When your new employee was in the military, they were consistently and publicly rewarded for meeting objectives and going above the call of duty. Veterans are also accustomed to clear direction so that they can advance in their careers and increase their pay.
They need a high-touch approach as they transition to your workplace, says Sherrill A. Curtis, principal and creative director for HR consulting firm Curtis Consulting Group LLC, in her guide “Support From Behind the Lines.” Here are a few steps that Curtis and other experts suggest.
- Create a mentoring program. Link veterans with other employees who have served in the military to show them the company ropes and who can provide feedback on any concerns that they might not otherwise voice. Or, assign managers to shepherd veterans. For example, in Seattle, Starbucks has instituted a “sponsorship” program. Each new hire receives one mentor with military experience and one without military experience. These three employees can accomplish two things. First, they can make the transition easier for the new employee, and second, they can continue to bridge the civilian-military divide by learning from one another.
- Establish employee resource groups (ERGs), or affinity groups, targeted to veterans. ERGs provide networking opportunities, like community volunteerism, raising awareness and education about the military community among the employee population. ERGs also offer one-on-one coaching (a mentoring program can dovetail into your veterans’ ERG agenda). For example, USAA of San Antonio, TX, provides VetNet, its internal veteran employee resource group. VetNet boasts a communication site and social media community designed for veteran and military spouse employees that works much like LinkedIn. VetNet is used for sharing information, posting military-related events, seeking/offering help on the job, mentoring, listing military-related websites and establishing focus groups for specific business needs. The VetNet team also executes internal social and professional development events.
- Don't forget about the basics. Be sure that issues such as job responsibilities, start time, chain of command and professional growth opportunities are clear to them when they first start, and check in with them weekly for the first three months to see how they are adjusting.
LINKING UP SPOUSES
Veterans’ employee resource groups don’t always translate into good integration opportunities for military spouses. Spouses also may be dealing with unspoken stresses that cannot be discussed in mixed company. They may be more apt to reach out to other spouses for support rather than to your designated Employee Assistance Program (EAP) coordinator, too.
You may want to form an employee resource group specifically devoted to military spouses and those who want to support them. Something like this is especially essential when deployments or missions interfere with a spouse’s day-to-day routine. Being able to connect with those in similar situations enables a spouse to focus on their job, despite what may be going on personally with their spouse's mission. Also, tailor a mentoring program for spouses whose professional experience may be interrupted by frequent moves and lifestyle challenges.
If you’re new to all of this and want to get advice from other companies that have blazed the trail with military spouses, consider becoming a partner of the Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP), a key component of the White House Joining Forces campaign. Opportunities exist for MSEP partners to network within industry sectors or with other industries to share best practices, discuss corporate challenges and support the military community.