Appreciating Veterans in the Workplace
Valuing the Service
We've Been There, Done That
Understand that many transitioning Service Members have leadership capabilities above and beyond the typical civilian employee. Value this characteristic and find ways to weave leadership responsibilities into the civilian position. Be sure to overtly demonstrate the values your company places on military training and experience, perhaps by creating a Veteran-specific page on your website or reaching out to a local Veterans Service Organization (VSO) to find out how you can partner to assist in transitioning Service Members into the civilian workforce.
Different People, Different Needs
Many companies offer their workers access to Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) – employer-sponsored services designed to assist employees and their families with managing work and life's daily challenges. EAPs have a long history of providing resources to help employees with personal and job performance issues, identifying and resolving workplace challenges (ideally before they result serious problems at work), and promoting healthy lifestyles. It is necessary for EAPs to continually update their tools and resources in order to keep on top of potential issues that may impact the workforce.
While there are an overwhelming number of resources that support (multiple) deployment and reintegration issues for Service Members, Veterans, spouses and family members, there are some specific tools and resources recommended by the Employee Assistance Professionals Association. Additionally, EAPs may wish to develop partnerships with local Veterans Service Organizations and/or a local VA office in order to stay connected and updated on new resources.
Service Members Understand Each Other
Mentorships are not a new workforce concept, but according to the information gathered from Veterans and employer networks, Veterans in particular look for connections (and ways to connect to their peers) in the civilian workforce. Ideally, someone who has had similar experiences and has already been through the transition process could provide support to a new or transitioning Veteran employee. While Employee Assistance Programs help employees address personal problems, the guidance, support, friendship and advice from one Veteran to another is unparalleled.
People, as a whole, simply want to feel connected and comfortable – and this is no different for transitioning Service Members. Consider reaching out to your employees to learn who your Veterans are, as well as military spouses and family members. Find out from those groups what you can do to support them – and what they can do to help support new Veteran employees in your organization.
Don't just talk it, Walk it
Just as many companies recognize and celebrate Black history during the month of February, or breast cancer awareness during the month of October, so too should Service Members and the families of Service Members be recognized for their service and/or the ultimate sacrifice on Veterans Day and Memorial Day. While our Veterans should be thanked and honored year round, consider special recognition of these national holidays within your organization. Consider including a workforce education initiative on issues related to Veterans and their families.
Of course, appreciating Veterans means much more than specific events during the year. Recognition as a Veteran-friendly organization should be an ongoing effort and can be accomplished by all organizations, large or small. Recognition as a Veteran-friendly organization can be accomplished. The point is to make it a purposeful focus and not a haphazard one. Consider including a Veterans hiring initiative as part of your company's overall strategy for human resources.
Lieutenant Commander Chip Lutz, USN(Ret) works with leaders who want to lead better, get more done, and leave a legacy. A retired Naval Officer, under his command as Commanding Officer of two different Naval facilities, both his teams received national recognition for setting new standards of service while maintaining high morale and high retention among team members. He also knows about meeting critical objectives during stressful conditions – having served as the Director of Security for Naval District Washington, DC during September 11th, 2001 – where he was responsible for the safety and security of 25 thousand people on 6 different Naval installations in the National Capital Region. Currently, Chip is the President of Unconventional Leader, LLC and also the Past President of the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor as well as the Wisconsin Chapter of the National Speaker's Association. He has authored 4 books.
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