Combat to Corporate: Recruiting, Onboarding and Retaining the Veteran Employee

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Recruiting, Onboarding and Retaining the Veteran Employee

When looking for new members of their team, employers are often looking for people who bring a unique and valuable combination of skills, experience, and character traits. Military veterans should be at the top of their list.

Particularly during the pandemic environment, where businesses are operating with uncertainty, prior military talent brings skills of resilience, problem-solving, leadership, and tenacity to navigate turbulent times.

Let’s take a look at some of the best practices for sourcing, onboarding, and retaining a veteran employee.

Sourcing and Recruiting Veterans

Social distancing guidelines have created challenges for people working from home. They have also presented certain obstacles for employers who have been looking to introduce veterans and service members to their companies.

Tips for finding and hiring veterans include:

Where are the veterans? Participating virtually by introducing your company and jobs to workers online (in virtual career fairs and online job boards) has become a popular option to replace the in-person experience in 2020.

Veterans today are increasingly skilled in participating and representing themselves in these forums. Additionally, they come ready with questions and resumes to pursue career opportunities.

Build your awareness. For a recruiter or hiring manager unfamiliar with military jobs and experiences, it’s crucial to help them become versed in basic military terminology. They should understand specific differences, such as: what it means to be ‘enlisted’ vs an ‘officer’, as well as what a ‘weapons mechanic’ or ‘logistician’ is trained to do.

What’s more, knowing which leadership skills that someone who’s managed 150 Army privates has developed. Or, realize what an ‘MOS’ (military occupational specialty) means and how the experience of multiple ‘PCSs’ (permanent change of station) affects a military family.

Overall even a cursory understanding of military jargon and skills gives the employer an appreciation of transferrable experiences veterans bring to the private sector.

Speak their language. First, ensure your application process and website attract the veteran candidate. These individuals are typically driven by values and commitment to the mission. As a result, they will seek meaningful work after separation from the military.

Confirm that your recruiting materials promote the values and culture of your company. Additionally, ensure that you highlight your commitment to serve (your clients, communities, industries, etc.)

These will matter to a veteran seeking employment.


Onboarding Veteran Talent

Onboarding has changed dramatically due to the remote work environment. No longer will you be able to walk your veteran employee around the office and introduce them to their new team members. However, there are ways to ensure they feel welcome.

Here are some tips for onboarding veteran employees:

Brief them on the company culture. Undeniably, the military culture is very family-like. They live, eat, and work alongside people who have become their close friends and family. Teach your new hire about your company culture. What do people do for fun? How do they stay connected and maintain high morale? What service projects do employees support?

The more you can connect them to the culture and mission of the company, the closer you bring them into the fold of the talent base.

Set clear expectations. In the military, jobs and tasks are spelled out with granular specificity. Processes are standardized and expectations are not open to interpretation. In onboarding new veteran talent, be extremely clear about the processes, unwritten rules, and systems to be successful at your company. 

Similarly, spell out where they should go for help. Encourage them to ask questions during the onboarding process, and show them what a typical career path can look like at your company.

This investment in effort up-front will set them up for success.

Check-in often. Touch base with your veteran employees more often than you might think necessary. The first few weeks on a new job – especially when working remotely – can feel isolating and uncertain.

They might resist proactively reaching out for help or asking questions, but when you check in with them, they could be more forthcoming about struggles or frustrations.

Retaining Your Veteran Talent

As veteran employees grow and contribute to the company, your goal will be to develop and keep them.

As you seek to retain veteran employees, remember to:

Give them opportunities to serve. When someone takes off the uniform, their desire to serve a mission greater than themselves remains. 

Enlist them in serving critical initiatives at the company or getting involved in community service to foster their positive feelings for their employer.

Include their family. To veterans, their families have supported their commitment and sacrificed alongside them while on active duty. They continue to be an important support system for them as veterans.

Inviting family members to participate in special events and recognizing them for their service is a great way to build goodwill and show your support of veteran employees. 

Leverage their leadership skills and training. When the company or the team struggles, lean on your veteran employee for guidance. They have been battle-tested in unimaginable ways.

While your company may not be facing life and death challenges, their ability to show resilience, adaptability, and tenacity can inspire their colleagues and provide leadership as the company weathers the storm.

To sum it up, recruiting, onboarding, and retaining veteran talent may require slight modifications to your current systems. However, the rewards are exponential in terms of growth, leadership, and value-add to your company.