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Startup ranks firms on vet compatibility

By ranking businesses on their ability to recruit and retain veterans, Military Friendly – a startup established in 2003 under Coraopolis, Pa.-based Victory Media Inc. – seeks to provide a tool for individuals leaving the service to make informed decisions about post-military opportunities.

“There are Fortune 1000 companies tripping over themselves to hire veterans, and about 400,000 returning service members every year,” said Sean Collins, a nine-year Navy veteran and a vice president for Victory Media.

Despite the demand, men and women leaving the service are often at a loss as to how to navigate the job market. The Top 100 Military Friendly Employers list attempts to bridge the gap by highlighting companies seeking skill sets compatible with the attributes of military personnel, including trainability and adaptability.

Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial Services Group, for example, has been a Top 100 Military Friendly employer since 2012.

“There are a lot of synergies between the values of the military and the values of PNC,” said Percy Simpson, a West Point graduate and director of line of business marketing. “While an infantry company commander is not necessarily an obvious choice to run branch networks, the skill set is spot-on.”

The Top 100 list is generated through a 75-question survey that seeks to compile a wide variety of data – from the number of a company’s veteran employees to insurance and medical benefits for both active and inactive service members. The data are then used to assign each participant a score, the top 200 of which are audited by independent advisory boards and members of Ernst & Young LLP.

High-scoring companies tend to report large numbers of veteran new hires, remunerate employees called to active duty, provide retraining for returning employees and include programs that encourage veterans to self-identify.

Many of the Top 100 corporations also position veterans in recruiting positions and provide frequent veteran-specific training to human-resources managers.

The annual Top 100 list is distributed to transitioning veterans through online and print media channels. Not only does it help connect employers and veterans, but it also has promoted best practices for military recruitment and retention.

“We’re affecting some of the biggest companies out there who are changing their habits to be more in line with our assessment tool,” said Collins, citing a 9 percent increase in military new hires among Military Friendly employers as a demonstration of the list’s influence.

Military Friendly also issues annual rankings and ratings of franchises, cities, employers of military spouses and colleges.

“The only thing the Fortune 1000 like more than veterans are veterans with degrees,” Collins said.

In addition to Military Friendly, Victory Media operates four product lines: G.I. Jobs, whose magazine provides veterans with tools for finding job and education opportunities; NaVOBA, a journal connecting corporate members with veteran-owned businesses; Military Spouse, whose publication advises veteran families on moving strategies, travel, weddings, education and employment; and STEM Jobs, connecting veterans with schools and employers that have prominent science, technology, engineering and math programs.

At the end of July, Military Friendly will begin another ranking process of employers. While the evaluation is usually limited to mid- or large-cap businesses, all are encouraged to apply.

“By taking the survey and bench-marking your company, you can begin to incorporate military-friendly practices,” Collins said.