Employment of veterans: what do employers think?

According to the Ministry of Veterans, after the war, Ukraine will have about 4-5 million veterans and people involved in veteran policy. But the process is already underway: people are returning from the front, and most of them will enter the labor market after rehabilitation and recovery. Therefore, veterans should be returned to society with dignity, taking into account their background. Are employers ready for this?

The State Employment Service has conducted a study that rhetorically stated that the number of veterans and people with war-related disabilities will continue to grow. At the same time, not all employers understand the scale of this phenomenon to make a realistic assessment of the situation and make adjustments to their HR policies to accommodate vulnerable groups.

The robota.ua platform “took the temperature” of the market by initiating a survey among nearly 350 companies. It turned out that more than 88% of employers are generally ready to hire veterans, 10% could not give a definite answer, and 1% are not ready in general.

At the same time, almost 48% of companies said they already have veterans and combatants in their teams. More than 52% want to invest in training, retraining, and psychological support for their veteran employees.

New algorithms are needed

 Stas Shykhov, CEO ITExpert

Hiring veterans is not a massive process yet. Companies do not have adjusted algorithms, they act on a case-by-case basis. But very soon this issue will require adequate answers, so everyone should be actively preparing.

As for IT companies, they demonstrate neither a very negative nor a very positive attitude to cooperation with veterans and people with disabilities, because it requires additional efforts and attention. At the same time, these people will still have to compete with other professionals. It will be quite difficult for those who decide to start working in IT from scratch, as the industry is oversaturated.

According to Djinni‘s statistics, as many as 41 specialists respond to one vacancy with “no experience”. So here, IT companies are competing for the strongest, regardless of their status. The exceptions are state-owned and large non-tech companies that have to hire veterans and people with disabilities under quotas, based on the Labor Code (unlike the vast majority of IT professionals who are self-employed).

ITExpert emphasizes that employers should take care of the psychological health of veterans, adapt them to work, taking into account possible PTSD and their condition in general. They should start with at least a minimal improvement of the employee benefits by offering, for example, corporate psychological support programs. In turn, the team should understand how to communicate with colleagues after demobilization or a severe traumatic combat experience. The focus is on openness, understanding, and help. All other areas (working approaches, education, improvement) should be the same for all team members.

It is worth starting with the right communication

Anastasiia Chernychenko, HRBP Wargaming Kyiv

Adaptation of employees who have returned from the frontline is a complex process. After all, such an employee has objective and complex reasons for this – injury, personal circumstances. None of the reasons should be discussed among colleagues, and we immediately warn about this.

It is especially important to emphasize that colleagues do not compare his/her circumstances with those of his/her close relatives/friends. For example, “my friend had a concussion, and it is okay, he continues his military service”. This is unacceptable. That is why you should warn the team and management that you should not ask about the reasons for returning until the employee wants to share.

Upon returning, our company offers our colleague to take a vacation, adjust to life away from the frontline, and get ready to return to normal. The manager of the returning employee should plan the workload and ask what kind of work pace will be acceptable at first. It is not necessary to deliberately give fewer tasks or very simple tasks, as a person returning to civilian life often does not want to feel “special”.

It is also suggested to go out for half a working day, choose the format – office or work from home. We work with IT professionals, which is why we have opportunities for additional flexibility.

Another necessity should be the contacts of psychologists working with soldiers, but they should not be given on the first day and the need to visit specialists should not be emphasized. It is also worth asking how ready a person is to communicate with a psychologist now; maybe he or she is already seeing a specialist. The main advice is to focus on the employee’s feelings about returning to work, ask about their condition, be in touch but not to be annoying, and be able to keep a secret and be ready to be flexible in work processes.

What should be the long-term strategy: from analytics to adaptation

Kateryna Serhiienko, IT Recruitment Consultant, ex-Head of Recruitment

I really hope that in the next 5-10 years a quantum leap will be made in this direction, because at the moment, the concept of inclusive employment is almost non-existent in Ukraine. It is the creation of jobs and opportunities for people with physical disabilities, various types of limitations, and disablement.

Legislation should drive this direction on its part, ensuring equal access to education and establishing quotas for employment of such people in various sectors.

Partnership with employers will facilitate professional retraining and training of people according to the actual needs of the company – this is a very effective way to always have specialists.

The societal factor is also important, where we need to raise awareness, create comfortable conditions, and provide financial support. The path is not easy, but now is the best time to take specific steps.

I believe that numbers will be an effective tool for business. Therefore, it is very important to collect analytics: how many people are currently in the Armed Forces, how many are returning, how many are ready for employment, etc. Because one way or another, companies will not have the option of not hiring veterans. We are talking about a significant number of specialists who have already worked until February 24, 2022, and they need to be returned to their jobs. And it is HR and recruiters who are the first to work with the market who should broadcast information to businesses, top managers, and customers; the metric of success should be hiring, the number of vacancies filled by veterans.

I know that Epam, Ciklum, SoftServe, StarLightMedia, and FozzyGroup were among the first to hire veterans. I am also very pleased with the training that is becoming more and more popular; IT giants, such as SoftServe, as well as non-tech companies, such as WOG, are working on it.

We have to understand that since 2014, a completely new layer of people has emerged in Ukraine who are ready to give and are giving their lives for our country, who are going through tragic and traumatic events. And we have to do everything possible to communicate effectively and correctly, to adapt them and bring them back. That is why I recommend that companies engage psychotherapists, psychologists and psychiatrists in practical trainings so that each person understands the intricacies of work and improves their skills.

I recommend using materials created by volunteer organizations. For example, the PRAKTYKA guide from VeteranHub should become a handbook for every recruiter, HR, and more. On my desk, I also have guides from the volunteer project “How are you, brother?”, which contains the most complete information about working, studying, or living with a veteran.

I studied this issue with the help of practical activities of the USA and Israel who have experience in it. The main point I came up with was just one fairly simple rule, but with a deep and extensive meaning: recruiters and HR need to learn how to communicate with veterans.

This is a difficult topic for our society. But we are on the way to the European Union and there will be changes.