In 2013 the Office of Federal Contractor Compliance Programs (OFCCP) released new and somewhat controversial hiring benchmarks for veterans and disabled workers. The benchmarks were a part of the final rules implemented in an update to the┬áVietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (“Veterans Rule”) and Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act (“Disability Rule”). While the disability benchmark is set at 7 percent, the benchmark for veterans can be established two ways – based on the national percentage of veterans in the civilian workforce, or by developing a unique benchmark specific to the company and based on five separate factors.

It’s important to remember that OFCCP benchmarks are ‘aspirational’ – so there is no penalty to not meeting the hiring goals. But government contractors who fall under OFCCP must prove their efforts to attract and hire candidates within the targeted categories.

How are the Benchmarks Determined?

Because the percentage of veterans in the workforce changes, the benchmark for veteran hiring also flexes based on Bureau of Labor Statistics. This April, OFCCP announced it is reducing the hiring benchmark for veterans to 7, down from 7.3 percent. That is based on a reduction of veterans in the workforce, based on BLS figures. To search by state or see statistics for other years, visit the OFCCP website.

How to meet the mark?

If you’re just launching a disability or veterans hiring program, or looking to improve your performance against these ‘aspirational’ goals, here are a few tips.

1. Know where to start.

If you have no clue how many veterans or disabled workers are in your workforce, creating a hiring program is impossible. Start with an audit of your current workforce. A basic email from HR asking current employees to self-report is easy enough. Not everyone may reply, but you should get enough response to establish a baseline.

2. Use the benchmarks as a guide.

If you currently have just one-percent or fewer veterans and disabled workers in your company, reaching seven percent this year is highly unlikely. Look at the average number of hires you make in a year and create goals that make sense for your company. Rather than percentages, consider candidates. If you plan to make 50 hires this year (approximately), think about how you could ensure three of those candidates are qualified veterans or disabled workers. Percentages are cold and easy to ignore. When you take away the numbers and consider the candidate, you’re more likely to reach the target.

3. Go fishing in the right barrel.

Using a large social networking site to recruit a highly specialized and targeted candidate is asking for frustration. The smaller and more qualified the pool, the greater your response rate. Groups exclusively for veterans are a great way to start. For in-person events, check out job fairs on local military installations – the cost is often incredibly nominal and the audience very enthusiastic. Online, use targeted groups to reach out. On the Cleared Network, we have groups for each military branch as well as wounded warriors. When you promote an opportunity or make a connection through that group, you know you’re helping to meet your OFCCP benchmarks by actively recruiting veterans.

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Lindy Kyzer is the editor of ClearanceJobs.com. She loves the NISPPAC, social media, and the U.S. military. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email lindy.kyzer@clearancejobs.com. Interested in writing for ClearanceJobs.com? Learn more here.