If you’re an employer with Veterans on your payroll, you might not be aware of just how much potential these former service-members bring to your organization. Beyond the industry-specific, technical expertise listed on their resumes, Veterans often show up strong in terms of their interpersonal skills — and there’s nothing “soft” about that.
If such skills didn’t come to the forefront during the interview process, don’t be discouraged or assume they’re lacking. In the military, respect for the chain of command encourages deference to superiors until the moment when their own authority is officially granted. This means that the Veteran might not hit his or her stride — exhibiting awesome creativity and leadership — until assigned specific tasks to deliver on for your team.
Yet many post-military employees are also unaware of the tremendous professional assets they possess from the service. That’s why we at SAVI put together the following four-step process, to ensure that you and your Veteran employees can uncover and capitalize on their unique strengths in the workplace sooner rather than later.
1. Begin with One-on-One Engagement: Yes, individual conversations may be a time-consuming endeavor if you have a busy schedule. But making space in your calendar for personalized sit-downs with Veteran employees is key to the strength-identifying process. In these meetings, ask Veterans what they consider to be their own interpersonal strengths (e.g., communication, conflict resolution) and how these could be applied to help your team or bottom line see greater success.
This face-to-face interaction will not only be beneficial for you as the employer, but it will also make each Veteran staffer feel respected as an individual, especially in a potentially unfamiliar civilian setting. Take the time to build that rapport — it will be worth it as you chart a path together.
2. Follow Up with a Strengths Test: Once you’ve heard directly from your Veteran employees about their strengths, have them take an assessment, like Gallup’s CliftonStrengths test, to gain a more objective evaluation of what they offer beyond the duties assigned. According to Gallup’s 2014 analysis of decades of research, simply learning their own strengths makes employees 7.8 percent more productive. The military mindset of your Veteran staffers will likely respect this data-driven approach if you frame it that way.
By layering a quantitative measurement on top of your in-person, qualitative discussion, you’re likely to get a clearer view of what the actual strengths of your Veteran employees are. Such tools are also great ways for any employees to re-evaluate what they think of their strengths versus what the trends and data show, as sometimes personal views differ from reality.
3. Test-Drive Their Skills: Now it’s time to test-drive these newfound strengths. Encourage the Veteran’s managers or project leads to assign your employee a small task using one of the assets identified during the first two steps. (You can also ask the Veteran for suggestions, of course.)
Maybe you have a Veteran employee who appreciates her natural eye for efficiency. Let her prove it by developing a process brief that could streamline an upcoming project phase. Maybe you have a Veteran staff member who tested as a strong communicator. Let him take a client call or give a presentation. The idea here is to put Veterans’ distinguishing character traits to good use — even if they might not be the traits you originally imagined. Get creative, and monitor the results.
4. Create Dream Teams: Once you’ve identified and test-driven your Veteran employees’ skills, now is the time to create your company’s dream teams. The military is an intensely team-driven environment. If you have skill gaps you’re hoping to fill — a project group that needs better organization, motivation, or timeliness, for example — consider a Veteran as the missing link. Veterans know all too well how leveraging different strengths for a single mission offers the best chance for success.
Looking for more ways to recruit, retain, and engage Veteran employees to achieve better outcomes? Visit our website at www.savivets.org today to learn more.