By Lida Citroën
If you are growing a business in today's dynamic global arena, you know it requires strong leadership, sound decision making, competitive insight, strategic positioning, and leveraging of resources to flourish. Small businesses must take advantage of innovative and creative opportunities to build their brand, enhance their business, and attract (and keep) the best employees. Smart business leaders recognize the strength and value of hiring military veterans.
Why Hire Veterans?
Veterans are men and women exiting their military career with tremendous skills, unique talents, extraordinary character qualities, and career experiences often unmatched by their civilian counterparts.
A veteran employee offers businesses tangible qualities, including:
- Character: Service members are taught the importance of integrity and character. They are trained to serve and hold high moral and ethical guidelines.
- Trainability: They are not only skilled in areas like technology, process improvement, systems, and human dynamics but veterans are accustomed to training!
- Transferrable skills: While it might be hard to see how a cook in the Navy is a suitable candidate for a store manager, consider what a cook is responsible for: procurement of materials, meeting deadlines, managing budgets and staff, and working in a stressful environment. The transferrable skills a veteran brings might not be as obvious, but they are valuable.
- Natural problem solving: Veterans are trained to solve problems and not dwell in possibility. In many cases, their ability to quickly and successfully resolve an issue had life or death consequences.
- Adaptability: During their time in uniform, veterans became comfortable with constantly changing plans, locations, and priorities, making them highly adaptable.
- Leadership: Personal accountability, taking responsibility, and leading through adversity are qualities instilled in all military service members. When they leave service, they are typically comfortable in leadership roles.
- Team building: The military emphasizes camaraderie and teamwork. Veterans are excellent team builders, raising morale and engagement with their civilian counterparts on the job.
- Cultural awareness: During their military service, veterans worked alongside men and women from different nationalities, ethnicities, races, and religions. They are accustomed to building relationships and meeting goals through different cultural systems.
- Value driven: The military teaches honor, integrity, service, loyalty, and duty. These are the values for which the men and women in uniform put their lives on the line. Values are important to veterans, even after they leave service.
- Respect: Rank and status are important in the military, and respect for others is exhibited to ensure a successful operation and team.
Building a Veteran Hiring Initiative
Whether your small business starts with a goal to hire one or 20 veterans, a well-thought out veteran hiring program will elevate your position as a veteran-friendly company and ensure you recruit exceptional talent.
To build your program, ask yourself:
- What is our business and brand, and what do we value? Well-designed hiring initiatives should start with a clear understanding of the business drivers (What do we do? What do we make/sell? Who do we serve?) and include the company brand (What makes us valuable to our market? What do our customers and employees expect from us?) and company values (What do we believe in? What are our corporate values?). These questions will help reveal the why behind the initiative — Why is hiring veterans important to our company?
- Who should lead this initiative? Assigning a champion is important to building a sustainable veteran-hiring initiative. This person should be in a position of influence and authority to capture resources needed to ensure success and have high visibility to advocate to the entire company.
- What should our resource group look like? Developing an affinity or resource group for veteran employees is a well-recognized best practice among veteran-committed employers. These groups provide support, collaboration, mentoring opportunities, and even discounts to events and services for your veterans and their military families.
- Who can help us? Veteran Serving Organizations (VSOs) including Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), US Chamber of Commerce, and many national and local organizations provide tools, systems, and connections to veterans and veteran programs for you.
- How will we measure results? As with any significant business initiative, measuring results and monitoring effectiveness are critical. Set clear goals at the outset, and track results quarterly and annually. Report those results and achievements to all company employees, fostering enthusiasm and reinforcing your company's commitment to veterans.
Companies seeking to differentiate themselves and grow their talent base are wise to consider hiring veterans. While there will be differences in style and communication between civilian employers and military veterans, the benefits of sourcing, hiring, and growing veteran employees make a strong business case for creating a viable veteran hiring initiative.
About the Author
Lida Citroën, a branding expert based in Denver, is passionate about helping our Nation's veterans navigate the challenges and opportunities of the military-to-civilian career transition. A popular TEDx speaker, and trainer at national events on veteran hiring, Lida has coached over 300 military veterans, writes for Military.com and Entrepreneur.com on the topic of military transition, sits on the Board of Directors for the National Association of Veteran Serving Organizations (NAVSO), volunteers with ESGR, and teaches in the TAP program at the US Air Force Academy. In addition, Lida leverages her 20+ years in corporate branding to help America's employers learn how to recruit, on board and grow the veteran employee to support business and brand goals.