At Thanksgiving, gratitude is the topic on most people's minds. From social media, to community events, and business gatherings, the emphasis is on how to identify what you're grateful for and express appreciation.
For businesses, celebrating gratitude often means customer and employee recognition, community service, charitable support or event sponsorship. When celebrating and showing appreciation for military veterans, some ways to engage your employees, express gratitude, and make a meaningful difference in the lives of veterans and military families, include:
- Learn about the military experience. Take the time to understand the military culture, work style, transition issues, and the life of military families. If you have veteran employees, invite them to share with you what their military career taught them, how their transition has progressed, and ideas about how you could improve their employee experience at your company. Listen and learn, reserving judgement.
- Adopt a VSO. There are thousands of Veteran Serving Organizations (VSOs) across the United States. They exist to serve veterans and military families and focus on areas such as transition assistance, financial education, access to federal and state benefits and programs, support for the military family, rehabilitation, and many other key aspects of the reintegration process for veterans and their loved ones. Choosing one (or a few) to support as a company helps you express gratitude and leverage your company's presence in the community. Your support might also entice customers, vendors, and other stakeholders in supporting a VSO as well.
- Get involved at the national level. Advocating or championing veteran issues at a national level demonstrates your company's support for veterans to a larger audience. Through various government programs (i.e., U.S. Chamber of Commerce), large non-profits and national VSOs, your company can set benchmarks and goals around veteran hiring and retention, create mentoring platforms, and share best practices with other firms across the country.
- Offer mentoring or coaching. Mentorship is described as, "a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. The mentor may be older or younger than the person being mentored, but she or he must have a certain area of expertise." Surely there are individuals within your company who have expertise, experience, and knowledge that would be beneficial to veterans in your company or community. Engaging them in a formal or casual mentoring or coaching arrangement serves to share real-world insight and guidance with military veterans, and helps your civilian employees recognize their own value and contribution in new and fulfilling ways.
- Encourage civilian employees to get involved. Expressing gratitude for veterans can be a company-wide initiative by:
- Showing your employees how to connect, and volunteer, with veteran groups in your area.
- Inspiring your employees to take a leadership position in a veteran or military family organization that needs mentorship or coaching.
- Training your teams to collaboratively and effectively work alongside former service members.
- Encouraging your employees to help identify and refer potential employees who are veterans to the company.
Showing gratitude for the men and women who served our country doesn't only happen on Veterans Day. If your company values align with appreciation and generosity, as my company's do, then expressing gratitude in direct, tangible ways for our military veterans and families is a meaningful and impactful way to say "thank you" for their service.
About Lida Citroen
Lida Citroën, a branding expert based in Denver, has made a career of helping people and companies create new or enhanced identities. She is passionate about helping veterans learn how to compete for careers in the civilian sector. A TEDx Speaker, Lida presents her unique personal branding training programs across the U.S., at military installations and events, serves on the Board of Directors of NAVSO volunteers with ESGR, and has produced numerous programs and materials to help military veterans successfully transition after service. If you have a transition question Lida can help answer, email her at email@example.com. She is also the author of the best selling book, "Your Next Mission: A personal branding guide for the military-to-civilian transition," available at www.YourNextMissionBook.com and on Amazon.