Improving Job Retention for Veterans with Challenges

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“Get a job, keep a job, get a better job” remains a popular mantra in the military workforce community. This mantra implies that holding on to a job and remaining in the workforce should be a central goal for any job seeker. In this article, we explore a few key elements of job retention, job matching, and job retention planning. While employment related programs offer numerous services aimed at helping veterans gain employment, their ability to maintain long-term employment remains unknown. Roessler (2002) describes an approach to help people with disabilities improve job retention.

For veterans leaving homelessness or returning from incarceration, employment plays a pivotal role in the transition back into the community, providing financial means that can serve as a platform for securing other important sources of stability such as permanent housing, social support networks, healthy relationships, and self-esteem.

There are many factors that hinder job retention among veterans. Some of the biggest challenges are transportation issues, lack of childcare, unexpected personal challenges, and unstable housing. A worker with insufficient work skills and training, lack of relevant experience, and a limited education might find keeping a job difficult. Additionally, the stigma associated with prior justice involvement can pose challenges to obtain or retain employment. Other issues such as substance use as well as physical and mental health issues can also significantly inhibit an individual’s ability to find or retain a job.

Job Matching Value

Making the right vocational choice relies on an informed decision about an individual’s personality, traits, interests, and aptitudes. It also asks an employment specialist to consider how these traits are complemented or supported in a work environment. The O-Net Interest Profiler is a tool that can help veterans match their interests with careers they are likely to find satisfying.  Strong correlations exists between corporate culture, individual values, and employee retention. Matching organizational culture to employees’ values and benefits may increase job satisfaction and retention. In a 2014 study, researchers found that fifty-five percent of the employment specialists believe that matching employees’ values to the organization’s culture was significant for job satisfaction as well as their decision to remain with the organization. (Inabinett and Ballaro).

For an Employment Specialist, the task of matching the right career with the right job seeker is like being a matchmaker—where the people and work are paired. Employment Specialists help bring workers and employers together. For many companies recruiting veterans, employers have support programs to help veterans transition into a civilian workforce. These can be successful in reducing role stress, increasing employee satisfaction and engagement, and increasing veteran retention rates (Singh 2019).

Working Ahead of Potential Challenges

Maintaining employment requires basic soft skills that include developing and maintaining relationships with co-workers and supervisors, following directions, making use of interpersonal and other supports, problem solving, communicating understanding, listening, adaptability, teamwork, and conflict resolution. Many employers seek job candidates who have these abilities and are more often willing to teach new employees the occupational skills necessary to meet job performance requirements. Employers value soft skills because they demonstrate the internal thought processes of a person and how effective they will be in the organization.
Challenges such as  Post Traumatic Stress, current or prior substance abuse, and mental health concerns can pose potential difficulties for job seekers. It helps to be aware of such issues, and the strategies to manage them and their potential impact at work. Working ahead of potential challenges may mean requesting job accommodations from an employer (such as a flexible schedule, more regular supervision, job duty checklists, etc.) or making use of interpersonal supports.
Employment Specialists should be aware of the resources available to support veterans who would benefit from counseling services. While counseling is not provided by Employment Specialists, they can help improve job seekers’ skills so they are better able to navigate their responses to triggers or to manage their interpersonal communications. Reading case studies or role-playing difficult situations can help job seekers develop a repertoire of skills needed to get along.

Job Retention Planning

Job retention planning includes goals and strategies likely to reduce employee turnover and attrition. A job retention plan is developed with help from the job seeker, it identifies unique challenges and needs. A strong retention plan will also help align the job seeker with potential employer goals. Another important component of job retention planning is making sure employees are engaged, satisfied, and productive over the long-term. Harrod (2017) found that newly hired veterans’ personal challenges manifested themselves within the workplace, affecting their ability to maintain employment. Participants felt as if they had been demoted from what they did in the military, and they felt unable to relate to civilian co-workers. Employment Specialists can identify skills needed and supports to anticipate the potential adverse consequences of such experiences. The Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP)is often used as a basis for developing a job retention plan (Keenen 2016).

Today, the best employees want:

  • Career development opportunities and a change to grow in their chosen field.
  • Regular feedback on how both they and the company are doing.
  • A chance to contribute directly to the organization and be recognized for doing so.
  • Flexible work schedules that recognize their need for work/life balance.
  • A good salary or wage and an opportunity to increase it over time.
  • Benefits tailored to their individual needs.

(Careeronstop 2021)A retention plan might include goals such as: requesting supervisor feedback quarterly; learning how to request a salary increase; maintaining sobriety; or managing relationships with co-workers. Each stated goal would require a strategy before achievement, what the veteran needs to do, how helpers and natural supports will help the veteran succeed, as well as a timeline for achieving goals and the retention plan. Plans should also address career advancement and job changes. Also, Employment Specialists follow-up with veterans on the job, conducting brief job retention surveys that may stimulate conversation about how to improve job satisfaction and retention. Addendum 1 provides a sample list of job retention survey questions.


Companies are strongly interested in recruiting veterans and often provide the matching resources and supports to retain veterans. A better understanding of the difficulties some veterans face trying to maintain employment is needed. Research findings suggest that increasing awareness of existing programs and ensuring that services provide resources and skills that help veterans maintain long-term employment is critical (Harrod 2017).


Careeronestop. (2021) downloaded from on January 3, 2021.

Harrod, Molly, Miller, Erin M., Henry, Jennifer, and Zivin, Kara. (2017). ‘“I’ve Never Been Able to Stay in a Job”: A Qualitative Study of Veterans’ Experiences of Maintaining Employment’. Work, 57:2, pp. 259 – 268.

Rural Health Innovations (2016). Recruitment and Retention Plan Samples. A technical assistance resource center supported by Contract Number HHSH250201400024C from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Downloaded 1/3/2021 from

Inabinett, Jean M.; Ballaro, Julie M. (2014). Developing an Organization by Predicting Employee Retention by Matching Corporate Culture with Employee’s Values: A Correlation Study. Organization Development Journal. Spring 2014, Vol. 32 Issue 1, p55-74.

Keenen, Joan. 2016. Using Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) as a Strategy for Job Retention, presentation at the OSECE Individual Placement and Support Annual Statewide Conference October 5-6, Silverton, Or.

Keeping up the Good Work, an online course for jobseekers, helps job seekers and newly hired employees consider what it takes to keep a job and plan for staying employed. Available at .

Perkins, Daniel F., Aronson, Keity R., Morgan, Nicole R. Bleser, Julia A., Vogt, Dawne, Copeland, Laurel A., Finley, Erin P. and Gilman, Cynthia. (2020). Veterans’ Use of Programs and Services as They Transition to Civilian Life: Baseline Assessment for the Veteran Metrics Initiative, Journal of Social Service Research, 46:2, 241-255.

Roessler, Richard T. (2002). Improving job tenure outcomes for people with disabilities: the 3M model. Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin, 45:4, Summer.

Singh, Linda (2019). The Impact of Veteran Support Programs on Stress, Satisfaction and Retention for Veteran Employees. Dissertation Presented in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Doctor of Philosophy, Capella University, April.

I received adequate orientation and training.    
My job gave me a sense of accomplishment.    
My workload has been acceptable.    
I was provided appropriate technology and equipment for my job duties.    
Coworkers were approachable.    
My supervisor was approachable.    
There was adequate communication between leadership and workers.    
My supervisor provided enough recognition of my efforts.    
I have been able to resolve interpersonal conflict effectively.    
Employee performance review process was fair and effective.    
My salary was fair for my responsibilities.    
I have been satisfied with my overall benefits package.    
Overall, I was satisfied with employment at (Organization).