There are some good assumptions and false assumptions that can be made when hiring military veterans into your organization. In general, regardless of the branch of service, the good include the training received during basic training/boot camp, which develops these key employable components: loyalty, team work, leadership, self-discipline, respect, reliability, and adaptability.
A mission is given and everyone must do his or her duty in order to have a successful outcome. Military personnel are used to working until the mission is done, and may not realize that it is time to take breaks, or go home. They are typically used to having a clear directive on how and when the mission must be accomplished by. Clear expectations and deadlines are important to share in order to have good communication with your veteran team.
A few misconceptions that we have heard from employers about employees who are veterans have helped us to conclude that many people believe what they see highlighted in movies about a specific military mission.
Prior military service does not make your new employee clairvoyant or a “psychic.” Although many who were leaders in the military became leaders because they learned to adapt and anticipate the needs of their unit without direction, until the employee and the employer have built a relationship of trust and communication, the employer may find that the veteran doesn’t want to step on the toes of anyone else in the department. Since veterans aren’t sure how to navigate the civilian workforce, they do worry about encroaching into a co-worker’s area, especially if the veteran is tasked with performing duties that are traditionally someone else’s.
Many organizations claim to offer veterans preference in hiring, yet the statistics for veteran unemployment are still staggering. According to one estimate mentioned in the Washington Post, the jobless rate for veterans between ages 18 and 25 last year was about 21 percent on average. Additionally, department of labor (DOL) statistics show that women veterans age 35 to 44 had double the unemployment rate of non-veteran women of the same age group.
With an anticipated 750,000 additional military estimated to transition back into the civilian workforce over the next five years, there are some key points that HR Departments should consider in order to be prepared to attract, hire, and retain those with prior military service.
Common questions that we are asked by employers are:
• What are the differences in “Characters of Service” and how to read a DD214?
• What do all the acronyms on the resume mean?
• Does every soldier have PTSD, and how does HR need to accommodate this condition?
Common questions from military veterans include:
• How will I know that I am doing a good job or a bad job?
Does the employer provide feedback? How often?
• Is there a workday plan or agenda?
• Who do I communicate with inside the company if I have questions or issues?
When the veteran is applying for post-military employment, he/she should keep all military acronyms completely out of their resume. Civilian employers commonly don’t know any military acronyms and most do not employ someone to translate military experience and acronyms into civilian-speak. The veteran can really help himself or herself by using a number of free online sites that help convert military lingo into commonly used civilian terminology. Likewise, an employer shouldn’t hesitate to ask the veteran to explain their responsibilities in easy-to-understand terms. Simplicity is usually the best policy.
Once a veteran is hired, open communication from both parties is a must. Veterans hired and finally employed may need clear direction of job expectations and the company hierarchy, which the veteran knows as the chain of command. Likewise, the veteran employee should be forthright in asking “what is the deadline?” when asked to write a report or do a project. Such questions clarify expectations and don’t leave either party guessing what the others expectations are. Otherwise, it is all left to uncertainty and guesswork, both of which make veterans very uncomfortable.
"Until the employee and the employer have built a relationship of trust and communication, the employer may find that the veteran doesn’t want to step on the toes of anyone else in the department."
Finally, retention of the veteran workforce in civilian employment is an area that civilian companies could improve upon. In this regard, it may be helpful for the civilian company to educate its human resources department staff on veteran needs for mentorship and a clear plan of becoming integrated into the company workforce. We cannot stress enough the need for clear direction and planning for the newly hired veteran into your company. With the amount of resources dedicated to on-boarding a new employee, it is worth the effort for civilian companies to retain their investment through an active in-house mentorship program.
The Veterans Business Alliance offers an exclusive business alliance opportunity for companies to truly invest in their veteran workforce recruitment, on boarding, and retention, through the VALOR (Veterans Advocate Liaison for Retainability) Mentorship Program. The VBA VALOR Mentorship Program pairs a liaison with employers dedicated to not only hiring veterans, but also retaining these valuable employees once they’re brought onboard. With a focus on commitment from the employer, a structured formalized mentorship, on boarding, and retention program is utilized with each veteran employee hired, which then forms the basis for the cohesive inclusion of each hired veteran into the employer’s workforce long-term.
Due to the increased number of military men and women transitioning from service into the civilian workforce, it is vital that HR professionals have not only a strong understanding of how to screen, interview, hire and train these future employees, but also have strong programs in place to embrace, mentor and retain these investments. These men and women dedicated their lives to defending our freedom, it is imperative civilian companies do their best to repay this selflessness by dedicating adequate programs to integrate these people into the civilian workforce with open arms and a workable action plan such as the VBA VALOR Mentorship program.
Kristina D. Penta, Esq., VBA, VP, VALOR Mentorship Program VP, VALOR Mentorship Program, US Air Force, Retired
Kristina Penta graduated from Mercer University with a Juris Doctorate (JD) and earned a Masters of Law (LL.M.) from The George Washington University specializing in labor and employment law. While on active duty, Ms. Penta advised management on employment issues from hiring, training, and disciplining employees to promoting, retraining and retaining employees, all within a legal, non-discriminatory, high-achieving, atmosphere.
Cate Montuoro, VBA, President
With a calling to serve those who serve, Cate is a passionate advocate for those who are reintegrating into the civilian workforce. As the granddaughter of a WWII Army Veteran, Master Sgt, the former wife of a US Marine, and a Blue Star Mom of a son who is serving in the Army Infantry, Cate has spent many years supporting the troops as a patriotic family member, and an advocate in helping military and veterans to earn opportunities in vocational training, higher education, and sustainable careers. To learn more about the VBA go to VaTaskforce.org