Transitioning from the military into the civilian workforce can be extremely difficult to a veteran; some compare it to starting a new job in a different country. The culture is different, the language is different, the body language is different, the mindset is different. Everything is different. Having an understanding of the difficulties associated with making this transition will help you as an employer, become successful at hiring our nations finest resources. Here are six strategies that can guide you in the right direction of effectively leading a highly skilled team of veterans
1. Be a Confident Leader
Leadership is a critical trait that is religiously taught in all branches of service. When you delegate a task to a veteran it needs to be clear, concise, and the expectations set in stone. Veterans are used to being issued an order, and that order is to be completed within the parameters specified. If the orders are not clear, the task is not clear, the overall mission is not clear and your ability to lead is not clear. If you plan on hiring veterans, make sure you are up to date on your leadership skills. Veterans like to know they are being led from the right direction with confidence and are diligently being taken care of.
2. Explain the Chain of Command
Military rank is a critical part of the culture. It brings structure, order, and discipline among the masses. Make sure you explain the team dynamics and company structure so your veteran knows who to talk to and how to talk to them. In the military rank makes sense; take it away and things get mushy. Your veteran wants to know where they sit on the totem pole, that way they don’t have the stress thinking that they are overstepping their boundaries or being disrespectful to a superior.
3. Assign a Battle Buddy
When a service member arrives at a new duty station they are typically assigned a sponsor. The sponsor has been on that assignment longer, has more experience, possesses great leadership traits along with a strong will and ability to help others. Find somebody in your company that is a veteran and willing to take on the responsibility sponsoring newly hired veterans. The sponsor acts as a translator; he/she can still speak the military lingo, understands the culture and can help the veteran gradually transition into the civilian workforce without the brute force of the culture shock. Having a system like this implemented is proven to be highly successful in multiple companies that are among the top 100 military-friendly employers.
4. Explain the Mission
Veterans are used to the success of the team is the driving force of motivation, not the success of the individual. When you explain the overall scope of the task or job, the veteran can see the big picture and focus on the project as a team. Military service members function and work by being assigned missions. Be sure to explain the company’s mission that way they have a meaning and purpose to the task at hand. Veterans will do whatever it takes to get the job done. The mission is the driving force, not the money or bonus
5. Do Your Homework
If you are going to hire veterans you need to understand the culture and the lifestyle they lived in, but most of all how they think. You have to get rid of the assumptions, stigmas, and stereotypes people have about veterans. Think logically and rationally.
- Just because your newly hired veteran deployed to a combat zone doesn’t mean they have post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Just because your newly hired Marine shot machine guns and lead troops in Afghanistan doesn’t mean he/she is not capable of successfully leading a sales team.
- Just because your newly hired Army Medic did two tours in Iraq, doesn’t mean that they are unfit to work in civilian healthcare.
- Not all combat veterans have PTSD.
- Not all veterans who have PTSD are unfit for the workplace.
Do yourself a favor and research what PTSD is. Click Here to Learn More
It is OK to ask your newly hired veterans if they have deployed and that is about as far as you need to take it. Do NOT ask your new hire if he/she has shot at anyone, seen action, suffers from PTSD, lost a buddy, or anything of that nature. It is an extremely personal and sensitive subject that has no merit in the workplace.
6. Communicate Efficiently
It is very important to let your veteran know you understand that they are going through a difficult culture change. You can accomplish this by using humor or in an informal personalized way. Believe it or not, veterans are human too. They like personalized conversations that snap them out of mission mode and gives the brain a minute to decompress. The fact that you recognized the difficulty in transitioning and let the veteran know you are there to help is already a giant leap forward in the right direction.