Michelle Obama Says to Hire a U.S. Veteran

Laleh Hassibi, PayScale

U.S. First
Lady Michelle
Obama urged companies to hire more veterans last week
. The unemployment
rate of those who
served in Iraq and Afghanistan is nearly two points higher than the
national average, at 9.4 percent. While it’s admirable to hire veterans for
emotional reasons, there’s another really good reason to hire a veteran — their

Dr. Harry Croft, co-author of Always Sit With My Back to The Wall
and a former Army psychiatrist who has been working with veterans since 1973,
argues that the best reason to hire veterans is for their skills.

Hiring returning veterans can appeal to HR
professionals for a variety of reasons. It might stir feelings of patriotism
and provides a nice tax break. Companies can pick up some good PR by touting
the number of veterans they hire each year. Dr. Croft believes these reasons
are short sighted and do a disservice to both veterans and to business.
“Veterans don’t want charity, they want to perform a job,” says Dr.

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Skills, Skills and More Skills
Many of the skills essential to the armed
forces translate to valuable business skills. Skills such as loyalty, being
easy to train, goal-oriented thinking, and being a team player all work great
in business. Finding ways to take advantage of these and more specific job
skills will end up benefiting the business much more in the long run.

A Few Challenges May
veterans into a private sector enterprise does hold challenges.

  • Unlike their civilian counterparts, former service members aren’t
    used to translating their prior career experiences into general job skills. Dr.
    Croft asks HR professionals working with veteran recruits to provide more
    guidance than usual in the qualification process. The need for extra attention
    doesn’t end at hiring.
  • Culture represents a more persistent
    challenge. Civilian and military workplace culture can differ significantly,
    for example in the interpretation of time. Adherence to schedule is strict in
    the military, but can be more relaxed in civilian work places. Former service
    members can interpret lateness as disrespect leading to a breakdown in work
    relations. Educating both existing employees and entering employees about these
    differences will help ease this challenge.
  • Another potential workplace challenge is
    PTSD. We hear of the big stories around Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),
    but even on a smaller scale it can be a real problem for many veterans. At the
    same time, you can’t invade confidentiality by asking directly about it. You
    can, however, do some things to prepare for PTSD in the workplace.

    • First, educate yourself about PTSD. Be aware
      of the signs and develop plans to mitigate potential impacts.
    • Second, think about establishing a mentor
      program for incoming veterans. Some sufferers will prefer talking
      with someone with whom they can better relate. If you have former military
      personnel on your staff, you might recruit them to serve as mentors for newer
      employees. For those companies for which this is not an option, consider online
      communities like “Make the Connection.”

The Joining Forces campaign of
Michelle Obama and Jill Biden has encouraged U.S. business to hire or train
more than 125,000 veterans and military spouses since it began 2 years ago. This
is great progress, but with more men and women coming home, we’ve still got a
way to go.

Do you hire veterans in your business? Has PTSD
been an issue?

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