Military personnel can face unique challenges when transitioning into the civilian job market. They’re leaving behind a familiar culture and strong bonds.
In addition, they may have performed their job duties under stressful and even dangerous circumstances, which new co-workers might not understand. And their work styles don’t always fit perfectly with civilian companies.
But smart business owners know the advantages of creating military-friendly workplaces, and recognize the value in hiring veterans. For example, most servicemembers have accepted more responsibility and amassed more leadership experience at younger ages than their civilian counterparts.
Servicemembers also possess excellent teamwork, management and decision-making skills. In short, they make great employees who will provide a solid return on investment for any employer.
Here are six additional reasons to hire military veterans:
- Accountability: Servicemembers know the importance of their role to the organization, and accept responsibility for their performance and that of their subordinates.
- Advanced technical skills: They have had access to training in and experience with cutting-edge technology, from computer network security to the latest in communications technology.
- Quick learners: Servicemembers are required to undergo training in a variety of areas, and to continuously learn new concepts.
- Flexibility: Military personnel are comfortable working in a team environment, and are trained to be responsible to others. But they are also adept at working on their own, in fast-paced environments and high-pressure situations, with little supervision.
- Trustworthy: Each day, servicemembers prove their integrity and abide by a clear code of ethics. Many are entrusted with sensitive information and have earned high security clearances; their sense of integrity can be an asset to many organizations.
- Cultural awareness: Servicemembers work with people of every race, background and religion. Plus, they often serve overseas, and have an appreciation for different cultures – an asset in the new global marketplace.
Even with their in-demand skills, veterans often have a hard time adapting to civilian workplaces. Business owners and managers can help them succeed by learning about military culture, understanding what drives former servicemembers and creating a military-friendly workplace where everyone thrives.
How Employers Can Create a Military-Friendly Workplace
Employers can increase veterans’ success rate by raising awareness and creating a welcoming environment. Here’s how:
- Learn more about military culture. Most civilians are unfamiliar with the various jobs and levels of responsibilities in the military. Consult online tutorials to learn the difference between enlisted personnel and commissioned officers, or the role Reservists and National Guardsmen play.
- Educate your staff. Overcome the gap between civilians and veterans. Inform staffers of the benefits servicemembers contribute. Communicate your company’s commitment to hiring veterans, and actively recruit them. Teach managers and supervisors about invisible war wounds, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), so everyone knows what to expect from veterans with these conditions – and stress that not all military personnel returning from war zones are affected.
- Create a culturally sensitive onboarding process. The military environment has a well-defined hierarchy. Everyone understands who gives the orders and who follows them, and pathways to promotion are clear. Civilian workplaces are usually more difficult to understand, so pay extra attention when hiring veterans. Carefully explain their role, their training and the process for advancement. Check in frequently during their first few months on the job.
- Recognize their frustrations. Veterans often feel misunderstood in civilian workplaces. They are used to structure, processes, timelines and defined duties. They may become bored or need more responsibilities to feel successful. In addition, a work style that was appreciated in the military may be perceived as overbearing, rigid or rude in the private sector. Ask veteran employees for ways to help them and their fellow vets through the transition. Create training, sponsorship and mentoring opportunities for vets who need it, and be patient – it can be a long process.
Handling Deployments in the Workplace
Reservists and National Guardsmen can be called to active duty at any time, so it’s important that employers understand how it works.
The Law Protects Military Employees
- Employers may not discriminate against employees based on their military service or obligation. Under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), employers must provide information to employees about their rights.
- Workers are entitled to return to their jobs. Employers must provide reemployment for up to five years after servicemembers are called to active duty. They must be reemployed in the same job they would have been doing if they had not been called away, with the same seniority, status, benefits and pay.
- Employees and their dependents must receive the same health care benefits for up to 24 months while they are serving.
Deployments are tough on both sides: workers face loss of income, while employers face the loss of their expertise. Still, employers must avoid showing bias or discriminating against National Guardsmen and Reservists, either before or after they are hired.
Why not create a supportive environment, where servicemembers are a valuable part of the team, even when they are away?
Send company news to active-duty employees, or have the team organize care package deliveries. Maintain contact with the servicemember’s family and offer help when needed. Welcome them back when they return.
Can You Create a Military-Friendly Workplace?
Servicemembers have rich experience and in-demand skills, many of which are easily transferable to the civilian marketplace. Is your company ready to commit to hiring veterans?
- Do you have a veterans’ recruiting program?
- Will you provide training to staff and supervisors on veterans’ issues and available resources?
- Do you have policies in place to support Reservists and National Guardsmen?
- Will you create a sponsorship and mentorship program for new hires who are military veterans?
- Do you encourage employees to seek help for personal or professional challenges?
Use this guide to create a military-friendly workplace, for an organization that is more inclusive, productive and successful!