How to Hire and Support Veterans (and Get Big Business Results)


Tomorrow is Veterans Day in the U.S. If you’re looking for entrepreneurial spirit, problem-solving ability and mental toughness, your veteran employees are your greatest resource. But unlocking that potential often requires some adjustment on the part of HR and management.

To give your veterans and their teams the tools they need to succeed, you’ll need a flexible mindset and the willingness to create support systems. The good news is that many changes are inexpensive, if not free, and involve merely the willingness to embrace multiple perspectives and engage in better communication.

Look Beyond Their Resume for Experience and Skills

Before veterans separate from active duty, they’re entitled to help from the Transition Assistance Program, which is administered through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. During this process, they learn how to translate their military experience into a civilian resume. But veterans often have a great deal more to offer employers than what’s apparent on their CV.

Military experience offers leadership and skills training, but beyond that, it demands self-sufficiency and coolness under pressure.

“What matters most is not your age or tenure but rather the quality of your contribution, and often you must be prepared to inherit a leadership role at a young age,” writes veteran and entrepreneur Shane Robinson at Forbes. “At 18 I was placed in charge of $5M worth of classified equipment.”

Create Veterans’ Programs

To support your employees with military experience, there are two types of programs you might consider creating:

  1. Onboarding programs: If you’re hiring a large number of veterans who have recently transitioned from active duty, it may make sense to create onboarding programs specifically geared toward their needs. At Military.com, Lida Citroën offers five best practices for onboarding veterans, including pairing new employees with a mentor and training managers to make the most of veterans’ leadership skills and talents.
  2. Affinity groups: One of the toughest aspects of transition for many vets is the loss of a built-in network of friends and colleagues. Affinity groups can fill that gap by providing support and connection.
Many vets feel the loss of a built-in network. Affinity groups can fill the gap. #HRClick To Tweet

Provide a Ladder for Advancement

Another aspect of military life that’s sometimes missing from the modern business environment is a clear ladder for advancement.

Of course, this doesn’t mean your organization should invent excuses to promote workers, just so they can climb up the rungs. But it does mean providing all workers, veteran and otherwise, with educational and leadership opportunities and transparency around pay and promotion.

All workers like to know where they are and where they can go in the organization. Use this opportunity to improve communication with your workforce and inspire greater retention and productivity. And, if you’re having trouble figuring out how to create that ladder, there’s no better resource than the veterans on your team. They’ll be able to offer insight.

Embrace Diversity of All Kinds

The military may be a fairly monolithic culture, but veterans themselves are individuals. It would be a mistake to assume, for example, that all veterans are politically or socially conservative.

That said, hiring and supporting veterans provides your organization with an excellent opportunity to focus on a type of diversity that often falls by the wayside: diversity of opinion. Strong organizations embrace a variety of perspectives and points of view.

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Tell Us What You Think

Has your organization made a commitment to hiring veterans? We want to hear from you. Share your story in the comments.

Image: Aaron Burden/Unsplash

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