Picture this: A seasoned professional with a diverse skill set, exceptional resilience, and adaptability walks into your office, ready to contribute and thrive in your organization. This individual is a military veteran. Yet, despite the wealth of experience and unique perspectives they bring, they face a daunting paradox. Their military background, which should be a strength, often becomes a barrier in the civilian workforce.
Why is that?
The issue is a complex interplay between miscommunication, misconceptions, and a lack of understanding. Civilians struggle to comprehend how military service translates into a business role, while veterans grapple with articulating their experiences in a way that resonates with the civilian context. This communication gap creates a perceived skills mismatch, creating a hurdle for veterans transitioning into civilian jobs.
As an HR professional, you might question, "How can we bridge this gap? How can we best support our veteran hires and set them up for success?"
This article will delve into these questions, offering concrete strategies to integrate veterans into your workplace effectively. So, if you're ready to unlock the potential of your veteran employees and create an inclusive, supportive environment for them, keep reading.
7 Strategies to Support Veteran Employees
1. Provide Context
Any diversity initiative needs to be organization-wide, and the first step to getting everyone aligned is to explain "the what and why." Discuss the incorrect stereotypes around hiring veterans — preconceived notions society may have around mental health issues, as well as statistics about how veterans struggle to find jobs and are underemployed.
According to Stars and Stripes, nearly two-thirds of veterans have difficulty transitioning to civilian life. Meanwhile, 46% of HR professionals surveyed by SHRM cited mental health issues and post-traumatic stress disorder as barriers to hiring veterans. We must challenge these misconceptions at every level to ensure the environment is inclusive.
2. Actively Source Veteran Candidates
There must be an intentional approach to bringing veterans into the candidate lifecycle. To start, consider potential traits and skills veterans would have gained through their service and incorporate them into your job listing.
Be explicit about being veteran-friendly and use veteran-specific job boards and recruitment centers. And, of course - ensure your job posting uses inclusive language.
3. Accommodate Veterans' Unique Needs
Veterans, particularly those with disabilities, may require specific adjustments or modifications in the workplace to perform their jobs effectively. It's essential to create an environment that accepts and supports these needs. This is where understanding the concept of "reasonable accommodations" as stipulated by the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) becomes crucial.
Reasonable accommodations refer to necessary alterations or adjustments that allow veterans with disabilities to enjoy equal employment opportunities.
With GoCo's HR Request Template, you can easily manage, track, and prioritize VA reasonable accommodation requests and other employee requests. Rather than sifting through emails or juggling multiple platforms, the template brings all requests into a single, organized system. This saves you valuable time and ensures no request slips through the cracks.
The process is simple. Employees use a permanent link to describe their request and indicate its urgency. This could be a veteran requesting job restructuring, a modified work schedule, or special equipment. You get automatically notified when a request is submitted, allowing you to identify and prioritize critical issues at a glance quickly.
The HR Request Template also streamlines communication, reducing the need for scattered emails, sticky notes, and endless back-and-forth exchanges. This feature is especially valuable when handling VA reasonable accommodation requests, often requiring discussions and exploring potential solutions.
Remember, providing reasonable accommodations isn't just about legal compliance - it's about showing empathy, understanding, and respect for the unique experiences and challenges veterans face in the civilian workforce. With GoCo's HR Request Template, you can effectively manage these accommodations, enhancing your veterans' integration into the workplace and contributing to the diversity and inclusivity of your organization.
4. Clarify Your Mission and Procedures
Veterans are used to being driven by a mission and having standard operating procedures. Similarly, most organizations have a broad mission or vision statement and a manual or set of policies. However, some of this information isn't always expressed in the chaos of the onboarding process. To the degree that it's possible, providing a mission for a project, a checklist, or another operating procedure will work well.
5. Explain Culture and Context
Many elements of office culture become engrained and seem second nature over time, but to someone who has never worked in an office can feel entirely foreign. The more effort the organization can make to explain the context and culture, the better new employees can integrate.
Consider all the things about the office that you just "know:" what's considered "acceptable" dress, speech/language, sense of humor, socialization outside of work, etc. Make as much of it explicit as possible.
6. Provide Autonomy
Most people feel adequately challenged with the right amount of authority and responsibility, and similarly - most people don't enjoy being micromanaged. Trust that you hired and trained people well, give them appropriate context and resources, be clear about the mission and operating procedures, and allow people to have as much autonomy as the role allows.
7. Lead by Example
As always, be the leader you want employees to follow and emulate. Veterans are used to being led by decisive, people-centric, and mission-driven leadership - and military leaders often receive considerable coaching, making the expectations of veterans quite high.
Ultimately, your veteran inclusion effort will require intention and strategy - but with sound messaging, an alignment in mission and values, and a focus on building organizational belonging, your recruitment effort will go a long way.
Automating VA Reasonable Accommodation Requests
Effectively managing veterans in the workplace requires a multifaceted approach. Every step matters, from providing context and actively sourcing veteran candidates to accommodating veterans' unique needs and leading by example. But remember, the real success lies in integrating veterans into your workplace and empowering them to thrive.
GoCo's HR Request Template helps streamline your HR processes, ensuring you can promptly and efficiently handle all employee requests, including VA reasonable accommodation requests. With this, you can focus more on building a supportive, inclusive, and diverse workplace that truly values and appreciates the skills, experiences, and unique perspectives that veterans bring.
Ready to take the next step in your veteran inclusion effort? Try GoCo's HR Request Template for free today. Be the change you want to see in your organization and create a workplace where everyone, including veterans, can succeed.