Integrating former military service members into your company is not only a noble and patriotic gesture, it makes good business sense. Veterans bring character qualities of loyalty, leadership, resiliency, and integrity to the workplace. As many companies seek to build their position as a military-friendly employer, they find the challenges of integrating someone with no (or very limited) civilian work experience manageable with training and awareness.
Employers who are recognized as military friendly companies typically earn their ranking because they demonstrate a commitment to:
- Hiring large numbers of veterans, Guard and Reservists, and military spouses;
- Creating robust recruiting and hiring initiatives focused on the military service member;
- Promoting special programs and affinity groups for veteran employees;
- Collaborating with other companies pursuing veteran hires;
- Growing veteran employees into leadership roles; and
- Measuring the outcomes of their hiring and retention efforts.
Once the veteran is hired into the organization, the effort doesn't stop there. To engage your entire team, and make your company truly military friendly, consider these best practices:
Create an open dialog
Oftentimes, the veteran will find himself or herself working alongside civilian employees who have no personal connection to military life. The civilians on the team might have questions about military service, what skills the veteran brings to the job, and how to best work with their new colleague. They might even feel intimidated by a veteran employee with combat experience. As a manager, you can begin the conversation about the new team member by inviting employees to ask questions and offer input where desired. Creating an open dialog can foster a healthy working environment for the veteran employee and their colleagues alike.
By virtue of the work the military requires, veterans bring leadership skills to their civilian jobs. But veterans also make great team members. They are accustomed to being part of a team, and collaborating across multiple channels to meet goals. Because the veteran employee comes from a different work culture and style, they can bring fresh perspective to the corporate discussion. Encouraging them to share their insights and perspectives on existing programs and efforts can bring collaboration to a whole new level in the organization.
Encourage participation in your affinity group
Hopefully your company has a group focused on veterans' issues and needs. A veteran resource group, or affinity group, is a great place for the new veteran hire to meet people with similar backgrounds and experiences, and share mentoring with other former service members now at your company. Employers who encourage individuals to engage in groups and clubs in the company find that job satisfaction increases.
Pave the way for growth
Creating a military friendly company means having a clear path for veteran employees to grow within the company. From the hiring process, to onboarding, to leadership positions, make clear what is needed to build a career at your company. Remember, in the military career progression is more predictable than in the civilian world, and spelling out career advancement steps will help veterans to stay focused on the mission of their work, and how they can grow their career.
Include military families
Companies that recognize the role that a military spouse and family play in the veteran's reintegration typically receive high praise from veteran employees. Consider programs to hire military spouses, and include the spouse in events and group opportunities. This gesture and effort goes a long way in recognizing that the whole family sacrifices for the commitment of the service member.
When integrating a veteran employee into your team, a few tweaks to your current systems, some training and education around their talents and skills, and awareness of the opportunities hiring a former service member offers the team and the company are worthy investments.