There are more than 20 million veterans in the U.S., and they deserve our respect, our support, and a seat at the corporate table.
There’s no question: Veterans are the backbone of this country. Their service and their families’ sacrifices make it possible for each and every one of us to have the freedom to live the life we currently enjoy. I also firmly believe it is our duty to honor our past, present, and future veterans, and that’s a large part of why my passion for helping veterans is stronger than ever.
Here’s why I believe that veterans are not only a valuable part of our communities, but also a vital part of any successful company’s workforce—and here’s what you can do as a company leader to ensure that you are helping hire, support, and retain them.
Veterans Are a Vital Part of a Successful Business
Veterans make some of the best employees around, and they can offer invaluable insights for a business. Consider this: Most veterans have years of specialized training and experience; they have a deep understanding of efficiency; and they have proven that they can consistently work under pressure. They often bring a ton of worldly experience to the table, too.
The most recent data from the Bureau of Veterans Affairs estimates that as of 2016, there were roughly 20.4 million veterans in the United States. Veterans of the Gulf War currently make up the largest share of that population. Of those, 9 out of 10 veterans are male, with the number of female veterans expected to double by 2045, rising to 2.2 million. These are highly skilled men and women returning from the theater of war seeking jobs. It is our responsibility as those who enjoy the fruits of their sacrifice to support them upon their return.
Veterans Make Great Leaders
Veterans are perfectly positioned to take on leadership roles in corporate America. The military trains people to lead by example and use direction, delegation, motivation, and inspiration to get their jobs done. Veterans have experience managing behavior and often intimately understand the dynamics of leadership.
Veterans Are Entrepreneurial
Veterans also have an entrepreneurial mindset. According to the Small Business Association, or SBA, military veterans are twice as likely as non-veterans to pursue business ownership after leaving the service, and the five-year success rate of ventures owned by veterans is significantly higher than the national average. As a leader of a major company, you should consider it vital to include entrepreneurial thinkers in your workforce to ensure that your company stays on the cutting edge of innovation and forward thinking.
Veterans Understand Advanced Technology
Veterans also have a high comfort level with advanced technology. According to a review of the academic research around veterans put out by Syracuse University back in 2016, “Military veterans (on average) have more advanced exposure to high technology relative to their age-group peers, but they also make the most of that knowledge by effectively leveraging knowledge across disparate work-related tasks.” That means veterans can offer potentially innovative insights to businesses based on their field experience with cutting-edge technology.
Veterans Are Highly Organized
Additionally, the same academic research review shows that veterans tend to have strong organizational ability. They excel at defining team goals and missions, defining team member roles and responsibilities, and developing a plan for action. Veterans also show “an inherent and enduring belief that they can efficiently and effectively integrate and contribute to a new or existing team.” Veterans can be a fantastic addition to any team because they also help support other high-functioning team members.
Veterans Are Resilient and Customer-Focused
It may go without saying, but veterans are also resilient in the face of adversity, and business is not without its challenges. A number of studies that the Syracuse report examined show that veterans “(generally) develop an enhanced ability to bounce back from failed professional and/or personal experiences more quickly and more completely, as compared to those who have not served.” Veterans tend to excel, especially in departments that include new product development, startup environments, sales, and environments where customer relationships are key.
Veterans Are Highly Adaptable
Veterans who have spent time in a combat environment have been shown to be more adaptable than average employees, too. Several studies cited by the literature review done by Syracuse show that veterans can evaluate a dynamic and changing environment on the fly and that they, in fact, thrive in dynamic environments. Because of their experience in the field, they have a highly developed ability to act in uncertain situations, which can prove to be incredibly valuable for businesses.
With all of the value that veterans bring to the corporate table, it’s crucial that you create a plan to hire and retain our skilled veteran workforce.
How to Hire and Retain a Skilled Veteran Workforce
Back in 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor and the Veterans Employment & Training Service joined together to create a report on the best way to hire and retain skilled individuals like veterans. The best way to recruit and retain a skilled veteran workforce is to get informed about the skills our veterans bring to the table, like those I list above. Once you’ve got a handle on the value that veterans can bring, you need to target your hiring to a handful of the resources available to find qualified veterans for your roles and understand how their experience in the field translates to your business. Finally, you need to put a retention plan into place to keep those skilled veterans at your company.
Find the Right Resources to Hire Veterans and Put a Plan Into Place
There are tons of resources that corporate leaders can use to hire and retain our talented veterans. The best resource for hiring Veterans is the VA, or Veterans Administration. On their website, you can use a variety of tools to find and hire both military veterans and their family members.
Another excellent resource for when you’re just starting to build your veteran hiring plan is USAA’s VET Employer Roadmap, which offers downloadable action plans for employers who want to hire these fantastic workers.
Another resource I really like is Career OneStop. The site links to numerous American Job Centers (AJCs) nationwide, and many offer employer services that can connect your business with veterans looking for work.
This is crucial since, according to a 2016 SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) report, 80 percent of organizations lack veteran recruiting programs. That’s considerable given that a 2015 report estimates 360,000 men and women leave the service every year to enter the private sector.
Understand How Military Experience Translates to Your Business
Translating military experience to the boardroom can be tricky both for veterans and for those looking to hire them. There’s a widespread misconception about their mental health, too. More than 40 percent of Americans believe that half of all veterans have mental health issues, according to survey results released in 2016 by the George W. Bush Institute’s Military Service Initiative, which is untrue. In fact, only 10 to 20 percent of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from posttraumatic stress.
The best way to combat this widespread misconception isto educate your HR department and your employees on the facts and help them translate military experience to corporate speak. For example, the SHRM report points out that most military veterans talk about their accomplishments from a team perspective, often using “we” or “us” to describe their wins. That can be confusing for HR and cause them to miss out on a great hire because most veterans tend to be humble about their individual contributions to their team. The best way to combat this is to have your hiring managers ask more questions and be curious about how military experience might translate to your business.
Plan to Retain Veterans
Because veterans come with a wealth of different experiences, mindsets, and perspectives, it’s crucial that you reframe your onboarding and retention systems to keep great military veterans at your company.
For example, company leaders must realize that some of the patterns of communication skills that veterans have differ from those with no military training, and that can make communicating in a company of civilians difficult. It’s imperative that you educate your workforce on how to manage and work with military veterans and that you keep the lines of communication open at all times in order to support your veteran employees.
Another way to retain military veterans is to be sure that you have a great and customized development path for your veterans. This helps them see the road ahead and learn new skills to become an integral part of your company.
Why Veterans Are So Important to a Successful Business
Taking all of these aspects into consideration can seem like a daunting task when trying to find, hire, train, and retain military veterans, but the truth is that this kind of work will bring immeasurable dividends.
Without the valuable military service of our honored men and women, our country would not be what it is today. Business leaders must commit to hiring these folks when they come home from the service. My passion for helping veterans is stronger than ever, and by educating your workforce and putting a comprehensive plan into place, you too can support and welcome our military veterans as they come home.