Is Your Company Supporting Veterans in the Workplace?

Nov 8, 2017

A veterans’ hiring initiative can make a significant impact on your company’s bottom-line due to characteristics they offer from military training, like a solution-oriented approach, loyalty, and integrity, among others. However, studies have shown most veterans leave their first job upon returning to civilian life within two years. Not only do these men and women have to adjust to life outside of the armed forces, but many also have to make the transition with a newly acquired disability as a result of their service. Employers can play a pivotal role in the reintegration process by creating a welcoming and supportive environment.

Use these 5 tips to build a veteran-friendly workplace and ensure your company’s veterans’ hiring initiative not only attracts, but retains these service men and women.

  1. Prepare

    As you develop your hiring initiative, ask yourself: Who are the leaders or managers that can champion this initiative? What kinds of resources do they control to make the program successful? Nothing will hurt the effort more than a supervisor who is non-supportive.

    Employers should also audit their workplaces to ensure they are accessible to veterans with disabilities. Take the time to establish a protocol to identify and fulfill accommodations requests in a timely manner. Having a centralized accommodations budget will alleviate financial barriers at the department-level. Ensuring there is a network of systems set up to support veterans before they are hired will help make their transition easier and more effective.

  2. Create a Culture of Inclusion

    A culture of inclusion is arguably the most important way you can help your veteran employees with disabilities. What might seem like common knowledge to civilians, like corporate language and practices, can seem alien to veterans, many of whom have only experienced military practices in their adult life.

    A cultural assessment will give an opportunity to identify areas of the organization that will be more or less welcoming to veterans. Ask yourself: Are managers open to the idea that some changes might have to be made in order to create a more inclusive environment?

    Make sure that newly hired veterans are informed of commonplace business practices and terminology for your company. Highlight key resources available for veterans with disabilities and ensure that not only veterans, but all employees, are made aware of them. You should also familiarize your veteran employee with “how things work” at the company, for both formal and informal practices. Similarly, educate supervisors and staff about common military phrases and methodologies so that they can accurately communicate with their employees.

  3. Ensure Consistent Support

    Once you have started a veterans’ hiring initiative make sure there is consistent and comprehensive support throughout the employment life cycle. In the military, there is training for almost every aspect of military life, unlike the civilian workplace. That support should start at the onset of employment with the onboarding process. Providing a more structured onboarding process helps to acclimatize veterans to the workplace more quickly and to accelerate their productivity. Similarly, have clear and direct training for the veteran that is both formal and informal.Another way to support veterans with disabilities is by engaging them in workplace groups that can make them feel welcome and connected. Having mentors will also help give veterans, especially those with disabilities, an outlet to ask questions that they might not feel comfortable asking a supervisor or manager. Veterans who feel they are consistently supported at work will demonstrate increased engagement and loyalty.

  4. Be Flexible

    Anticipate that there will be a learning process for both the employer and the veteran employee. Both you and the veteran are figuring out how best to work together and help each other succeed. The employer should be flexible, especially with regard to service-related disabilities, in order for the veteran’s employment to be successful. For example, a combat veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) might prefer sitting with back against the wall or need a quiet place to work. Many times there are simple fixes to a veteran’s needs as long as your company is flexible in allowing those changes to occur. Keep in mind: A veteran who is adapting to a new disability might need additional time and resources to adjust.

  5. Provide and Welcome Feedback

    Establish open and honest, two-way communication. In the military, there is frequent performance feedback and instructions and communication are typically very direct between service men and women and their superiors. In the civilian workplace, it can help to lay out some of the key goals and metrics that are expected of the veteran. Establish a clear career path so that the member can understand where their career is headed and their pathway to success. Check in to make sure the veteran is feeling supported and see if he or she has accommodation requests that could improve their work experience. By taking these conscious steps, employers can establish an authentic relationship with the veteran and ensure success on the job.

For more information on recruiting and retaining veterans with disabilities, check out our Employers’ Guide to Welcoming and Supporting Wounded Warriors.

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