An origin story: Closing the gap between employers and the hidden talent pool of military Veterans
This Challenge Factory work advances the above UN Sustainable Development Goals.
We love telling stories here at Challenge Factory.
To help you understand the work we do with military Veterans and employers that need to fill labour and skills shortages, we’ve written a short story that imagines a future in which the workforce challenge we’re addressing today has been solved.
Below it you’ll find a case study that summarizes our work and impact on closing the gap between employers and the hidden talent pool of military Veterans.
Want to learn more? Contact us today.
This story takes place sometime in the near future…
The whistle of the kettle pulls me away from the headline I’m reading. I haven’t seen anything lately about employers searching desperately for staff. Gone are the doomsday predictions about labour and skills shortages. They’ve been replaced by inspiring human-interest stories about people from hidden talent pools, like Canada’s military Veterans, doing meaningful work in meaningful ways.
I pour the water over my coffee grinds, taking a minute to sink into the smell and warmth. That’s what we did…we took a minute. We took the time to understand ourselves as employers, neighbours, Canadians, and people with bias that went largely unchecked.
We took the time to understand Veterans too. We spent a year just listening to their experiences, challenges, and wins by attending events and getting involved with organizations that bring Veterans together.
I stir the coffee grinds with my secret ingredient—a pinch of salt—and laugh a little to myself about how we chose to stir the pot all those years ago.
I remember being on a train, reading Thank You for Your Service right before I met with the higher-ups at Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC). It was an American book; except for one VAC survey, there was little information about life after service in Canada at the time. I wanted a better understanding of what our Canadian Armed Forces (CAF)members face when they transition from the military into civilian roles in their work and lives.
I knew that it’s about an identity shift for CAF members. I had built my business on identity-based career shifts. This was easy for me to see clearly. I also knew there were programs to help support Veterans with this transition. But I realized these programs were missing a secret ingredient, an unanswered question. What do employers think of Veterans in the workplace, and do Veterans actually work differently than regular Canadians? No one had ever measured this—there was a lack of quantitative data on the workplace behaviours, and motivators of Veterans. So, we stirred the pot, and we did this research ourselves.
I was surprised by the research outcomes. I wondered how many small- to medium-sized business owners just like me had ever considered hiring a Veteran. I remember thinking that if I had a gap in understanding them as high-potential, sought-after talent, how many other employers have that same gap?
We stirred the pot again by asking why the onus is on Veterans to showcase themselves as great employees. If employer bias is impacting hiring, that isn’t something Veterans could or should fix. Bias can be quantified. It’s not just a question of, “Is there bias here?” Instead, we asked, “What’s the bias?” Once you know that, you can do something about it.
Today, as I sip my coffee and scan more labour market headlines, I’m reading between the lines to see the ripple effects of our work. Everything started when we used an existing, psychometric assessment tool in a totally different, innovative way to objectively assess the triad of 1) Veterans at work, 2) the profile of regular Canadian workers, and 3) employer perception. I’m grateful to start my mornings with coffee and peek at the careers section, because it’s mostly good news now.
This future-focused story provides a glimpse into our Veterans work. For more details on our work and impact, check out the case study below.
“What a Veteran will bring to a business cannot be taught in a classroom; it’s learned through experience. As a business owner, I’d want to know and understand what my return on investment would be for a lot of things, but the people would be number one. The MasterClass, podcast, and guide will help employers better understand what hiring a Veteran means and how to go about setting both themselves and the Veteran up for success.”
“While focused on military Veterans, the strategies proposed in this Masterclass are applicable far and wide and would assist any employer in tapping hidden talent pools across Canada. What’s more, critical concepts of career management are integrated throughout. Going beyond recruitment and onboarding, the MasterClass shows you how to easily connect the dots between your organizational needs and employee ambitions to drive stronger performance.
With small business in mind, Challenge Factory directly tackles the core concerns of employers: no time or resources; it’s risky; and it’s complicated; to embark on a new approach to hiring. With snack-sized, digestible, and engaging content, learning is made easy. The addition of templates, checklists and additional resources add to the value.”
Case study: How Challenge Factory works to address labour and skills shortages in Canada
- Canada’s military Veterans experience identity-based challenges when they leave the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and enter the civilian labour market. Some struggle to find any work; others struggle to find the right work that will lead to fulfilling careers.
- Canadian employers miss out on hiring talented, adaptable Veterans who can fill their labour and skills shortages because of biases about this population.
- Veteran-serving organizations and funders like Veterans Affairs Canada
- Career development organizations like CERIC
Who we help:
- Non-profit and government organizations working to support our Veterans through programs and services
- Employers across Canada that need to find, hire, and retain great talent—with a focus on small- to medium-sized businesses (SMEs)
- Veterans transitioning to civilian workplaces
- Before addressing the needs of a new population (Veterans), we spent a year just listening to their experiences, challenges, and wins by attending events and getting involved with organizations that bring Veterans together.
- We piloted experiential programs that brought together Veterans and transitioning older workers, who also experience identity-based career transition challenges, to test how inclusive learning programs can break down barriers and lead to better career outcomes for both cohorts.
- We conducted market research that found a) little was understood about employer biases concerning the Veteran population, and b) few employer-focused tools and resources existed to help SMEs understand why Veterans make great hires.
- We conducted the first ever national study that quantified the civilian workplace characteristics of Veterans (such as communication styles) and defined specific biases that exist in employers.
- We created a suite of employer-focused tools designed to help them find, hire, and retain Veterans (and understand why they should).
- We conducted a national study to measure the impact of our three employer-focused tools:
- We’ve developed a deep understanding of how experiential learning programs can break down barriers and lead to better career outcomes for Veterans (and older workers).
- Our work has led to the modification of aspects of Veteran career transition supports across the country.
- For the first time, there exists an evidence-based understanding of employer perceptions of Veterans, differences in military-civilian communication styles, hiring challenges in tight labour markets, and the need for employer-focused tools and resources.
- Our learnings and insights about how employers use hiring tools and where there are opportunities for improvements can inform transition, job development programs, and other supports offered to employers and Veterans.
- We’ve developed a reusable program evaluation model for future use.
- We’ve engaged with hundreds of small business owners, hiring managers, Veterans, and Veteran-serving organizations across Canada.
The next steps:
We continue to use the findings of our national impact study to foster conversations, connections, and learning with SME business owners, hiring managers, Veteran-serving organizations, Veterans, and other third parties who provide support to Canada’s employers and transitioning Veterans. As part of our research-to-practice approach to all our work, we also continue to use the recommendations developed from the study to identify future research needs and inform Veteran and employer-focused supports on an ongoing basis.
First-of-its-kind quantitative study
- Final project report: “A question of style: How working style impacts Veteran hiring success in Canada”
- Careering magazine: “Veteran working style and civilian workplace culture: Lessons learned and next steps”
- Blog: “Overcoming unconscious bias in Veteran hiring”
- Infographic: Do Veterans have a different working style than civilians?
- Free webinar: What HR and career professionals need to know about “misunderstood” candidate groups such as Veterans
In the media
- Hillborn Charity News: “First ever Canadian Guide to Hiring Veterans launches”
- NewsTalk 1010: “A guide to hiring Veterans”
- Toronto Sun: “Veterans an ‘adaptable, hidden talent pool’”
- The Weekend Morning Show with Dave Trafford: “Hiring Veterans – Bias that blinds employers to critical COVID-19 business recovery skills”