It is August of 2015, and the US Presidential Election of 2016 is already dominating media attention. Politicians will be making plenty of sound bites for the foreseeable future that glorify American exceptionalism, and offer various clichés about how to improve the United States. A favorite go-to of politicians is to emphasize the hiring of Veterans. A tiny fraction of the larger population makes up pools of service members, and not enough is being done to hire them. While calling attention to this matter is important and admirable, it is not enough to simply recognize that more effort needs to be made to recruit veterans into the civilian workforce. A workable plan, and specific examples would set the tone for a realistic start to improving the hiring of veterans. Rather than wait for politicians to get the ball rolling, there are several steps private companies can take to include more veterans. It is imperative that organizations first identify and understand the needs of veterans in your workplace. Here are some suggestions:
Providing a welcoming atmopshere – Let veterans know how important they are to your company on their first day. Be sure to recognize and thank them for their contribution to our country during their orientation. Training, transition and mentorship resources need to be properly communicated.
Networking – Consider maintaining a specific military veterans group on LinkedIn which only military veteran employees of your company can be part of, or perhaps discussing with veteran employees if they'd be comfortable forming a Facebook group or page. Through this invitation-only group, veterans can talk to each other and receive mentoring and job support.
Management Appreciation – Employees like to know that their efforts are recognized and appreciated by their employers' management. Sending out positive feedback through emails and newsletters is a simple but effective way to let employees know they are cared about. This does not require much of a time commitment, and as an added bonus, will create a more interactive and approachable working atmosphere between employees and managers.
Ongoing Recognition – Recognition of veterans’ contributions to the workplace doesn't need to just come around during Federal holidays or when potential customers come by to visit, (nor does it need to done by commercials during pro-sporting events) it can be done whenever you have the time and effort available to recognize the sacrifices veterans make.
If you feel your company has more limited means and time than others, there are many resources available to aid your prioritization of hiring and retaining military personnel. The United States Department of Labor’s America’s Heroes at Work division has a step-by-step toolkit for employers on hiring veterans. Maintaining a skilled veteran workforce requires sustained effort after the hire; which includes placing a value on military service, and promoting a veteran-friendly workplace.