Employing veterans, good business?

By G. Holland vanValkenburgh

VANCO Financial Group

Recently, but really for several years, we have found employers unable to find and hire suitable new employees.  The same complaint has come from Hoteliers, Manufacturers, Auto Dealers, Restauranteurs, and Retailers.

They say they cannot find people with the requisite skills or job-seekers who are willing to work. They find – and sometimes hire – those who simply don’t know what working requires and have never worked. They have no work ethic: They are sufficiently independent or self-indulgent that they display no obligation to follow rules or to seek or absorb on-the-job skills. Even college graduates have unrealistic expectations and put an exorbitant value on their still-wet degrees. When a business degree grad was asked where he expected to be in five years, he confidently replied he would be on the Board of Directors of that public company.  That ended the interview.

When these young (19 to 29) applicants are hired, many are found to be untrainable or just plain lazy. Some took the attitude that a ‘starting wage’ was beneath them and others seemed not to care that they could be fired for not doing what they were told to do. Of course, the turnover is draining company resources best applied to getting on with business.

George L. was looking for welders, computerized design workers, and skilled project managers. He received several applications from recently separated U.S. military veterans and automatically put them at the bottom of the pile or into the ‘circular file.’ His reasoning:  they showed no experience in welding or computers and had done nothing at all similar to custom manufacturing.

Instead, he interviewed younger high school graduates with unspecified computer experience and some who stated they had welding experience. Most were a disappointment.  The result was a frustrating replacement ratio costing the business time and money better spent on production.

Disgusted with his lack of success, George finally delegated the hiring to Paul, one of his designers. Paul, formerly in the Navy and now in the National Guard, immediately elevated the veterans to the top of the pile. His first interviewee spent six years in Air Force communications: His MOS [Method/Mode Of Service] included knowing how to repair (weld & solder) the equipment as well as using and maintaining computers. The next two were ex-Army with limited skills but an obvious desire to learn and earn. The fourth, a Marine, admitted to no skills and was rejected. The fifth was an injured former motor pool mechanic and instructor forced to take a medical discharge.  His knowledge was extensive and his can-do attitude, infectious.

Paul convinced George to hire all four. Three are expected to stay and make a solid contribution to the business. After only nine months, the motor pool sergeant is on his way to becoming the next project manager. The airman is welding some days and working with cad-cam and customers on other days. One Army vet is making great strides as a welder and a hard worker. The other, equally dependable, has cut back his hours as a welder to continue taking college courses in engineering.

Paul has since hired three more veterans. George could not be more pleased, especially since we showed him how to screen for, file, and collect Workers’ Opportunity Tax Credits [WOTC] on his U.S. Veteran hires.

When pressed, George, like other employers, admitted he had seen no relevance to his custom manufacturing in the prospects’ military service. The few soldiers he interviewed, he thought stiff, somewhat formal, and made him ill at ease. Now, he says, he understands that they were entering unfamiliar territory and were just as uncomfortable. He remarked how the new hires had ‘settled in’ after three months and became more voluble and relaxed as they began to blend in with other employees.

As an aside to other employers, Paul and George recommend having a veteran interview the new civilians as the military jargon and experience is Greek to outsiders. Also, a fellow-veteran may know instinctively how to get a newly-separated vet to open up. Soldiers do not usually volunteer conversation with their superiors, which an employer would always be.

George and Paul are not alone in their desire to hire veterans. In general, employers find them to be reliable, trainable and definitely not averse to hard work. They are trained to be loyal team players. Most have proven to be quick learners and eager to lead or be led.  To date, our clients have far less turnover among veterans. Often, they are older and more mature than fellow-applicants and may already be responsible for supporting a young family.

As consultants, we always review the box marked “WOTC” with our employers. The tax credit ranges from $1,200 to $9,600 for new hires and must be filed quickly or it is lost.  It applies to veterans as well as ex-felons, the long term unemployed and other categories.  We recommend HR or whoever is doing the hiring screen all applicants for the credit before they are selected. Thus, of two equal recruits, the one with the credit can be preferred. Uncle Sam requests it. Our portal permits the employer to screen the applicant and file for the credit seamlessly via computer. It also searches for other applicable tax credits.  More details can be found here:  https://gmg.me/186344

As a part of our support of veterans, we created an ‘app’ to enable veterans to generate a “certificate” to be attached to their resume, physically or electronically, that announces to a prospective employer that the applicant, a veteran, comes with the bonus of a tax credit. And –by the way– here’s how you can collect it.  It is called Spark My Resume:  https://SparkMyResume.com/186344 

The tax incentives aside, veterans are preferred because they have been through hardship (Remember Boot Camp at Fort Jackson?), have persevered, been team players, and have learned to win as well as to lead and be led. They learned new skills, were graded on their performance (not always fairly), and usually dealt with and rubbed up against the most diverse group of people — in the service as well as wherever they were stationed.  They have been forced to adapt and become resilient to succeed and get along.  Their discipline and strong work ethic are always remarked by employers.

Negative stereotypes of rigidity and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and concerns with anger management come more from the media than reality. While there is always some truth in clichés, these are minor concerns that can be somewhat allayed if veterans are examined by fellow vets who know how to ask the right questions. To date, I have heard nothing about these negatives from employers.

In short, hire a veteran. File for the applicable Tax Credit immediately as a bonus, using our portal. Monitor his or her performance compared to your other employees. I sincerely doubt you will be disappointed.  It is good business.

About the author

Holland vanValkenburgh, principal at VANCO Financial Group is a U.S. Army veteran with 40 years of experience finding answers to critical financial questions.

2019-11-11T16:56:07-05:00 November 11th, 2019|BUSINESS-STORIES|