Report by Jennifer Tonti, Managing Director, Survey Research & Insights.
Every November 11, our nation pays tribute to military veterans who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. At JUST, we want to honor the moment by taking stock of how the public views corporate America’s responsibility to veterans, and by analyzing how companies are currently performing when it comes to supporting the American veteran workforce. Our findings show the ways in which the public believes corporate America can best support this cohort and in turn, contribute to creating a more just and equitable economy that supports all Americans
JUST Capital, in collaboration with our research partners at The Harris Poll, surveyed active duty military and veterans, their family members, and the wider public. Of the 3,058 respondents, about 13% were active duty or veterans themselves, 31% were immediate family members of veterans or those serving active duty; 24% were extended family members of veterans or those serving active duty; and 50% were neither veterans themselves nor had family who were (respondents could fall into more than one group, therefore percentages do not add to 100%).
Over time, our polling has consistently shown that a strong majority of the public believes that, as corporate leadership is the driving force behind just business behavior, CEOs of large companies have a responsibility toward addressing issues of societal importance. Across a list of issues affecting society, the biggest percentage (87%) of respondents say America’s largest companies have a responsibility to actively recruit veterans to their workforces.
While only 37% of the companies we rank disclose having veteran hiring policies, by and large, respondents say that they would support companies that start new hiring initiatives, and the topmost means of support is purchasing that company’s goods & services or recommending them to friends and family. Those who are veterans themselves or are family of veterans say they would support these companies to a much greater degree (61% would recommend a company, 53% would purchase from that company) than non-veterans (44% would recommend, 36% would purchase).
Looking at the responses to this question across different age brackets, there are generational gradients on recommending and purchasing. Respondents ages 45+ are more apt to recommend or purchase from a company that has announced a veterans hiring initiative, while applicants age 44 and below are more apt to apply for a job at the company or post about the company on social media.
We also see that one in three millennials (age 35-44) say they would invest in a company that started a hiring program, the highest percentage across all generational splits, and about twice that of older Americans (13% among Age 55+). Millennials are a generational segment who are primed to invest and are at a point in their lives in which they may have the means to do so by a more significant margin than older or younger generations.
We then asked respondents about their opinions on the myriad ways that companies can support veterans. About one in three (32%) say that recruiting and hiring more veterans to the workforce is the primary way companies can help, with more veteran respondents (39%) choosing this option than non-veterans (26%). Another way in which companies can support veterans is by developing training, skills, and mentorship programs for their workers (29%) and creating a more inclusive culture (22%), with similar percentages across respondent status choosing these two options. Those who are neither veterans nor have vets in their families are most likely to be unsure about the matter.
There appears to be some differences in opinion on the key way companies can help veterans when we look at results across age cohorts. Younger respondents (age 18-34), are significantly more likely to choose “create an inclusive workplace culture such as dedicated employee resource groups and education and sensitivity training for management and staff” than older respondents, who are more supportive of hiring more veterans for open jobs, by a factor of almost two to one over the younger generation.
Although veteran recruiting is also a key issue, the reality is that veterans face lower unemployment than others. The unemployment rate for veterans has been consistently lower than nonveterans since the early aughts. In 2020, the unemployment rate for veterans was 6.5%, while for nonveterans it was 8.0%.
Issues of veterans’ employment are somewhat deceptive – underemployment is more likely to be a key struggle within this group, with around 12% of veterans underemployed and about 34% more likely to be underemployed than non-veterans. Veterans in the workforce may not be engaged to the full extent of their abilities, resulting in difficulty both finding and landing jobs that closely match training and skills honed during their military experience.
There is public awareness that underemployment is an issue. When asked how much employers are doing to help veteran workers achieve their full potential in the civilian workplace, a majority (57%) say most companies are “not doing enough,” and more veterans (62%) than non-veterans (54%) say employers aren’t doing enough.
Providing more inclusive support to veteran employees is an issue both in the workplace and in a company’s surrounding community. America’s largest companies have aways to go to align with the public’s priorities and develop programs to address not just unemployment but underemployment – and in our companion analysis, we see that these efforts also pay off in the market. As we mark Veterans Day this year, we are reminded that corporate leaders play a key role in supporting American veterans, and that the public at large is eager to support the companies that make these efforts a priority.
This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll in partnership with JUST Capital from October 25–27, 2021 among 3,058 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. The survey is not based on a probability sample, is not representative, and therefore no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact Jennifer Tonti, Managing Director, Surveys & Polling at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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