HR Leads Business

Nov 9, 2017 | Barry Lawrence, MBA, aPHR, Staff Writer for HRCI

Success With Veterans Requires Establishing Common Ground

In honor of Veterans Day 2017, HR Certification Institute® (HRCI®) would like to highlight some of the latest thinking on how to make the most out of hiring and retaining as many as 360,000 men and women who leave the military each year. Experts agree that well-established military-to-civilian integration programs are key for tapping into the veteran population for top talent.

"You can’t expect veterans to do all the adapting," according to Harvard Business Review (How Your Company Can Better Retain Employees Who Are Veterans). "Corporate leaders must become versed in military culture. Managers need to be able to actively anticipate language and communication gaps, and develop creative ways to find common ground."

Veterans come with great soft skills and can-do attitudes, but may need a little help translating the hard skills they learned in the military to civilian life, according to Bloomberg BNA. "Employers wishing to hire veterans can use ‘skills translation’ to understand how their military experiences can give them excellent preparation for civilian life," writes Martin Berman-Gorvine.

Learning on the Job

It’s interesting to note than more veterans have been exposed to some level of higher education than their civilian counterparts, but fewer have actually graduated, according to the 2016 Veterans Economic Communities Initiative (VECI) Pilot Report. Employers, as a result, should provide veterans with plenty on continuous learning opportunities and on-the-job training to help veterans feel more confident and comfortable as civilian workers.

"In today’s fast-paced, ever-changing economy, education and training are key to maintaining economic relevance and enabling economic mobility," according to the VECI report. "Providing Veterans with the opportunity to acquire or sharpen their skills, education and training is a critical function that enables Veterans to bridge or translate their military experience into challenging work and a rewarding career."

A U.S. Marine veteran, Brian Royer uses his military experience as a Recruiter and Veterans Outreach Coordinator with Duke Human Resources Recruitment. In Duke Today, Royer says that it’s important to understand how to help veterans adjust to life outside of the military. Listening is the most important skill when trying to match applicants with firing managers, he notes. "Listening allows me to understand what is truly needed and then offer resources to directly meet those needs."

Apprenticeship programs are also an option. "Many newer apprenticeship programs are technology-oriented — training people for positions such as internal tech support or software programming," writes Jena McGregor for The Washington Post. "But they’re also training human resources analysts, insurance customer support agents, account managers and more." Accenture, Aon, JPMorgan Chase, Amazon and the Hartford have begun apprenticeships, she says.

Commitment to Excellence

Such ideas can help match veterans to jobs that go beyond their primary military specialties. In return, employers can tap into a wealth of top talent with high potential.

"These brave men and women come with tremendous operational expertise, total commitment in the face of any challenge and dedication to meeting the mission, learned in service to their country," says Jeff Brody, Chief Human Resources Officer at ManTech. For the second-straight year, ManTech has been named the Best Company for Veterans by job board Monster.com. Veterans represent 46 percent of the employee population at ManTech, recently named the Best Company for Veterans employees by job board Monster.

It’s essential to have honest and open conversations about the differences between military and civilian culture, HBR concludes. "You don’t want a workplace where a transitioning veteran doesn’t speak up out of fear of being a ‘burden’ to their organization. You want open, respectful, candid conversations where all parties are committed [to] better understanding each other and succeeding in the organization."

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