Life at home after heeding the call of duty takes a lot of getting used to. For many veterans, the switch includes finding suitable work — and businesses don’t always make it the easiest for them to join their ranks. But many qualities and skills come with military training that are transferable to any workplace. In other words, you shouldn’t overlook these servicemen and women.
Once they’re in their new roles, it’s up to you to make sure they settle in well. There are plenty of ways to ensure veterans succeed in the business world — here are five of them.
1. Lead by Example
If there’s one thing everyone knows about life in the military, it’s that the setup is extremely structured. There’s a logical progression from rank to rank, and those with lower titles show nothing but respect to the commanding officers who guide them.
In hiring a veteran, you need to consider your own company’s structure. The line of promotion or rank might not seem as linear as it is in the military. However, you should make a point to lead by example when it comes to your military employees.
Veterans are used to strong leadership, and they’re used to mirroring the behaviors of those who rank higher than they do. The managers at your company are now in that role — they should work to improve their leadership skills if they don’t already have them honed.
2. Choose the Right Career Path
Every veteran’s intended trajectory is different, of course, but there are some industries where they tend to thrive including finance, IT and supply chain management, for starters. These jobs feel high-pressure for the everyday employee, but for veterans? They're low-stress in comparison to being on the front lines of a military operation, so they're able to handle big decisions and tough deadlines coolly.
Even if you can’t place a veteran in this type of role, keep their tough skin in mind. They could excel in an area that others might find too stressful — they’ve kept a level head in a situation much worse, so you can trust them in your business’s most challenging departments.
3. Incorporate as Much Teamwork as Possible
There’s no such thing as a solo mission in the military — even smaller operations require a group effort. It’s often difficult for your veteran employees to adjust to solo work, so make a point to encourage collaboration amongst your team. Creating a teamwork-based environment is tough, especially if employees in your business seem to prefer flying solo. But there’s so much to gain from workers who can bounce ideas off one another, and no one will thrive more than a veteran who is so used to collaborating with others to succeed.
To that end, make sure you’re cognizant of the fact that many veterans will have a hard time taking credit for the work they do. They’re used to working with a team, so the entire team gets the glory when they do something right.
In feedback sessions, for example, try not to shine the spotlight too brightly on your veteran employee. Instead, ask about moments where the team did something right, so they feel more comfortable talking about their strengths.
4. Communicate Expectations Clearly
In the military, officers don’t mince their words. They say exactly what they want and need from those they command. Your veteran employees will have trouble understanding vague directions, so give them what they need — quick, to-the-point descriptions of what they’re supposed to do. Otherwise, they’ll feel frustrated by a lack of direction, and you might not be pleased with the result of their work.
Clear communication will help both of you flourish. Make sure to set clear expectations and define the reasoning behind them. Also get feedback from your employee and find out their expectations for you and your company.
5. Be a Mentor
We’ve touched on the importance of strong leadership in creating structure, but one-to-one guidance is a valuable addition to your system, too. This is especially true for newer employees or, in your case, workers who are transitioning from one industry to another. Many who have participated in such programs still point to their mentor as someone who shaped and guided their career in a more personal way than over-arching company leadership and structure.
Even though this isn’t how the military operates, creating a mentorship program will help you oversee the careers of your new veteran employees. Be sure participants are aware of what it means to be a mentor — and how important their voice is in the transition from the military to the business world. If done correctly, both participants will grow from the personalized guidance and support provided.
Make Your Business Work for Everyone
One thing is for sure — if you’re concerned with making your business better for veterans, you’re already on the right path. The five tips provided above will help you make moves toward your goal, and, at the end of it, you’re sure to have a setup that works for you — and the heroes who work for you.
Sarah Landrum is a millennial workplace expert and the founder of career and happiness blog, Punched Clocks. Her career development advice has been featured on Forbes, Levo, The Muse, Business Insider and other top publications. Sarah has been listed as one of the top career websites and career experts to follow.