Doing some hiring? Given their skills and talents, you may want to put some military veterans on your short list. If you decide to take advantage of a veteran's unique and specific attributes learned during military service, it helps to keep a few onboarding tips in mind when hiring veterans.
"Service members transitioning from active duty to civilian life come with a vast array of knowledge and a multitude of skills and experiences that make them valuable to future employers," says Tim Best, CEO of Bradley-Morris, a military recruiting firm specializing in transitioning military and veteran talent, and RecruitMilitary. (Best also served in the U.S. Army as an aviation pilot.)
A key element of hiring veterans—and successfully onboarding them—comes from understanding their strengths as employees.
"The military has paid for thousands of hours of training from some of the best technical schools in the country," says Best. "Skillsets learned are directly applicable to the civilian workplace."
—Tim Best, CEO, Bradley-Morris
Retired U.S. Army Major Karl Monger agrees. He is the founder and executive director of the GallantFew, a nonprofit that assists veterans transitioning to civilian life.
"Our nation has invested significantly in developing the best leadership and training methods for our military," says Monger. "Veterans have been exposed to some of our country's greatest leaders. Many have received training in leadership, management and planning at levels most civilian businesses can't afford."
That being said, it helps to keep an open mind regarding hiring veterans, believes John Funk, a retired Naval officer who served for more than 28 years and the director of operations at the Easterseals' Bob Hope Veterans Support Program. Funk's company provides one-on-one employment services and resource referrals for transitioning military personnel and veterans.
"Many veterans may not necessarily have strong formal educational backgrounds, but they frequently have significant practical, real-world work and life experiences that cannot be learned in a classroom," he says.
"Education alone does not necessarily imply success in a given role," says Funk. "When hiring veterans, employers should consider how each individual veteran's unique military work experiences and training can be substituted for a degree."
At the same time, don't assume that a veteran hasn't been educated, adds Best.
"Many service members have advanced degrees from some of the best institutions in the world, such as the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy, Harvard and Yale," he says. "They bring their military and academic experience to the table as an asset for any organization."
Veteran Onboarding Advice
When hiring veterans, keep the following onboarding tips in mind.
- Take advantage of military real-life experience. "A 25-year-old just out of the military has often been given responsibilities far beyond his or her peers in the civilian world," says Monger. "Appreciate this and use it to your business's advantage. They will be problem solvers and may not be sensitive to offending co-workers as they go about solving problems. Recognize this and talk about it."
- Make expectations clear. "Transitioning service members are accustomed to structure," says Best. "While most don't 'need' structure to successfully function in a new role, they will need to understand their new supervisors' expectations around their performance, their development and their progression."
- Give feedback. "Communicate with your veteran employees about their performance and progression," says Best. "They're accustomed to annual reviews and enjoy learning what they could do to improve and continue to grow."
- Provide training. "While transitioning service members have many skills, it's important to remember that they may need training and development on how your industry and company functions, including in the area of procedures, just like any other employee," says Best.
- Offer support options. "It's often helpful to connect veterans within your company and out in the community," says Monger. "Veterans tend to be proud achievers. If they fall short, they hesitate to ask for help, because they don't want to appear 'weak.' Together, veterans can share their lessons learned and use the experiences of each other to solve problems."
- Treat them as individuals. Each veteran should be treated as the unique individual he or she is. "There's no 'one size fits all' approach to assessing an individual veteran, as each person has a unique set of skills, experiences, talents and capabilities," says Funk.
- Recognize and honor their service. Acknowledge the service of your veteran employees. Thank employees for their service on veteran-related dates like 4th of July, Veteran's Day and Military Appreciation Month.
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