Hiring managers see veterans as valuable recruits for civilian companies but still struggle with how to handle their concerns and professional development, according to a new survey released by the Hiring Our Heroes initiative on Wednesday.

The study, which included interviews with 400 hiring professionals and 1,000 veterans, found that business leaders have helped make their corporate culture more welcoming to transitioning troops in recent years. They’re actively looking to hire veterans, and see them as ideal employees.

Managers interviewed listed military experience as a top three recruiting priority for their firms, with 77 percent calling their skills an important addition to the work force. Eighty percent ranked finding employees with higher education degrees that same level of importance.

Hiring Our Heroes graphic

A new survey from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Hiring Our Heroes program found abundant respect for veterans experience and skills among hiring managers.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Hiring Our Heroes
The survey, funded by The Merck Foundation, found human resource managers overwhelmingly see veterans as more disciplined (86 percent), collaborative (67 percent) and hard working (61 percent) than their civilian peers.

"They also express few concerns about hiring veterans," the report states.

But more than half of the hiring managers surveyed said they had little to no understanding of military rank and structure, making it difficult to match veterans' experience with appropriate jobs.

"There is still a civilian/military divide," said Eric Eversole, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Hiring Our Heroes program. "There is still a cultural divide ... and veterans still don't know what they don't know about civilian jobs."

Fewer than one in four managers think their workplaces have negative biases against veterans. But nearly half of the veterans surveyed for the report said they have faced negative attitudes and treatment in civilian jobs.

Of the 44 percent of veterans who left a job within a year of being hired, 16 percent said they had difficulty relating to colleagues, and 14 percent said they had trouble relating to their company’s operations and culture.

"To retain these veterans, employers must do more to help their non-veteran employees — especially human resources professionals and hiring managers — understand military service and structure," the report notes.

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The study also found that female veterans tend to struggle more with finding a post-military job than men.

Roughly 56 percent of male veterans said they found employment within four months of separation. Only 45 percent of female veterans said they did.

Program officials said they hope the findings can redirect veterans employment efforts to more focused results, given the success of broader initiatives in recent years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated roughly 7 percent of veterans were unemployed in 2014, but recent months’ estimates have fallen below 5 percent.

Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at
lshane@militarytimes.com .