Is Your Business Military Veteran Ready?

A lot of businesses promote Military Veteran hiring.  A surprising number do not hire Military Veterans at all, but that’s another blog. 

Hiring Military Veterans is a good thing, they bring a wealth of skills and experiences to a business that can provide strong positive behaviors that help drive organizational strategy that improves performance, profitability, and share holder value.  They are mission focused, execute your strategy to a fault, and are driven to teamwork and successful outcomes.  All attributes that should mean an excellent employee and member of your business team.

However, those very same behavioral attributes can also cause them to fail.

So how can you help them be successful in your company?

Sometimes they are overly focused on those attributes.  Sometimes their drive for excellence is off putting and because they come from environments where their fellow workers are also looking out for the welfare of each other, they can find themselves in awkward or career damaging positions when their new coworkers don’t exactly value their type of professionalism or mission focus.

 What can you do to not only keep a good employee who has the where-with-all to help your business excel, but to help them help you?  It all starts their very first day of work, but that assumes you’ve put the effort into developing these things, to begin with.  Military Veterans come from a unique culture, a culture that according to most sources, makes up about 1% of the US population.

The most common starting point is your onboarding process.  How you integrate or assimilate your new Military Veteran employees into your business sets the stage for their ultimate success, or sadly their failure.  According to a Syracuse University Study, as many as 80% of Military Veterans leave their first post military job before they complete 2 years of employment.  Ensuring they understand the language of your particular business or industry is a crucial first step.  They come from an acronym driven culture and as much as you may not understand theirs, they may well not understand yours.  You should also devote some time to explaining your company culture and its rules, both formal and informal.  Assigning them a mentor to help through this process is a positive action that can reap great reward.

Making sure your non-Military Veteran leaders and even your non-Military Veteran HR personnel understand the military culture is an important step as well.  Perhaps you have Military Veterans on your business team who have successfully transitioned.  They could be a good resource for a round table discussion with your leaders.  If you have none then perhaps approaching local military recruiters to conduct the same discussions will work.  Just be certain they understand this is not the time to recruit your key players into their branch of the service, as some are mission driven enough to try.  Helping your leadership and key personnel understand the “mission first” drive of Military Veterans and their zeal for error free excellence is a key step in helping them manage the Military Veteran who brings those mission at all cost attributes to the workplace.

Relationships in the military are a given.  They show up, are wearing the uniform and BINGO, they have a relationship that works together for a common cause.  Non-military workplaces often do not possess that unique characteristic.  Relationships must be developed and nurtured.  Helping your Military Veteran employees establish and maintain good workplace relationships will also help ensure their success.  This can begin through the previously mentioned mentor or through special emphasis or affinity groups designed for this purpose.  The military, for example, often assigns a sponsor to a newly arriving member to a unit, you may wish to consider this too.  Southwest Airlines did this a few years ago with all employees, and while using a now considered irreverent title for the program, it brought great success to effective and productive workplace relationships.

Military Veterans, being mission focused, want to understand how their role fits into the goals of the business. This should be something that all of your employees want to know and ensuring that everyone, in this case especially your Military Veteran employees, knows what that is, will help make your business more productive, improve your workforce performance, and ultimately the success of your business.

Military Veterans can provide a strong and significant value added presence to your business.  Their soft skills alone make them valuable employees that can provide a great example to appropriate workplace behaviors to your non-Military Veteran employees.  Doing what you can to successfully bring them into your business and then helping them be successful will only benefit your business outcomes.