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The world of veteran recruitment was in a tizzy last week when Walmart announced that it would “Hire Any Veteran Who Wants a Job”.   At our Veteran Recruiting Conference last week (#VetRec13) the consensus was fairly even between those who thought “good for them – if anyone can do it, Wal-Mart can” and those who had the same concerns that have been voiced in the media (i.e., these are low wage jobs, not commensurate with veterans skills, discriminating against those who have been out of service for more than 12 months, they’re just in it for the tax credit etc.)  And, more than a few attendees were anticipating that their companies would now feel pressure to also make a public commitment to hire veterans.

I hope Walmart takes this commitment two steps further and:

I don’t think the real question is whether Walmart will be able to meet its hiring goal.  Walmart is a huge organization with more than 4,000 stores nationwide and another 5,600+ internationally.  I’ve seen one statistic that says 90% of the US population lives within 15 minutes of a Walmart (I believe it, as I live within 15 minutes of two Walmarts and every city I have lived in when I was on active military duty had a Walmart).  It has over 2.2 million employees (1.3 million in the US alone) and, with a reported annual turnover rate of 37%, hires approximately over 480,000 people every year.  So, straight-line math says Walmart needs to hire an average of 20,000 veterans each year (4.2% of all hires) to meet their goal – which certainly sounds do-able.

Walmart jobs run the gamut from cashier to store manager to distribution center manger to purchasing agents, truck drivers, to real estate and e-commerce professionals.  So, the jobs in question are not necessarily low wage / low skill jobs with no benefits and could very easily leverage the skills that veterans have learned in the military.  The sheer number of locations could accommodate service members where ever they are or to where they are willing to relocate.

The real issue people should focus their brain cells on is how Wal-Mart plans to execute this ambitious recruiting plan.  I.e., what is their strategy and how are they preparing their recruiters and hiring managers for such a massive commitment?  What plans do they have to leverage the military’s relocation benefit and the Department of Labor’s job training programs?  How are they preparing to accommodate and/or create customized opportunities for veterans with disabilities?

For any company that is considering making a commitment to hire veterans, it is important to set goals in order to accomplish results. A goal is not the same thing as a quota.  A goal is a desired result.  A SMART goal is one that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. In other words, SMART goals require a lot more thought and detail, and are more likely to be accomplished than goals that are vague.  It is one thing to say “we want to improve our recruitment and retention of military veterans” (a vague goal) and quite another to put SMART goals in place for how that desired outcome will be achieved.

So, what are some SMART goals that your company could set in place for 2013? Let’s create a scenario where your desired outcome (goal) is to hire 50 veterans by the end of 2013, a number which represents 5% of all hires you plan to make in 2013. Here is a planning process I have used to help me focus on setting SMART goals.

If I want to hire 50 veterans, I am going to have to interview 250 qualified veterans. In order to find 250 qualified veterans to interview, I am going to have to get my opportunities in front of at least 2,500 veterans (NOTE: your own planning ratios may vary, based on your level of experience with finding and interviewing military members and the kinds of roles you are trying to fill). What steps do I need to take to achieve those numbers?

  1. The first step is to get very clear on the military skill set you seek:
    1. Are you looking for specific occupations (such as engineers or truck drivers) or transferable/soft skills (such as organizational skills, project management, or supervisory experience)?
    2. Are those skill sets found in the enlisted grades, warrant officer grades or officer grades?
    3. What grade range (i.e., E-5 through E-7) should you target to find military members who have the right experience, qualifications and salary expectations for the role you are proposing?
    4. Once you have defined the skill set for the roles, the next step is to determine where to look to find military members with that skill set:
      1. Do certain military transition centers organically have larger quantities of the skill sets you seek?
      2. If looking for veterans with the soft skills (which can be found in many places), how can you cast the widest net? Would a combination of physical military career fairs and virtual military career fairs be a good        option? Can you leverage sites like LinkedIn?
      3. Next, decide how you are going to market your opportunities to attract military members. Having a designated info page for them, either through your career site or a separate micro-site dedicated to your military recruiting effort or a Facebook recruiting page will provide them the info they need in order to apply. Here are a few suggestions of what to include:
        1. A clear explanation of the military profile you seek
        2. An opportunity for the military member to connect with your team to         ask questions
        3. A schedule of physical or virtual “open house” events veterans can         attend to meet with recruiters and hiring managers to ask questions         and/or interview

So, once you have gone through the process above, you can set some SMART goals in order to reach 2,500 military members in order to ultimately find 50 to hire. Here are a few examples:

In 2013 we are going to:

  1. Conduct 4 physical open house events in 4 cities and 6 virtual open house events. We will use all available free local resources to help us market these events to veterans. We will provide the free resources with a clear description of the roles and the military profile we seek to fill those roles so they can assist us with finding appropriate people to attend our events. Our goal is to attract a total of 100 veterans to each event and make at least 3 hires from each event. (1,000 veterans reached to obtain 30 veterans hired)
  2. Attend 4 physical military career fairs and 2 virtual military career fairs. The vendors of those fairs will market the event to a broad military audience. In order to encourage more of the types of veterans we seek to hire to participate in these events, beginning 3 weeks in advance of an event we will use our Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter resources to broadcast our attendance at these events and provide a link to our customized military information page so that the military person can see the profiles we seek for our open roles. Our goal is to attract a total of 50 veterans to our booth and make at least 2 hires from each event. (300      veterans reached to obtain 12 veterans hired)
  3. We will provide a phone number (or general email address) on our designated information page that veterans can use to contact our recruiting team with questions. Each recruiter involved in this effort will have a designated day (or block of hours, or whatever time frame makes sense for the size of the recruiting team) that he/she will check for messages and respond to inquiries. Our goal is to ideally have a 10 minute conversation with the veteran to answer questions and guide them to appropriate roles. If a phone call is not possible, then we will provide a      detailed email reply within 5 business days. (Note: get interns or co-op students to assist you with this effort – find some student veterans to assist you since they already “speak military”!) Our goal is to have interaction (phone call or email exchange) with 5 veterans a day, 50 weeks a year, and make at least 8 hires from this effort. (1,250 veterans reached to obtain 8 veterans hired)

You’ll notice these goals and approaches are very “high touch” – it’s because the high touch approach works very well when recruiting military. If you think those ideas sound too complicated or time intensive to do, have you calculated the time and money you’ve spent attending random career fairs and making job postings into the ether and the number of military hires you have to show for it? You have to be much more strategic in your efforts if you want to succeed at hiring military.

If you have questions on any of the ideas I suggest above, I invite you to bring your questions to one of my “Ask the Military Recruiting Expert” sessions that I conduct twice a month. These sessions are completely free and are a great way to “pick the brain” of someone who has developed military recruiting programs and advised or trained others on how to build their own military recruiting programs.