By Meghan Golden
Imagine spending your days with people who share a common mission, share common values, and who always have your back. You eat the same food, you sleep in the same place, you wear the same clothes. These people are your team, sometimes even closer to you than family. They become your family; you share inside jokes, you celebrate each other’s successes, and you hold each other up during hard times. No one else can truly understand the things that you have seen and experienced, and no one can ever replace the bond that keeps you connected.
Now, imagine leaving that team and trying to find a new purpose without them by your side. This is a struggle that most veterans face when separating from the military, and one that continues to be difficult to overcome. There is a transition that occurs when veterans and their families leave the military and re-enter civilian life. The military has its own culture, its own language, and an expected way of conducting oneself that is unlike any other organization. Consequently, many veterans feel out of place or uneasy when first entering the non-military workplace, whether they served for 4 years or more than 20.
Statistics show that over 50% of veterans left their post-military job within the first year, and I can personally attest to this. When I left the Army after almost seven years, I accepted an operations job back in my home state. When I started, I had high expectations that I would find my next tribe, a team that I could count on no matter what. But I quickly found myself in an unfamiliar landscape with a much less regimented environment than I was used to. I encountered misplaced stereotypes about my military service that made me feel isolated, and over time caused me to disengage from my coworkers. I was missing the sense of purpose that had always defined my work, and eventually ended up seeking alternative employment.
Many employers actively recruit veterans, as they recognize the strengths, skills, and leadership qualities that veterans bring to an organization. But what can employers do to bridge the culture gap, fully integrate veterans into the workplace, and realize these benefits? Here are three steps to get started on creating a veteran informed culture in your workplace:
- Ensure your company has a clear mission and vision.
The military has clear guideposts that shape its culture, and veterans will feel welcome and engaged when businesses hold a similar sense of purpose and direction.
Holding monthly or quarterly all-hands meetings to update employees on the company’s progress toward goals will not only engage veterans, but the entire organization.
- Clearly define pathways for upward advancement.
Veterans respect hierarchy. While most companies are not as rigorously structured as the military, those that have defined measures of success and routes to promotion will keep veterans encouraged in their roles.
A robust onboarding program, coupled with an internal mentorship program, will lay the groundwork for what success looks like.
- Recognize and celebrate military service.
Many civilian employees do not understand the experiences of their veteran co-workers, and do not know how to ask about it. By recognizing your veteran employees, organizations can break down barriers between veteran and civilian employees, challenge any stereotypes that may be present, and create a more welcoming and supportive environment for everyone.
This can be done at any time, but publicly recognizing and thanking your veteran employees on Veterans Day is a great way to start.
By creating a veteran-informed culture, employers will help veterans make a positive connection to their new work environment, leading to increased engagement benefitting both the veteran and the organization. Help veterans find their next tribe, the people they can count on no matter no matter what. Drive your organization beyond “military-friendly”—strive for veteran-informed.