According to the latest report from the Department of Defense, there are more than 50,000 active duty military service men and women in the state of South Carolina. Of those, 10 percent will leave the military each year. But will they stay in South Carolina? Additionally, 240,000 will separate from the military outside of South Carolina. And we certainly want them to relocate here. So what can employers do to attract veterans, engage with veterans, and retain veterans?
- Values: Veterans are values-driven. While certain candidates might not even look for how a company displays or demonstrates their business values, a veteran definitely will. To attract veterans, go beyond posting your mission statement and values on the company website. Clearly show how your company is acting consistently with those values and how you interact with the community, support your employees, and operate the business.
- Veteran Resource Group: Gather a group of current employees who are veterans and conduct a "stay" interview with them. Ask questions like, "How did you find us?", "What brought you to our company?", and "What makes you stay?" Veterans are a tight unit and they will talk to other veterans. Get them talking about how great it is to work for you.
- Training: Train your HR team and the hiring managers to understand the Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), or jobs of the candidates you seek to attract. Each branch of the military is unique with different training requirements. However, the end result is the same. All veterans leave the service with skills and qualities that your company is seeking. Train your staff to understand military occupations and the skills associated with that expertise.
- Onboarding: Welcome the veteran starting with your new hire packet. Include a letter from the CEO, president, and their new manager welcoming the veteran employee to the company. Provide a list of available resources your company has to support them throughout their career at the company. Assign a mentor (ideally another veteran employee) and introduce them to other veterans on their new team or department who can assist them in getting settled into the job.
- Guidance: Veterans are very resourceful. This doesn’t mean they don’t need assistance. Provide the names and phone numbers of people in the company who they can reach out to for guidance. Veterans understand "chain of command," so clarify what that looks like and who to go to for concerns or assistance.
- Purpose: This is one of the hardest struggles in a veteran’s transition to civilian life. A company can show a veteran employee purpose in several ways. Place veterans in training or coaching positions. Even if they are new to the company, they will learn quickly and they will lead. Create military relations managers with the sole responsibility of helping those transitioning from the military to the company. Provide opportunities for the veterans (and all employees) to do community work. Offer paid volunteer hours, have a Habitat for Humanity build day, or sponsor a local nonprofit, for example.
- Family Support: When someone commits to serve their country, they don’t do it alone. Their spouse, children, and extended family take that journey with them. When they return from active duty — whether they served four or 34 years — the family is still an important part of their career. When they transition to a civilian career, their family is there to help them reintegrate. Companies who invite the family to gatherings, company events, and recognition celebrations show the veteran employee that they recognize how important family is in their successful civilian career.
- Leadership: Leadership is a foundational value and skill developed in the military. At every level of the military, from the moment the uniform goes on, to the day they leave, they are taught how to lead, why leadership matters, and the importance of driving toward a mission and caring for their units. In their civilian careers, veterans often seek to lead or be led in similar ways: ascribing to a high set of values and principles, complete accountability and responsibility for actions, and caring for others. Your veteran employee is a natural problem-solver, trained to overcome obstacles. Encouraging your veteran employee to innovate, brainstorm, and give their opinion shows that you recognize their skills and leadership.
- Skills Alignment: When someone joins the military, they are trained on numerous things they will rely on and deploy such as the culture, systems, strategies, and tactics. Their extensive training ensures they can effectively defend and protect as they do their work. Those skills carry forward to a civilian career, but are often difficult to define or project. Hiring veterans into any business must include offering tools and training to ensure their skills are aligned with their career choice. The cost of training a workforce that is predisposed to learning new skills and behaviors is definitely worth the investment.