Inclusivity Tips for Onboarding & Retaining Veteran Hires

Inclusivity Tips for Onboarding & Retaining Veteran Hires

Nearly a quarter million veterans join the workforce annually, armed with elite training and experience. Many also bring tax benefits for hiring veterans, as well as OFCCP compliance. However, making the leap to civilian life after years of military service can be nerve-wracking, especially for veterans who may be stepping into their first civilian roles. These onboarding tips can help ensure a solid beginning.  

Design Goal-Oriented Steps

Checklists are a phenomenal tool to use in the onboarding process because every military branch employs them daily. Micro-managing that checklist will usually be unnecessary. Let veterans impress you by providing a basic framework and giving them the flexibility to show you a new solution that you might not have considered.

Access to Resources and Training

In nearly every job in the military, veterans are expected to self-train. But if they don’t know who to ask or where to go to it can be difficult for them to get up to speed. By providing 30/60/90 plans, measurable benchmarks, flexibility to accomplish those tasks, and access to resources and personnel, they will often require less supervision than other employees. And they may even embrace the self-training element of your culture in a way that might surprise you.

Instill a Healthy Pace

Many veterans will show up to their new job with the goal to impress and get up to speed quickly. They may be acutely aware of their “newness” to the industry and may not have direct experience. Although veterans are motivated self-starters, it’s important to check in and make sure they don’t suffer from early burnout.

Reinforce incremental steps and show them where their activities and actions have actually driven desirable outcomes. Virtually every military training exercise or real-world exercise was followed by a post-exercise debrief to identify key areas to sustain or improve. This is the kind of leadership style that veterans respond to best. It will also let you check in and make sure that what they’re doing is meeting both your goals and those above yours to solidify that these veteran hires are adding value.

Expect Leadership in Varying Styles

Most veterans who have served at least three years have led some kind of team. That leadership acumen may not be part of your job description, but nevertheless, military veterans have it. Leave room for them to demonstrate it. It could start in a kind of peer-to-peer way or a bottom-up leadership style. If you leave room for that you’ll be impressed with the results.

No News Could Be Bad News

Veterans are used to heavy scrutiny and have thick skins. They are accustomed to receiving blunt, honest feedback about every aspect of their performance. When that goes away and is replaced by a civilian workplace culture that may be vastly different, it can leave them lacking a sense of direction. They may wonder about whether their performance is meeting expectations, especially if they’re not hearing anything. While they do not require constant hand holding, create a communication circuit with deliberate check ins, or circle back to see how their week went.

Tailor the Tasks

Make sure your onboarding is flexible enough to meet needs of the individual rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. Some performers may need more specific steps over a set of goals and encouragement to “Go for it!” By helping them thrive, your organization will as well.