Did you know that 44% of veteran employees leave their first post-military company within the first year of employment? Some reports say as high as 60%! Well the reason for that is simple; there is a lack of targeted inclusion in getting veterans adjusted to life in the commercial work force. Those poor retention rates are on you, not them, and does not present a reason to not hire veterans because of that statistic!
I recently viewed a live stream of Adam Braatz (LinkedIn, YouTube) that really resonated with expectation management for veterans entering their first role with a commercial company following the end of their military service commitment. A good chunk of his discussion was how many recruiters and hiring managers often make false promises on a position just to get people to walk in their door. Eventually resulting in them running away screaming and cursing that they ever left where they came from. Certainly an unfortunate reality! However, his points got me reflecting on other aspects of commercial companies that often cause military veterans to run away; their general culture and how it severely differs from that of the military.
First, let’s be clear that there is no expectation that companies bend and alter their culture just to satisfy the veterans’ level of comfort. It is also the veteran’s responsibility to embrace the change as well. Instead, the intent is to assist the veteran with incorporation so that they can leverage their existing skillsets to benefit the company. Afterall, you will never find a stronger candidate with both strength as an independent and one that is highly trained for a team! There are steps that companies can take to give them an edge over competition by way of veteran hiring campaigns. That is simply a basic inclusion intiative to help bridge the gap in understanding what it means and takes to work in the commercial sector by way of your company.
Every company has some sort of onboarding process. Some more indepth than others. The challenge (and charge) for you is to include one or two extra items in your onboarding process, specifically for veterans, and especially if they are entering their first civilian job after 4–30 years of service. Pair them with an existing Veteran in your company and assign the two as mentor/mentee. Ideally, one in the same work area but that might not always be easy, but the value added will be the same. Your newly hired veteran will now have someone who has been through what they are going through, once spoke the same language as them, and can teach them tips and tricks on navigating the civilian work force and cultures.
The length of such initiatives could vary by your preference. Maybe 3 months, a year, or limited to 10 sessions on company time. Alternatively, it could be completely voluntary. Making a conscience effort to assist in their transition will mean the world to them and make a huge impact on your veteran hiring campaigns and retention rates. These simple initiatives are highly common within “veteran-friendly” employers so building a robust veteran mentorship program will not only boost veteran retention rates but could also land you on some of the “most military friendly” company lists!
Suggested topics/ideas for Veteran mentorship programs in your company:
- Introduce to other Veterans
- Connect them with Veteran Service Organizations and/or social groups in the area
- Discuss how to advance in the company/industry
- Professional development opportunities
- Establish professional goals with an understanding on how to achieve them
Understand that many of the above points are defined very clearly to those that serve in the military. They know exactly what they need to do and when in order to advance. It is not so clear in the commercial sector and this is where a lot of veteran employees get lost, start to panic, and ultimately leave their first company.
Got questions or additional feedback? Drop a comment below!