about their characteristics, abilities, and needs. At CEB’s ReimagineHR event in Washington, DC, on Thursday, Chris Ford, founder & CEO of the National Association of Veteran-Serving Organizations (NAVSO), led a panel discussion on strategies for recruiting and retaining veterans with Mark Erwin, Special Assistant to the Secretary at the US Department of Veterans Affairs, Ret. Major General Paulette Risher, Chief Programs Officer at Still Serving Veterans, and Dan Goldenberg, executive director of the Call of Duty Endowment. The panelists shared a number of important and in some cases surprising facts about veterans in the American workforce:
1) Veterans Can Be Hard to Find and Don’t Always Self-Identify
The first thing an organization needs to do if it wants to hire veterans is find them. Veterans can come into the hiring process through three different pipelines: While some may come straight out of the military, Erwin explained that fully half of the 250,000 veterans who transition to civilian life each year use their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to attend college, and so will be found through campus recruiting. Countless others, meanwhile, are already in the workforce, but they are not always easy to spot.
Today marks Veterans Day in the United States. Veteran unemployment fell to its lowest level in seven years last year, thanks in part to a strengthening labor market and in part to the success of special programs aimed at recruiting veterans. Not only does a career go a long way in helping a vet reintegrate into civilian life, contrary to some common misperceptions, this cohort has a lot to offer employers that recruiters would be remiss to overlook.
Hilton’s Operation: Opportunity program aimed to recruit 10,000 veterans by 2018 and announced last week that it had achieved its goal two years ahead of schedule. Writing at LinkedIn, Hilton President and CEO Chris Nassetta discusses what Hilton has learned from the program:
We’ve found that veterans don’t always think of a post-military career in hospitality, so we’ve been very proactive in terms of reaching out to them about opportunities in our company. But while a career in hospitality may not always be top-of-mind for veterans, there is significant overlap between our two “industries” – operating a hotel is very similar to operating a battleship or a base. Just like in those military environments, a hotel is a self-contained “village” in many ways, where everything from food to electricity can be produced onsite. By explaining how our business overlaps with their military experience, we’ve been able to help veterans understand that ours is not just an industry worth considering, but one in which they can thrive. …
Veterans Day is coming up in the US, and one of the best ways employers can support members of the armed services is to hire them; getting a job with a supportive employer goes a long way toward helping veterans reintegrate into civilian life. In a post at SHRM about how and why to recruit from this talent pool, Dori Meinert discusses some common mistakes recruiters make when dealing with candidates with military backgrounds:
Uncertainty about hiring veterans is often based on a lack of knowledge about the military or misconceptions gleaned from Hollywood stereotypes, says Peter Gudmundsson, CEO of Cincinnati-based RecruitMilitary, which helps employers recruit and retain veterans. For example, the public overestimates the rate of mental illness among post-Sept. 11 veterans, with 40 percent believing that half of them have mental health issues, according to survey results released in July by the George W. Bush Institute’s Military Service Initiative. In reality, only 10 percent to 20 percent of those deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan experience post-traumatic stress disorder.
Research also shows that employers often don’t understand how military skills can translate to civilian jobs. That’s an obstacle knowledgeable companies can overcome. … When interviewing veterans, cultural differences between the military and civilian worlds can cause HR professionals or hiring managers to miss out on good candidates. Veterans often speak about their team’s accomplishments, using “we” and not “I,” when hiring managers want to know their individual contributions.