Veterans Day, observed each November 11, is a wonderful opportunity for your organization to demonstrate your commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) by investing in veterans as employees. Whether you already hire veterans or are looking to recruit and retain more veteran candidates, below you’ll find 10 tips you can follow to create a more veteran-inclusive work environment.
Hiring Veterans is Good for Business
There’s a strong business case for hiring veterans, as the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) explains in its report, “Why Hire a Vet?” and veteran-inclusion expert Paul Dillon echoes in his article, “Why Veterans Make Great Board Members.”
In short, veteran employees bring:
- Highly-developed skills in both leadership and teamwork. All veterans have in-depth, skill-based education in flexibility, collaboration, problem solving, and decision making. And, as SHRM puts it, “all are trained to meet the highest standards when it comes to ethics, safety and other organizational imperatives.”
- A clear understanding that diversity leads to victory. As Paul Dillon explains, “Nobody accomplishes the mission alone. If you’re going to be successful in the military, you need to work with all types and kinds of people, from all races, creeds, genders, backgrounds and persuasions. In short, the military experience creates cultural competency through lived experience in diverse work settings and with diverse team members
- Better bottom-line results. In fact, “a 2013 study of veteran hiring, performance, and turnover found that veterans, on average, perform at higher levels and are less likely to turn over, generating multiple positive outcomes for businesses. The analysis showed that for a company of 1,000 employees with 25% veteran new hires, cost savings amounted to $325,000 per year.”
- Direct tax benefits: The Work Opportunity Tax Credit, The Returning Heroes Tax Credit, and The Wounded Warrior Tax Credit are just a few of the tax benefits available to companies that hire veterans
“Veterans are trained leaders with a heart for entrepreneurship. When you have a company culture that allows for them to take responsibility for a project or program and the flexibility to run with it, you will see tenure.” – Elizabeth Reyes, Director of Employment Partnerships at Hire Heroes USA
10 Ways Your Organization Can Be More Inclusive of Veterans
According to SHRM, “The more prepared an organization is for employing veterans—as opposed to simply hiring them—the more the organization can reap the rewards from this valuable human capital resource.” Here are our best tips and resources to help your company become more inclusive of veterans, as well as case studies from some of the top employers for veterans.
1. Create Your Veteran Inclusion Plan
Not sure where to start? Make sure you’re including veteran status as part of your existing DEI strategy. Mention veteran status as a dimension of diversity in your anti-discrimination statements, employee handbook, and DEI mission, vision, or values. Additionally, there are numerous resources available to help you create a plan for hiring and retaining veterans. The U.S. Department of Labor and The Veterans Administration offer toolkits and guides to hiring and retaining topflight veteran candidates.
“I invest in veterans not to do them a favor; they are actually doing me a favor, because the qualities they bring to the workforce are invaluable.” —Roger Staubach, JLL Americas, Pro Football Hall of Fame Quarterback and Veteran
2. Earn Your Certificate in Military Hiring
SHRM offers a free “Veterans at Work” Certificate Program to provide you with the skills and tools to attract, hire, and retain veterans and members of the military community. HR professionals can earn 10 professional development credits toward SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP recertification.
As Elizabeth Reyes, Director of Employment Partnerships at Hire Heroes USA, identifies, organizations can also “seek out veteran-specific hiring events, both in-person and virtually. For instance, Hire Heroes USA hosts 4 Virtual Career Fairs per year with the next one scheduled for November 4th from 12-5 p.m. EST in celebration of Veteran’s Day. You can set up a booth, download resumes, and chat with career-ready applicants. These events bring highly-qualified veteran and military spouse talent who offer competitive skills and backgrounds.”
3. Take the Veterans Hiring Pledge
Let candidates know that your company welcomes veterans by taking the Veterans Hiring Pledge from Military.com. Once you become a member company, you can add the badge to your website as well as receive exclusive materials and tips for veteran hiring.
4. Ensure Your Hiring Practices Are Military-Friendly
Learn how to write inclusive job descriptions that will help you find the best candidate for the job. The military uses different terminology from the civilian workforce, so it’s important to focus your job postings on transferrable skills and competency. If you or the job applicant are unsure how their experience might fit your company, O*Net and the U.S. Department of Labor offer online tools that help veteran job seekers translate their military experience into civilian terms. For example, the ability to delegate and clearly articulate mission-critical information is also crucial to workplace communication.
When writing job descriptions that will attract more veteran candidates, avoid requiring a certain number of years of experience. The Department of Labor’s Employer Guide to Hiring Veterans explains how this action could hurt your ability to attract military candidates: “A job description stating ‘2-3 years outside sales experience mandatory’ would immediately disqualify the majority of transitioning service members, many of whom may need only minimal training to succeed in a sales position.”
“Veterans come with a wide range of skill sets that translate directly to our clients, along with self-discipline, a commitment to a mission, security clearances and a sense of dedication to duty. It’s a win all-around.” — Gary Patton, retired major general and director for military and veterans affairs, CACI International [Forbes]
5. Provide Ample Onboarding, Mentorship, and Sponsorship
Members of the military work in a tight-knit, supportive community, in pursuit of a common goal. Veterans may not experience the same level of camaraderie or sense of purpose when they enter the civilian workplace. Ample onboarding, mentorship, and sponsorship are three ways employers can help ease the transition for veterans.
The best news is that mentorship and sponsorship are two of the most effective — and most cost-effective — ways to increase employee satisfaction and create a sense of belonging for employees from underrepresented backgrounds. While mentorship is typically an informal relationship with a colleague or advisor who can help the person grow, sponsorship involves a formal arrangement whereby a supervisor or executive in the organization works to amplify and advocate for another team member’s career success.
6. Educate Your Team About Military Culture
Less than 10% of Americans have served in the U.S. military, so veteran employees may feel misunderstood or experience bias from coworkers. To help facilitate understanding, companies such as U.S. Bank require all employees to take courses on military culture that include sections on unconscious bias and action-based skills for respectful interaction. Additionally, you may choose to share resources like movies, books, and podcasts so your employees can take personal education into their own hands.
7. Launch a Veteran ERG
An employee resource group (ERG) that focuses on veterans and military families will not only help you create an inclusive culture and improve retention and engagement among your veteran employees. It will also help you recruit more veteran candidates, clear the path for their best work, and understand how to support them better.
As Hire Heroes’ Elizabeth Reyes explains, “no one knows what a veteran needs better than another veteran. They can make sure that your stock images are correct, that your military appreciation efforts are of value, and that they have a community in the civilian workforce they know they can turn to for support.” The Veterans Network ERG at Comcast is one great example of how to do this well. This ERG works together with other groups across the company to collectively build stronger connections between military employees and their colleagues.
8. Provide Support for Military Families
Military families are sometimes referred to as “the force behind the force.” Military spouses, in particular, manage the household while their partner is deployed and may find it difficult to obtain employment because of frequent moves. Many of the companies featured in this guide recognize the important role of military spouses and offer separate benefits and programs to help them find employment. For example, through its Job Transition Assistance Program, Bank of America partners with military recruiters to help military spouses find a new job or create flexible options for their current job when their spouse is relocated by the military. A team of Bank of America human resource specialists is also available to assist military spouses with connections to childcare, counseling, or community services through the company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
Sometimes, showing support for military families can be as simple as providing a clear pathway for military spouses, parents, and even adult children to share their challenges with a supervisor and ask for necessary flexibility, including paid time off, hybrid work options, or work schedule changes when necessary. If their loved one is relocated or deployed, military family members may experience emotional and financial strain. Being able to share that information at work can help relieve some of the burden.
“We understand that for people to be their authentic selves—to show up and thrive at work— they need to be able to bring all identities.” —Nik Hall, Senior Manager and U.S. Army Veteran, Deloitte
9. Offer Flexible Leave Options
Veterans and members of the National Guard and Reserves can be called to active duty at any time. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) provides guidelines for employers to support their active military employees, including tips on how to plan ahead for their absence and template policies regarding military leave. Start by learning your legal obligations, and then, consider how you might provide additional resources as well.
For example, Booz Allen Hamilton — which ranked number 5 on Forbes’ list of “America’s Best Employers for Veterans” — offers a variety of flexible leave options so employees can complete their military duties without worrying about job security. The company’s short-term military leave “allows eligible employees to fulfill their military training obligations of fewer than 30 consecutive days for the National Guard and Reserves. The leave is in addition to regular vacation time.”
10. Support Your Employees’ Health and Well-Being
The stigma around mental health is a major obstacle for veterans seeking civilian employment. While some soldiers do experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), there is a stereotype that all veterans have mental health challenges. In fact, a June 2010 poll of HR professionals found that 46% of hiring managers said post-traumatic stress and other mental health issues pose hiring challenges, despite the fact that only 13.5% of deployed and non-deployed veterans screened positive for PTSD.
One great resource you can tap into? The Wellbeing in the Workplace initiative, launched in 2019 by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the Veterans Administration to prioritize mental health in corporate America. The initiative modeled its efforts on similar work that was already taking place in the veterans community. Companies that take the Wellbeing in the Workplace Pledge commit to help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and provide appropriate resources to address mental health concerns when they arise.
Hiring and supporting veteran employees is more than just a nice thing to do; it shows clear ROI for future-thinking businesses. It’s good for morale, good for profits, and beneficial to your organization’s DEI journey. By implementing the tips we’ve listed above, you can take the first steps towards becoming a more diverse and inclusive organization, for veterans and for all great candidates.