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Everything You Need to Know about Hiring and Retaining Veterans

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By Heather Knutson

As the economy slowly recovers, Hawaii employers are once again able to focus on recruiting. To that end, on February 19, the SHRM Hawaii Oahu Educational Foundation hosted an informative breakfast meeting on recruiting military veterans, a sector of job applicants that many employers often overlook. The event, one of a continuing series of monthly educational programs, featured five guest speakers who addressed a wide array of issues employers should consider in successfully implementing a veteran recruitment program.

Paulette Wage, Regional Human Resources Manager for McDonalds of Hawaii, presented the employer's perspective. She explained that McDonalds has found veterans to be valuable team members because they come to the organization with field-tested leadership and teamwork skills, and adaptability to change. These attributes are particularly important in light of upcoming baby boomer retirements. McDonalds has noted that it takes between 15 and 20 years to develop
officer and senior managers. While the company can accelerate employee knowledge, it cannot accelerate experience acquisition, which veterans bring to the table when they arrive at the company.

Brock McNabb, Team Leader for the Honolulu Vet Center, gave insight into the veteran experience. He explained that employers should consider veterans as belonging to a unique cultural demographic. They bring a wide variety of skills and attributes to organizations, including loyalty and an ability to work as a "force multiplier" to meet operational goals with relentless drive. He gave valuable insight into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, stressing that the condition results
from an external trauma as opposed to a personality disorder or genetic permutation, and encouraging employers to educate themselves on these issues to allay any concerns that may exist regarding veteran hiring.

General Ann Greenlee, Director for the U.S. Department of Labor, Veterans Employment and Training Service for Hawaii and Guam, provided valuable information on effective veteran recruiting. Interested employers can post vacancies on Hirenet Hawaii, join Hawaii Hires Heros (H3) (hawaiihiresheroes@gmail.com), a local partnership of businesses, government agencies, unions, and community organizations aimed at providing jobs and employment resources for local
veterans and military service members. H3 pushes job information to veteran assistance agencies and their clients on behalf of member organizations. Hawaii employers can also participate in the Hero2Hired program (H2H), which assists unemployed Reserve Component service members with job placement. Employers who participate in H2H have access to free job posting and company promotion resources through the Hero2Hired website (www.H2H.jobs/employers).

A discussion of several laws impacting veteran hiring was provided by Emmit White, President & CEO of Arcadia and Ombudsman for the Department of Defense's Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Program, and Brian Mickel, Hawaii Area Director for the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.

Emmit White gave an overview of USERRA and discussed several issues he has addressed as Ombudsman, including an employer's obligation to reemploy covered service members in positions of like status and pay and under the "escalator" principle. He recommended that members review the Law Review Index at www.servicemembers- lawcenter.org for insight into common USERRA issues that employers face.

Brian Mickel reminded members that the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 (VEVRAA) requires federal contractors to create recruitment and retention programs for, and prohibits discrimination against, covered veterans. OFCCP plans to amend its affirmative action guidelines this year, which will include more substantive analyses of employer recruitment and placement efforts under VEVRAA.

Members in attendance commented that the program was invaluable in its comprehensive coverage of this topic, and left the event with tips and resources to immediately implement at their own companies.

Interested in more educational events like this? The SHRM Hawaii Educational Foundation hosts various monthly educational sessions that benefits you and your organization. Join us each month for an educational session!


Heather Knutson serves as the SHRM Hawaii Vice President – Serving the Professional. Heather is a Senior HR Consultant & Staff Attorney at the Hawaii Employers Council. She recently joined HEC after more than 8 years in private legal practice advising and advocating on behalf of Hawaii employers. Heather can be reached at hknutson@hecouncil.org.