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Business Observer Friday, Aug. 14, 2015 3 years ago

Betting on Vets

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A Tampa firm with offices on five continents has found success in helping military veterans find work.
by: Traci McMillan Correspondent

The unemployment rate for U.S. military veterans is higher than most other demographics, a nugget at which many shake their heads.

But that gap is an opportunity at WilsonHCG.

The Tampa-based company, founded in 2002, is a recruitment process outsourcing and talent-consulting firm. That means it handles every step in getting new employees, from growth planning to recruitment to hiring. Clients include retail, manufacturing and high-tech as well as banking, finance, and insurance companies. In the last few years, the company has gained recognition for a new area of business: consulting services for veterans.

Its veterans program, Operation Transition, landed the company on Profiles in Diversity Journal's list of the 25 Most Influential Companies for Veteran Hiring the last two years.

Operation Transition offers military men and women and their spouses monthly group meetings and one-on-one coaching to help them find a job. Meetings cover everything from
resume writing and personal branding to technology updates and interview coaching. During the trainings, WilsonHCG also presents opportunities available with different clients.

All of the services to vets are offered free of charge, according to WilsonHCG's Vice President of Recruitment Solutions Kim Pope. “We have a huge platform that gives us the size and scale to give back,” she says. “It's also helped our organic word of mouth.”

The need to help vets is stark. While the overall U.S. unemployment rate has dropped to 5.3%, about 7.2% of the 3.2 million veterans who served on active duty for the U.S. since Sept. 11, 2001 are unemployed. For women veterans who served in recent wars, the situation is bleaker, with an unemployment rate stagnant at 8.5% in 2014.

WilsonHCG has helped veterans it's worked with land jobs in media, advertising, hospitality, banking and other industries. According to Profiles in Diversity Journal, veterans account for more than 10% of WilsonHCG's client hires. WilsonHCG's monthly online sessions for veterans were so popular it expanded the complimentary service to cover one-on-one counseling with recruiters last year.

The company, beyond its work with vets, is a real global business. It has more than 500 employees across nine offices worldwide, which cover five continents and more than 25 countries. Though executives decline to share revenues, they say the company's locations are growing, including the 85-employee Tampa office.

Veteran recruiting is one of WilsonHCG's niches, along with others such as diversity recruitment, university recruitment and industry-targeted recruitment. The firm will work with clients on any kind of hire, from executives to contractors to temps.

CEO John Wilson founded WilsonHCG in 2002 when he decided there was a huge gap in proactive recruitment and consulting. He felt other recruiting firms were reactive, not helping a company actually prepare for future growth, but only filling the spaces when growth occurred. He created a firm that focuses on recruiting challenges, rather than periodic transactional work.

The company continues to grow through acquisitions. That includes a March acquisition of Clover, S.C.-based talent management company Sumner Grace and Canadian-based Head2Head in April. In addition, the firm has recently invested in expanding its resource center in Europe.

According to Pope, the biggest challenge is maintaining the culture throughout the growth spurt. “It becomes a challenge when you add time zones,” she says. The only way to overcome is “to be innovative, open and transparent.”

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