Millions of former U.S. service members are now part of the civilian workforce, bringing diverse skills and experiences to their new employers. But sometimes cultural differences can create obstacles for veteran employees and civilian managers, preventing clear communication and understanding.
By recognizing some of these common challenges, you can help ease the transition for veterans into your organization. Here are five tips for managing veterans successfully in the workplace.
Let go of misconceptions.
Veterans are not a homogenous group. They have had diverse experiences during their time in the military, yet certain stereotypes about veterans persist. Research from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 46% of HR professionals surveyed said that posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and mental health issues were major challenges when considering employees with military backgrounds. But PTSD only affects about one-fifth of the current veteran population, and it is often treatable with medication.
Other misconceptions are that veterans are overly rigid and only work well within strict hierarchies, or that they are used to following orders but aren’t adept at critical thinking. The reality is that veterans are accustomed to working within changing conditions and must often make decisions and solve problems that serve a common goal. And above all, the veterans who join your organization are individuals with their own unique strengths and skills.
Clearly define the roles, responsibilities, and operating procedures within your organization. Outline overarching goals and leadership structures – who reports to whom, which departments work in tandem with others – and how new employees fit into them. Be transparent about how you evaluate performance, and build a checklist of steps employees can take to succeed.
Talk about culture.
Your company culture may be very different from the one veteran employees are used to. Take the time to explain the values, priorities, norms, and other subtleties that are particular to your organization.
Encourage professional development.
Maintain an ongoing conversation with veteran employees about how they are getting along in your company. What projects and tasks do they find most engaging or suited to their skills? What do they need help with? What ideas do they have about changes or improvements? Recognize their contributions, listen to their suggestions, and support their efforts to grow professionally.
Look for opportunities to match veteran employees with mentors who can help answer questions and supplement training. Peer mentors can be valuable resources for navigating the ins and outs of your office culture, and more senior supervisors can help with big picture career development.
York Solutions’ Barriers to Entry program (B2E) is a paid training program that helps under-represented groups, including veterans, pursue careers in IT. Learn how your organization can benefit from hiring within this overlooked talent pool.
Get more information about the B2E program.