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Workplace programs for veterans
As 2013 begins, more and more service members are coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of those men and women are making their move out of the military andinto the civilian workforce. There are many reasons veterans make excellent assets to any company or organization roster.

  • They are highly disciplined. Military training requires service members to follow direction and follow it well.
  • They are accountability oriented. Military branches emphasize personal management of one’s own career, including additional training and certificates.
  • They tend to be well-trained and often well-educated. Veterans are process-oriented, just like their training and military education taught them to be.
  • They approach problem solving in unique ways. If they have had combat duty, past military members have likely worked in high-pressure situations with minimal resources.

Hiring a veteran is more than patriotism; it’s about recruiting high caliber, high quality people to join your team. Making the transition from military to civilian life isn’t easy. As an employer, there are a few things you can do to ease the transition, the most important of which is acknowledging it.

Understanding the transition
Despite their talent, unemployment among military veterans is still higher than the national average. One reason may be because of the stark switch from military to civilian life. After all, leaving a highly regimented way of life to begin a far less regulated lifestyle takes some getting used to.

Identifying veterans may be the first step, but identifying with veterans throughout their civilian career is the second, more trying task for agencies, businesses and companies alike.

Workplace programs to ease the transition
Luckily, there are many ways to ease the transition for veterans. From employee assistance programs to workplace flexibility and support groups, here’s what you need to know about adapting to veterans after you’ve recruited them.

  • If you’re going to hire one, hire two. Working together is a fundamental part of military training. Having two or more people on your team able to connect based on their military past is a tremendous help, even if only as sounding boards for one another because they have things in common, things like multiple tours of duty and combat experience.
  • Employee assistance programs work. Create a veteran-specific employee assistance program so that veterans in your organization have a group of people they’re able to contact and connect with if they’d like to. You may want to distribute executive notepads to members of the group, a place where they’ll be able to track meeting minutes and conversations. Spread the word about the initiative with the help of customized posters around the workplace.
  • Start an awareness or support group. Combine both veterans and civilian employees so as to help one group better understand the other. This may be especially helpful in terms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other lasting effects of combat duty.  Take the case of Sgt. Daniel Ware for example: His employer put a mirror in Ware’s cubicle “so he could see coworkers walk up behind him.” It was a huge help after Daniel’s tumultuous tour of duty in helping him feel safe.
  • Facilitate flexibility. Give veterans just a little more flexibility. Booz Allen Hamilton®, a strategic policy and research organization, allows their employees the opportunity to job-share, work as their schedule allows and offers childcare services for those just returning from deployment. You could implement a phase-in program where veterans begin part-time and work their way to full-time hours. Equip them with a wall calendar or daily planners to help them schedule their time.

Veterans are valuable. They can contribute a great deal to your workplace. Look for ways to make their transition from military to civilian life just a little bit easier when they join yours.

Blickenstaff, Glen. “Perfect Start-up Employee: Vets.” Perfect Start-up Employee: Vets | Inc.com. Inc.com, 15 Mar. 2012. Web. 24 Dec. 2012.

Smoliar, Laura. “How to Hire a Veteran.” How to Hire a Veteran | Inc.com. Inc.com, 13 Sept. 2012. Web. 24 Dec. 2012.

Maurer, Roy. “U.S. Employers Urged to Embrace Veterans; Report Details Innovative Ways.” U.S. Employers Urged to Embrace Veterans; Report Details Innovative Ways | We Know Next. Society for Human Resources Management, 16 Nov. 2011. Web. 24 Dec. 2012.

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