Tens of thousands of military Veterans pour into the civilian workforce each year. This growing number brings opportunity for both businesses and Veterans, and many big-name corporations (Uber, Starbucks, Comcast) are refocusing their employee recruitment efforts on former service-members.
It’s a smart strategy. As former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said in a news report about his decision to proactively hire more Veterans:
“The level of integrity, ethics, leadership skills, and value they bring to our society and our company is unparalleled. …The Veterans and military spouses we’ve hired have made us a stronger organization.”
Yet this seemingly major shift in recruitment trends doesn’t mean the promised jobs will be a good fit for Veterans. Companies should ensure their work environments are better aligned and welcoming for their new Veteran employees.
Here are just a few examples of ways that company leaders can help Veterans better acclimate to their corporate culture from the start.
• Mentorship: By implementing mentorship programs, many companies have effectively smoothed the transition for their military hires. Traditionally, a Veteran is paired with a senior-level employee who can answer all the Veteran’s questions on employee benefits, rules (explicit or implied) of the office, career-advancement strategies, and any other concerns.
• Recognition: Being aware of holidays that may be important to Veterans — such as Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Veterans Day — is an easy way to create a more military-friendly workplace. During these observances, you can consider recognizing the Veterans in your office in a company-wide newsletter or even giving all employees the day off to honor your commitment to showing military appreciation. On the other hand, some Vets may be trying to put their military experience behind them and wish to not be reminded. A common factor for this could be post-traumatic stress , which the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says affects nearly 31 percent of Vietnam War Veterans, 10 percent of Gulf War Vets, 11 percent of Afghanistan War Vets, and 20 percent of Iraq War Vets.
• Flexibility: Consider whether the Veterans in your office may have special needs (emotional or physical), and make sure your office setting accommodates these needs. This practice is not only a smart business decision, but is most likely legally required. Some Veterans may also need your support when fulfilling their responsibilities to the Reserves or National Guard, such as no-penalty time off and flexible deadlines.
• Education: Many communities offer Veteran support groups for transitioning service-members. Learn what resources exist in your town, and make sure your new Veteran employees are aware of all the support services offered by local groups, state and federal government agencies, and Veterans service organizations. Managers should also be well-versed in the resources they have as part of employee benefits, including employee assistance programs (EAPs).
• Communication: Simply being aware of some of the do’s and don’ts of communicating with Veterans is one of the quickest ways to help them feel welcome in a new work environment. Do: Listen, show interest in their past experiences, make time for one-on-one interactions, and provide clear and timely feedback. Don’t: Assume poor job performance is military-related or connected to a stress disorder, ask if an employee is seeing a mental health professional, or leave out specific details when saying a Veteran employee isn’t meeting performance targets on time.
Want even more support for growing your business with Veteran employees? Take a look at SAVI’s services for businesses here, or follow us on social media.