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Six Steps to a Veteran-Friendly Workforce

May 21, 2018 by Kelli Ellenburg, PHR, SHRM-CP, CIR, CDR, CPRW

There are many reasons Veterans and military spouses make great employees, including but not limited to their agility, resourcefulness, and flexibility. The positive outcomes of companies who have aggressive, Veteran-friendly hiring practices are also well-documented. But if you are a company interested in creating a more Veteran-friendly workforce, how do you implement a plan to make that happen?

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) can help your organization develop a successful program for instituting or enhancing an already established Veteran hiring program. Their online America’s Heroes at Work – Veterans Hiring Toolkit is a fantastic resource. Following the six steps outlined in the program and summarized below, you’ll be on your way to a robust Veteran hiring initiative.

Step 1: Design a Strategy for Your Veterans Hiring Program

At HireBetter, we’ve talked before about how to build an overall talent strategy. Developing a plan for hiring Veterans is no different!

First, begin with dedicating focused time and energy to the concept. Think about how your organization’s goals and mission can be enhanced by the skills of transitioning service members. As our CEO suggests, ask yourself, “What does the organization need to look like in three years, and what do you need to accomplish those objectives?” Get excited about the idea and watch that enthusiasm permeate throughout the organization!

Think about how your organization’s goals and mission can be enhanced by the skills of transitioning service members.

Step 2: Create a Welcoming and Educated Workplace for Veterans

Familiarize yourself with the Top Ten Reasons to Hire Veterans and Wounded Warriors. Share these ideas with your hiring managers and other employees. Become educated about basic military structure and culture. Hiring managers and other employees who are familiar with basic military terminology will find it easier to communicate and interact with these individuals and help ease the Veteran’s or family member’s transition to civilian employment. You may also notice stronger working relationships among team members as they begin to relate more easily to the Veteran’s military lifestyle.

Step 3: Actively Recruit Veterans, Wounded Warriors, and Military Spouses

Did you know there are more than a dozen job boards listed in the 2018 AIRS Global Job Board Directory that are dedicated solely to helping transitioning military personnel find work in the private sector?

In addition to advertising open positions on these niche boards, educate yourself about where to look for Veterans. Contact a local Veteran Employment Representative in your area who can connect you with the best resources to meet your hiring needs. You may also consider accessing the resources of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF), an organization made up of an advisory board and public and private partners who are “committed to advancing the post-service lives of America’s service members.”

Service Members are accustomed to receiving specific training as they move from post to post. Incorporate similar training with specific and measurable goals into your workplace on-boarding.

Step 4: Hire Qualified Veterans and Learn How to Accommodate Wounded Warriors

On-boarding a new employee is critical for individual, team, and organization success. Take some time to review your procedures and incorporate some all-around best practices into your program for the benefit of the Veteran and ALL employees.

Suggestions include:

  • Make it clear how the individual’s work fits into the big picture. What does success look like? Provide examples and connect the Veteran with a successful employee who can show them what it takes to excel.
  • Explain the job training process. Service Members are accustomed to receiving specific training as they move from post to post. Incorporate similar training with specific and measurable goals into your workplace on-boarding. Your Veterans will appreciate the familiarity and feeling of accomplishment as they work through the plan.
  • Provide an organizational chart for the new employee’s reference. The hierarchical structure of the military is understood well by all Service Members. Let them know who’s who since, in the civilian world, rank typically isn’t displayed on a uniform.
  • Schedule check-ins during the first few months and regularly thereafter. Monitor their performance and workload and you may find that they’re able and willing to take on more than what you initially planned.
  • Ensure the employee knows the process for discussing and requesting job accommodations (free expert and confidential guidance regarding workplace accommodations can be obtained through the Job Accommodation Network). While a Veteran with a disability may choose not to disclose it if the disability is not obvious or visible, informing him or her of the process provides helpful information and builds trust.

Step 5: Promote an Inclusive Workplace to Retain Your Veteran Employees

Veterans tend to have a higher rate of retention, one of the many reasons employers seek them out. However, going the extra mile to ensure Veterans feel valued and appreciated will keep your workforce engaged. Some ideas include:

  • Establishing a Vet-to-Vet mentoring program
  • Participating in or sponsoring military and Veteran appreciation activities
  • Creating a military support group at the workplace

Step 6: Keep Helpful Tools and Resources at Your Fingertips

Know where to go to quickly find helpful information and resources to ensure the success of your Veteran-friendly hiring strategy. The DOL site has a comprehensive list of resources. Now that you’ve committed to establishing a Veteran-friendly workplace, improve your workplace and put America’s Heroes to work!

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