Retaining Military Veterans in the Civilian Workforce

Organizations are incurring significant economic losses due to the high rate of U.S. military veteran attrition during periods of post-service transition. The study explores the factors affecting veteran churn and makes recommendations for employers that may reduce this turnover.

Veterans of the United States (U.S.) armed forces are leaving their post-service employment at a rapid rate, with 50% leaving their first job within a year of transition (Ford, 2017). With approximately 200,000 veterans transitioning into civilian employment each year, these numbers are troubling (p.37). Veteran retention rates in the U.S. are as low as 20% to 35%, in the first two years post-service transition. Retention rates among employees in the U.S. workforce are approximately 77%, significantly higher than that of transitioning veterans (Work Institute, 2019). This high rate of churn among transitioning veterans has a large financial impact on employers, costing millions of dollars in addition to the loss of productivity. In addition to the high cost for employers, veterans are also negatively impacted by post-service employment churn with periods of unemployment, difficulty assimilating into civilian culture, a lack of peer and social support, and social isolation. Organizations need to have a better understanding of the factors that affect veteran churn.
This study provides a systematic review of the literature to identify the factors impacting veteran churn rates and how organizations can increase veteran retention. The findings of this research include six common themes that contribute to veteran retention and attrition: social support/peer support, culture, health (mental health, physical disabilities, and functional impairment), supportive leadership, cultural competency, and mismatched job skills. The themes were viewed through the theoretical lens of social identity theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1979). The article provides concrete recommendations for employers that may help to reduce veteran churn, which can save employers money and improve the veteran transition process. The recommendations consist of the following two overreaching areas and are based on the findings and flow through the theoretical lens:
1) Culturally competent hiring and training, which includes job/skills match, veteran-centric onboarding, an established performance management plan, clear career progression, and a clear understanding of veterans’ health issues, as well as how the disability laws protect veterans.
2) Supportive practices, including social/peer support, and supportive leadership, which includes programs that promote social/peer support as well as support from leadership that promotes a positive work-life balance.

Authors: Patty LePage


Cite as: LePage, P. (2020). Retaining military veterans in the civilian workforce. Muma Business Review 4(9). 91-106.