How to Get the Most from Your Veteran Employees

Lt. Nate Rhodes, a helicopter pilot with wife and daughter
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Nick Ameen

Sourcing and hiring military veterans is only half of the objective for companies seeking to employ former service personnel. Retaining, engaging, and developing veteran employees is where the true value of a military veteran comes forward and adds exponential value to the company.

Here are 20 ideas for getting the most from your veteran employees:

  1. Task them with changing the status quo. Veterans are passionate about innovation, so let them solve problems and create new solutions.
  2. Don’t hold back: Unleash your veterans on your hardest problems and watch what they can do.
  3. Wave the flag — if your company is veteran-owned, let your customers and community know. They might engage more passionately with your team.
  4. Encourage your veteran employees to self-identify if they are comfortable being recognized for their service.
  5. Make it easy to identify veterans in your company. For example, at Monsanto in St. Louis, veterans are offered a badge to wear underneath their name badge and building access card, identifying their specific branch of service.
  6. Know your numbers: How many veterans do you employ? What positions do they hold?
  7. Give them an opportunity to serve. Show them how their job is an extension of service to others or to a greater cause.
  8. Involve your veteran employees in your philanthropy initiatives. Learn from them how service to others benefits everyone involved.
  9. Don’t assume you know what your veteran employee wants, feels, thinks or values. Ask them.
  10. In check-in meetings with a veteran, go beyond the performance evaluation. Ask how they are doing. How is the transition into this job working for them?
  11. Ask about their family. The family is a huge part of a successful military-to-civilian transition.
  12. Include them in discussions, projects and initiative outside of their core job. This exposes them to opportunities to grow professionally, and expand their value to the company.
  13. Offer informal mentoring opportunities. If you see an opportunity for coaching or advising your veteran employee, tell them what they can do to improve.
  14. Pair your veteran up with a civilian. Instead of grouping all “former military service personnel” on veteran-specific projects, mix in civilians who can help guide them, and who will benefit from their leadership and experience.
  15. Give them a voice — ensure your veteran employees are part of any initiatives your company takes on to recruit and hire veterans. They have a lot to say.
  16. When onboarding, offer them a unique new hire packet that shows respect for their service (with images and written content) and lays out a career path at your company that is specific to someone who served.
  17. Ask if they want to lead. Just because they may have been in a leadership role in the military does not mean they want to oversee every project and initiative. Ask them if that role would be appealing to them.
  18. Lead by example. For instance, if your company stresses work/life balance, show your veteran employee what that looks like. Demonstrate the behavior you want to emulate in your teams, including your veteran employees.
  19. Celebrate your veterans accurately. Know the difference between Armed Forces Day (when we acknowledge those who are serving), Memorial Day (a day to remember those who lost their lives in service), and Veterans Day (appreciating those who have served).
  20. Continue to highlight their skills. Military-to-civilian skills translation tools are helpful to position a veteran to get the job. Once they are working in the job, encourage your veteran employees by pointing out skills and talents they are using well, and how that likely ties to their military training.

This is a short list of all the many ways you, as an employer, can embrace and leverage the talents, skills and passion our former military service members bring to the civilian workforce!

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