Support veterans within your workplace by understanding their challenges, communicating effectively, and being flexible.
Here's what you need to know:
- Educate yourself on the challenges veterans face — don't rely on them to tell you
- Ensure veterans understand what growth opportunities they have
- Be flexible with veterans — they may be going through unique situations
It can be challenging for veterans to reintegrate into civilian life. An integral part of that reintegration is finding sustainable work, which is often tough on its own. The United States Department of Labor reports that national unemployment numbers rose to 6.5% in 2020, with individual states noting rates ranging from 2.7% to 11.3 %.
The unfortunate truth is veterans are often overlooked during hiring sprees. Whether it’s due to a disability, suffering from severe PTSD, or assumptions of both, the reasons behind their difficulty finding and keeping work may vary.
If you have a veteran in your office and want to make sure they’re comfortable and accommodated properly, look no further. We’ve got a list for that.
Educate yourself about the veteran experience
This is huge. One of the kindest, most effective ways to accommodate veterans at your workplace is to learn about the challenges they face. Don’t rely entirely on them to teach you. They have enough to deal with and think about, leaving very little time or energy for them to help you understand their situation. Allow them to focus on rebuilding their lives and support them by educating yourself on what they’re likely going through. Do the work. Make the effort. The very act of trying to understand can mean the world to someone who feels displaced and misunderstood.
Make the effort to learn about the challenges that veterans face in the workplace.
A great place to start is the Department of Veterans Affairs website. There, you can find plenty of information and insight to help you form better, more inclusive teams. This can feel daunting at first, especially if you are determined to make your workplace better for veterans. Luckily, there are plenty of resources out there that can help you get started. It’s just up to you to take the time to inform and educate yourself.
Emphasize growth opportunities to support veterans
Veterans have impressive skill sets that can be enormous assets to your company. Because they are exiting highly structured, regimented lives and entering a world without that defined shape, veterans perform better when presented with opportunities to move up in the workplace.
Emphasize opportunities to them without resorting to “carrot and stick” motivation. In other words, don’t demean them by promising extreme outcomes or attempting to “light a fire” under them to do better work. The fire is already there. They already have the discipline to get things done and the knowledge and expertise to do their jobs efficiently. Your job is to make sure they are aware that those opportunities are available to them, too. Many veterans feel displaced and excluded, so go the extra mile and remind them that these opportunities are just as available to them as they are to their coworkers.
Provide support groups
This one is important, and it’s best to implement it after the education piece of this. Having robust, readily available support for veterans in your workplace can be a game-changer. But just to reiterate: educate yourself first. Don’t delegate this understanding to other managers. Take some initiative and organize a support program or system yourself. You don’t have to rehabilitate them on your own, but it is your responsibility to make sure they know that resources are available and that they have access to them.
Support veterans in your workplace by finding organizations that can help them through any hardships.
In fact, if you don’t have the resources for something intensive or fleshed-out, look outside your organization. Make the comfortability and well-being of veterans at your company a priority, and show them they’re important and valued. Organizations such as Hope for the Warriors and Give an Hour are widely respected for the work they do to support veterans. Start there and explore. There are over 40,000 veteran support and advocacy organizations in the United States.
It’s important to take veterans where they are at. Some days are going to be more difficult and more emotional than others, and you, as their employer, must give them the time and understanding they need.
As you may know, every veteran’s situation is going to be different. If necessary, it may be a good idea to build a few days’/weeks’ worth of extra PTO into their contracts. Let them know at the outset that you are there to support them and help them succeed. It may seem like a small gesture, but it can make a world of difference and help veterans on your payroll feel important and heard. That is incredibly important, and it will help establish your business as one that puts inclusivity high on its list of priorities.
This leads us to our next point, which is an important skill to master for everyone’s sake, not just veterans.
Support veterans through clear communication
Communicating clearly is everything. It’s what keeps your employees happy, informed, and equipped to do their jobs properly and efficiently. Without it, you’re flirting with chaos. Inviting it, even. You do not want to leave much — if any — room for assumptions or guesswork. You want to be consistent with your expectations and your promises. Not doing so — or being even a bit lazy and inattentive to how and when to communicate — is opening you up to significant problems both immediate and long-term.
Open communication is key to an effective and safe working environment.
Learning how to communicate effectively will not only help you ensure your employees know what they need to be doing, but it will also help veterans in the workplace communicate their needs. By fostering an open, communicative internal culture, you are creating a safe environment for all of your employees — especially veterans — to tell you what’s working for them, what isn’t, and how you can go about accommodating them in a respectful manner.
Veterans can be incredibly valuable assets to your company, but making their re-entry into society as painless as possible (through what you can do for them at work) should be your priority. We hope this list has been informative and given you a clearer way forward when hiring and working with veterans.
If you’ve just started looking into how you can help veteran hires and are interested in success stories, check out this article on 3 veterans who tapped into their entrepreneurial spirits and started successful businesses.