Ways to Help Veteran Employees Thrive

Sponsored: Orion Talent

I am a staunch advocate of veteran hiring. It is a smart business decision with a positive impact on everything from profitability to innovation to competitiveness. Not only are you hiring men and women with state-of-the-art technical skills and proven leadership skills far beyond that of their civilian peers, but you are also accessing resilient soft skills. Combined, these skills will help shape the future of your company.

While many of you are already on board with hiring veterans, I know retaining veterans is an entirely different animal. In a recent conversation with Meghan Biro, we talked about how many companies don’t transition service members to civilian roles very well. According to SHRM, the average annual employee turnover rate is around 19% making it a formidable hurdle for talent acquisition leaders. When we consider veteran employees, the percentage jumps to nearly 50% leaving their first post-military position within a year.

Much of this turnover can be attributed to a lack of support. Or, an undefined career path, feeling uninspired, or skills misalignment. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Luckily, these issues can all be addressed through a well-planned veteran onboarding and retention plan.

Help Military Veterans Thrive with These Five Strategies

1. Mentorships 

Mentorship is an excellent way to provide your new veteran employees with a connection to another veteran. They can serve as a resource, guide, and advocate in their new role. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs offers a wealth of information on retaining veterans, including information on setting up a successful mentorship program. 

Listed among the benefits of veteran mentoring are an increase in morale, and productivity. In addition, retention, better adaptation to workplace culture, better career development, and promotion of diversity. These voluntary relationships are also a great way to transfer institutional and cultural knowledge.

Technology powerhouse Siemens has been successfully executing its veteran mentorship program for years. Orion Talent has worked with Siemens to hire nearly 2,500 veterans since 2010, and among their veteran retention best practices is a military peer mentorship program. Mike Brown, Global Head of Talent Acquisition of Siemens, explained their program.  “When other military come in now, they get paired up. And I think that really helps with their transition.” 

2. Employee Resource Groups

Similar to the retention benefits of mentoring veterans, creating Employee Resource Groups or Veteran Affinity Groups also offers increased employee engagement and job satisfaction. The VA calls these voluntary groups a “critical element to retention advocated by study respondents”  in their Veterans Employment Toolkit. ERG programs can also include career development, advocacy, community service, and social activities. Make sure to give your veteran employees the time and space to participate in these groups, especially as they onboard.

An additional benefit of veteran ERGs is that they help build your company’s reputation in a job market where candidates, veteran or civilian, are seeking purpose-driven work. They also increase workplace agility as your org chart is flattened in an ERG. Collaboration and innovation often follow!

3. Career Pathing

When I speak with men and women transitioning into the civilian world, their desire for a clear career path stands out. Their military career progression was clearly laid out, with defined goals and requirements. In civilian terms, you can think of this as career pathing. When you hire a veteran for a Junior Electrical Engineer position, you could lay out a plan with steps and milestones to reach Senior Electrical Engineer and then Project Manager, for example. 

Laying out these career paths pays dividends in terms of engagement and retention. Employers also experience higher performance and productivity rates. This Mercer study shows that 78% of employees would stay with their current employer if they were given a clear career path. 

4. Upskilling

Offering continuous development and ongoing education to your veteran employees is a powerful retention tool.  

Not only are you illustrating your investment in their success by providing these programs but you are reaping the rewards. Aside from increased retention, benefits of upskilling include increased employee satisfaction, less need to hire train new employees, and becoming more competitive in your industry.

“Our experience shows that when veterans receive tailored preparation for future roles, it leads to a better fit, a better transition, and ultimately better retention,” explains Laura Schmiegel, SVP, Strategic Partnerships at Orion Talent. “This helps companies save time and money in employee turnover, and it means they get to keep some of their best talent.”

As Meghan discussed in her recent article on veteran hiring, workforce partnerships can play an important part in upskilling. Strategic workforce partnerships like the Department of Defense Skillbridge program allow you to recruit veterans and gain access to their existing expertise while upskilling and reskilling them at the same time. 

5. DEI Initiatives

The veteran population represents a 43% diverse workforce and should be an integral part of a company’s DEI initiative. As with any other group in your initiative, you will want to consider how to prevent bias towards your veteran employees. Unfortunately, some old biases may linger, and your DEI strategy is the place to nip that in the bud. 

This HR Exchange article by LaKisha Brooks explains, “These judgments are often harmful to diversity initiatives because they limit our ability to see people as individuals with unique talents to contribute. For example, bias against veterans includes assuming they have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Bias can also include mental health problems just because of their military background, assuming they have a particular personality type, such as being rigid or stern…It’s essential to put assumptions aside and ask meaningful questions to learn the truth instead.”

These five veteran retention strategies will help highlight to the veterans at your company that yours is a workplace that sees them for the unique individuals they are with valuable skills worthy of investment. But, you don’t have to take on all five at once. Choose one, and make it amazing! Then move on to the next retention strategy. Your veteran employees will be proud to call your company home.


10 Reasons Why You Should Hire a Veteran

When companies look for new workers, they want people who are dedicated, committed, trustworthy and loyal. Job skills can always be learnt, but the basic qualities of a good worker remain the same, especially for long-term employees. This is one of the main reasons that many establishments include a ‘hire a veteran program’ in their hiring process.
Let’s look at some of the qualities that make military veterans such desirable employees for just about any civilian business:

  1. Why Hire Military Veterans? They Will Get the Job Done! – Veterans are experienced at looking at the big picture and completing the ‘mission’, and once they are given a task, they do everything in their power to do it well. People with a military background will be unlikely to complain about working hard for long hours or missing their breaks when there is something that urgently needs to be completed. They’re adept at tackling problems and handling challenges without losing sight of their goal.
  2. Ingrained Teamwork Skills – Military veterans are familiar with the crucial importance of cooperation – working together as a team, and interacting with other teams, since the smallest slip made by an individual could lead to failure or even death. The ability to work as part of a single cohesive unit is one that is greatly in demand with companies in any industry, which makes a veteran the perfect team member.
  3. Pre-Existing Leadership Skills and Training – Veterans have excellent leadership skills, since many are placed in leadership positions at a young age, and more responsibilities are placed on them as they advance through the ranks. By the time they move into civilian life, they’ve already imbibed a number of essential leadership qualities like direction, inspiration, intuitiveness, delegation, motivation and behavior management.
  4. Integrity and Responsibility are Part of their Culture – Veterans come from a culture built that outfits them with a deep sense of responsibility and integrity. They learn at a young age that their actions have serious consequences, so they are more likely to understand the implications of their decisions. They’re also honest, so they will not be shy about sharing their thoughts when they think some changes might need to be made.
  5. They Can Handle Hard Work and Pressure – People who have been in the military are the least likely to buckle under the pressure of multiple tasks or hard work, which an ordinary worker might balk at. They are used to working in tough conditions, with tight schedules, long hours and often, limited resources. Tasks that may seem stressful to others will be treated with the same commitment as any other by a veteran.
  6. They Respect Authority and Structure – Employees with a military background can be counted on to show up to work on time and remain highly disciplined in every area of work. They have an ingrained respect for hierarchy and understand the importance of accountability at the workplace, so they will strive to deliver high-quality work that is in line with established procedures and policies within the business.
  7. Veterans Learn New Skills Quickly – In the armed forces, trainability is an essential quality that every recruit soon picks up. As civilian employees, veterans display an accelerated learning curve that allows them to grasp new concepts and skills quickly. They’ve already had experience at learning new techniques, being trained in the use of different kinds of equipment and more, and retain these skills when they join the civilian workforce.
  8. They Have a Global and Tech-Savvy Outlook – An ability to adapt to new technology is an essential quality in potential employees. In today’s fast-changing world, veterans gain the upper hand in technical trends for business and industry, since they are constantly exposed to them while serving in the military. Their time in service also gives them a unique perspective on the world, often with international exposure and increased global awareness.
  9. Employment Agencies for Veterans Ease the Transition – There are a number of agencies and firms that offer support to veterans looking for civilian employment. These are not only involved in putting veterans in touch with potential employers, but help ease the transition phase between military duty and civilian life and help them fit in better.
  10. Veteran Staffing Brings in Government Benefits Too – Veterans are often highly skilled and educated, since the government offers financial assistance for their higher education, besides training them during active duty. In addition, there is a host of benefits provided to companies who include a veteran staffing program in their hiring processes, so it’s win-win all the way.

Veterans returning to civilian life are some of the most highly skilled, adaptable and resourceful individuals that a company could hire, with a range of qualities that are in great demand in the employment sector. If you’re wondering how to hire a veteran, it’s easy. Just look up veterans employment agencies in your area and get the process started as soon as you can!

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