The two major times when people enter the military are usually right after high school or right after college. Regardless of their level of education, the majority of these soldiers are never exposed to many elements of corporate culture in the typical business setting, and most likely only worked at a steak house part-time, like yours truly.
As with most college graduates that are entering the workforce for the first time, there are a few things to remember when dealing with ex-military. It’s important for employers hiring veterans to recognize that the armed forces create a culture unto themselves, and a very strong one. While the corporate culture ends at 5 o’clock, military culture keeps going around the clock. Here are some tips for helping your new, ex-military employees fit in more easily at the workplace.
Hiring Veterans Tip 1 – Address Employee Health/Dental Benefits
Sorting out medical and dental benefits is probably the first hurdle that you will arrive at with a veteran because these benefits will likely be discussed during the hiring or orientation process. Be aware that throwing around terms like co-pays and deductibles may not work because a seasoned ex-military person likely won’t understand them without some explanation. The armed forces probably have the easiest health care that anyone would ever deal with (only in terms of getting it…quality is a whole other story).
If a military member is sick, they call a hotline, make an appointment, and go. No insurance caps, no out-of-pocket issues. Money never leaves the member’s pocket, and there is no such thing as a benefit year. So, walking into the civilian world and actually having to learn medical benefits is a whole new world. For human resource professionals, this might be something worth spending a little extra time on during the orientation process of an ex-military member.
Hiring Veterans Tip 2 – Explain Your Organizational Structure
The chain of command in the military is vital, not only for how decisions and responsibilities are delegated, but also for military members to understand the purposes of day-to-day operations. Although most corporate organizational charts are similar to military chains of command, there are always some differences. This is where the difficulties can arise. In every unit in the military, every position title, i.e. commander, adjutant, etc., has the exact same function wherever you go. In every unit in the military, the chain of command is pretty much carbon copied from one unit to the next.
This structure is markedly different from the civilian world, where job titles and organizational charts can have a different meaning with each business. Military personnel understand early on in their military careers that it’s important to know who their working for, and how guidance from a few levels up will affect their normal workday. It’s equally important that they learn the civilian organization, as it will help them not only adjust to their workplace, but also understand their position more clearly.
Hiring Veterans Tip 3 – Provide Guidance
For organizations to succeed, employees must understand and have clear communication from their leadership about goals, decisions, and expectations. This is something that is also heavily expressed in the military. The military has a concept called commander’s guidance. This is guidance set forth by the first commanding officer in the organization. This guidance is used by subordinate officers, and enlisted alike, to make everyday decisions that are in line with the unit’s goals.
For ex-military, upon entering the civilian world, this clarity will be something that they will be looking for before starting their position. The ex-military member will want to know not only the goals and expectations of their immediate supervisor, but also their supervisor’s supervisor. This allows the worker to make user-level decisions in their day-to-day work that will meet the goals and expectations of their supervisors up the chain.
Hiring Veterans Tip 4 – Give Regular Feedback
At the risk of perpetuating a stereotype, the military is strong in the ways of feedback. Does all of it involve standing at attention and getting yelled at? No. However, performance evaluations and skills testing is almost a daily reality in the military because the military wants service members to know how they’re doing currently, and what to focus on in the future. The evaluation process is both structured and unstructured in the military, as it is in most civilian organizations. Feedback will be very important in the short term for a new ex-military in a civilian organization. Providing this is important so they know they’re performing the way they should, and how, if any, improvements should be made in their performance.
This list shouldn’t be viewed as a few helpful tips for ex-military alone, as these are all vital elements for all employees regardless of background. These are items that will ensure a strong basis for all workers to understand and better perform in any civilian organization, regardless of function. These recommendations are, however, some hurdles you might find ex-military employees might need a bit more focus on.
- Employer Benefits for Hiring Veterans
- HR Guide to Leadership Training and Coaching
- Tips on Employee Communications
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