Serving Those Who Served: Strategies for HR and Business Leaders to Better Understand Veterans
America’s 20.6 million Veterans are full of untapped potential that can help nearly any civilian organization thrive. These former service-members bring unique and valuable skill sets from their time in the military to the business and nonprofit worlds, including teamwork, leadership, discipline, and problem-solving. When you start recruiting Veterans as an HR professional or company leader, you first need to better understand the military culture that they are transitioning from, their work ethic, and the challenges they may face as they first return to civilian life. Without this understanding, you risk setting up your company, your new Veteran hires, and the team they support for serious strife later on.
6 Key Assets Veterans Bring to Civilian Jobs
While the military’s culture may differ drastically from your company’s, the intensity that Veterans are trained to apply to their jobs on a regular basis can help take your civilian organization to the next level. As team leaders and members, Veterans have at least six deeply ingrained traits that are worth considering as potential assets to your workplace:
- Excellent personal accountability. Veterans’ commitment to follow-through will influence (and maybe even foster competition among) the rest of your team, as they understand how important policies and procedures can be to mission success.
- A unique type of adaptability. With their experience in ambiguous and challenging military training settings, Veterans are uniquely equipped to overcome nearly any new or difficult situation in the workplace.
- Combat-tested leadership experience. Veterans are relentlessly dedicated to the success of their teams. The adverse environments they experienced during service makes them quick to develop devoted followings among subordinates and peers alike.
- Demonstrated self-reliance. The innovation and initiative that Veterans exhibit in their day-to-day performance will ensure they will seek out and weigh all available assets when working to accomplish a goal, perhaps even in ways your company hadn’t previously considered.
- Unwavering resilience. Veterans are trained to persevere through all types of challenges — personal and professional — to get the job done no matter what. The warrior ethos instilled in service-members does not turn off after transitioning to civilian life. Instead, it drives Veteran employees to excel in the business world and to overcome obstacles and challenges that your company may face.
- A deep belief in the value of hard work. Indeed, Veterans have spent years — sometimes decades — working tirelessly to protect our nation and the people they love. Veterans as employees will quickly earn your trust by giving any task their all, likely motivating other employees to work harder as well.
No matter your organization’s industry, new Veteran hires are guaranteed to have the interpersonal skills, motivations, and adaptability to move your company toward future success.
Making the Most of Your Veteran Hire From the Start
When you first bring a Veteran onto your team, you’ll benefit from having regular check-ins during at least the first six months. During these chats, be prepared for feedback and questions, as Veteran employees are sure to be vocal about ways that they might better supported or for your team to operate more efficiently.
As a start, here are five strategies you should implement alongside these check-ins if you want to retain the Veteran talent you worked so hard to recruit and then hire:
- Educate your team. Either before or early on in the onboarding process, brief your leaders and employees about the differences in culture and expectations between the military and civilian sectors. This will help ensure that your new Veteran employees have a comprehensive support network as they learn the ropes. Managers should also be trained to more effectively communicate with former service-members — perhaps even getting to know some military terminology that could help speed up a shared understanding.
- Build a Veteran-specific process. HR teams should consider designing an onboarding process specifically for Veterans transitioning out of military service. Briefing sessions should clearly address the structure of your organization, provide key points about the reality of the field you operate in (including the pace, major players, and landscape), and offer a quick rundown of the terminology and acronyms they will encounter on a daily basis. Veterans will likely easily pick up on these acronyms, as they are accustomed to using such terms in military life.
- Foster mentorships. Veterans will appreciate a chance for on-the-job camaraderie, especially in a completely new setting. Developing an informal or formal mentorship program that keeps them connected to others at your organization will remind them of the family-style relationships they once built with their fellow service-members.
- Connect the dots. Veterans operate with a purpose in mind. You can ensure that your Veteran employees will be more effective by clearly tying their everyday responsibilities to your organization’s overall purpose. Veterans will appreciate seeing their hard work pay off in a big way for your organization.
Has your organization adopted a strategy that worked particularly well (or not so well) for transitioning Veteran employees? Share your ideas in the comments section, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like to learn more about how SAVI can help your organization recruit, retain, and engage former service-members, reach out to our team at email@example.com.