How to become a veteran-friendly employer
Do you have employees who are military reservists or veterans? Find out how to make your company a veteran-friendly employer so they’ll stay for the long term.
Savvy business leaders know that military members make great employees. Because of the diverse and valuable skills they acquire during their service, veterans can be an incredible asset to any organization. But what does it take to become known as a veteran-friendly employer?
Let’s say you get an opportunity to hire a military reservist or veteran. Once you bring them onboard, you’ll want to do everything you can to retain them in your workforce for the long term.
Of course, military members are no different than any other employee in terms of what they want out of their job and from their employer. We all want to earn a competitive salary and benefits while performing meaningful work that challenges us and enables us to grow in our careers.
But there are certainly things you, as an employer, can do to help position your company as a military-friendly employer:
- Acknowledge and show support for their other job (if the employee is a military reservist).
- Demonstrate your appreciation for their service to our country.
- Respond to the unique, lesser-known needs of this population, and make life easier for them and their families.
Read on for additional strategies for becoming a veteran-friendly employer.
Recruiting and hiring veterans and reservists
When recruiting job candidates, it might be a challenge to target only military veterans or reservists. Most hiring managers assess any and all candidates with the appropriate experience and qualifications, regardless of their background.
For veteran hiring initiatives, however, hiring managers can better reach military veterans and reservists by:
- Demonstrating that your company values and is proud of your current employees who are veterans (You can do this by showcasing them in recruiting materials and other external-facing content, such as social media posts.)
- Performing outreach to current or former military members via networking groups or social media
- Including a statement within job postings that your company is a veteran-friendly employer
Unfortunately, there’s a misperception among many hiring managers that military members only learn combat skills. In truth, much of what military members learn and practice daily are skills that translate directly to the civilian world – and are highly prized among managers, such as:
- Leadership skills
- Ability to follow instructions
- Ability to strategize well and plan for contingencies
- Commitment to a cause
- Stress-management skills and mental fortitude
- Emotional intelligence and ability to work well within teams
- Extensive training and experience in a specialty trade
To best assess the full range of skills a veteran may hold, train hiring managers to look at a bigger picture and be open when evaluating resumes of current and ex-military job candidates.
Remember: A resume reveals only about 10% of the information uncovered in an actual interview. Within every prior position a candidate has held, there are details that hiring managers must be willing to take the time to uncover, evaluate and compare against the skills that your company requires.
For current and ex-military job candidates, hiring managers should also examine:
- Military accomplishments
- Honorable discharge status
- Hard and soft skills, and how those align with the available position
Managing and retaining employees as a veteran-friendly employer
If a candidate who your company hires is a military reservist – and therefore may have ongoing training obligations with the military and may even face deployment at some point in the future – your organization needs to be flexible in accommodating their schedule. After all, these employees have made a huge commitment to serving their country. With that service should come some added measure of understanding.
Of course, federal law also requires companies to accommodate trainings and deployments of military members, provided it doesn’t cause an undue disruption to the business.
If your military employee deploys for weeks or even months, your company is legally required to hold their job for them for the duration of the deployment. If the job is obsolete upon their return, then your company must find another position for them for which they’re qualified elsewhere in the organization.
Keeping a plan in mind
The military has this adage: “Proper planning prevents poor performance.” So, plan ahead for what will happen when an employee must attend military training or is called up for duty, sometimes for prolonged periods. Decide how their tasks and responsibilities will be absorbed by other team members.
Communicate this to the rest of the team to avoid any misunderstandings or resentment stemming from lack of knowledge. Bring everyone who will be impacted by a military reservist employee’s absence together for a team meeting.
“Employee X has two jobs. One is here with us, and the other is their commitment to serve in the military, which we wholeheartedly support and applaud. Part of that commitment involves training for one week every quarter. This is how our team will address these ongoing, scheduled absences to support Employee X in their important service to our country. We’re doing this because we believe in the mission.”
Be careful about allowing any negativity or frustration to creep into your tone, or unintentionally making this need for flexibility sound like a burden. If you convey excitement and appreciation for this endeavor, other team members will adopt this attitude.
With a shared mindset, you’ll help to build a workplace culture and organizational brand that signal you’re a veteran-friendly employer.
Internal support programs
There are two common support programs with great benefits that many companies commonly provide.
- Employee assistance programs (EAPs)
- Employee resource groups (ERGs)
And they can be helpful resources for all types of employees, including and especially military reservists and veterans.
EAPs offer confidential access to diverse counseling and professional services for many work and home-life topics. For example, employees can access counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists and therapists as well as legal and financial experts. This service can be helpful for assisting military reservists and veterans struggling with issues that they are at a disproportionately high risk of experiencing, such as:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) related to a deployment, or any other emotional trauma
- Grief over losing military colleagues in combat deployment
- Substance abuse
- Marital and family issues related to prolonged separations
- Financial challenges
Enabling employees efficient and easy access to these services helps your employees tend to and resolve personal issues more quickly so they can bring their whole selves to work, thus reducing absenteeism and boosting productivity.
ERGs –or affinity groups within the workplace – are another good option for companies looking to demonstrate that they are a veteran- and military-friendly employer. ERGs are for employees who hold certain traits or life circumstances in common. Or they may have an interest in a specific topic.
At many companies, ERGs exist that focus exclusively on military membership or veteran status. That’s because ERGs give reservists and veterans important opportunities to:
- Meet others within the organization who share their military service
- Tell their stories to other employees
- Network at all levels of the company hierarchy
- Have a larger voice, greater visibility and influence within the company on issues that impact them
- Engage in ongoing education and training on relevant topics
- Organize volunteer and fundraising initiatives, especially those that benefit external veteran organizations
Of course, military reservist and veteran employees want the same set of benefits as anyone else: health, vision and dental insurance, 401(k) and paid time off (PTO), for example.
However, your company may want to consider offering additional benefits that serve the unique needs of military members and their families:
- Child care assistance: Help with finding child care facilities and offer a discount to military families that typically earn lower incomes – or offer a discount as a special thanks for service to our country.
- Deployment assistance: Provide a range of services to help support military employees and their families during a deployment, which can last for weeks to months.
- Have a plan for reassigning work to other team members.
- Ensure benefits are intact before their departure.
- Communicate about deployment and return dates.
- Prepare for the return to work and establish a transition plan.
For families, capture a means of contact and remain in communication as well. Reach out to families periodically to assess their needs.
It can also be a good idea to simply ask military reservists or veterans about their expectations and how they would like to be supported. What challenges do they have that your company could help meet? Are there any special perks they’re most interested in that would maximize their productivity and satisfaction?
Recognitions and celebrations
What your company spends time on shows what you value and consider important.
Take deliberate action to recognize the things that are meaningful to military reservists and veterans, and make them feel special. Be open to ideas and solicit feedback from military employees.
Examples of recognitions and celebrations your company can implement:
- Recognize individuals who have served their country on Veterans Day, perhaps in a newsletter, social media post, blog, company Intranet or some other special way.
- Celebrate the “birthday” of the military branch to which your employee(s) belong.
- Host a military day in your office, where employees can wear their uniform and share their stories.
Summing it all up
Making your company a veteran-friendly employer will help improve your retention of talented employees who happen to be military reservists or veterans. Most importantly, you want to make sure that you demonstrate appreciation for their service, make them feel acknowledged in special ways and meet their unique needs with certain benefits and support programs.
When in doubt, ask your military-affiliated employees what they want and need.
With their diverse skills, military veterans often are excellent assets to any company. For more information on how to manage and retain a team of valued employees that will help your business achieve its goals, download our free e-book: How to develop a top-notch workforce that will accelerate your business.