Your Organization Can Help Military Veterans Transition to the Civilian Workforce

A civilian shakes the hand of a military member.

Refining onboarding and training should ease military veterans' transitions to the civilian workforce.

Military veterans should be viewed as gold-standard candidates when they enter the civilian workforce. Possessing sought-after traits such as discipline, loyalty and an ability to work under pressure, it shouldn't be any wonder why veterans' resumes often go to the top of the recruitment pile. But despite the high regard that hiring managers have for veterans, there can be a disconnect between those good intentions and workplace realities.

This could be because many organizations haven't tailored their training and onboarding processes to help veterans successfully acclimate to a whole new way of working. Until employers close this gap, they could lose out on potentially valuable employees.

Hiring Veterans Is the Easy Part

Evidence of a civilian-veteran divide was supported in a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation report, Veterans in the Workplace, which surveyed 400 hiring managers and HR professionals as well as 1,000 military veterans who had transitioned into the civilian workforce.

According to the report, businesses had made big strides in their recruitment of veterans. Only college educated and female workers ranked higher than former military members as a top recruiting target. HR leaders associated veterans with attributes such as work ethic, timeliness and teamwork more than they did civilian employees, according to the Foundation. In fact, hiring managers were less likely to connect veterans with negative qualities.

But underneath that glowing appreciation, the HR leaders also acknowledged several shortcomings that prevent them from fully integrating veterans once they are hired. First, a majority of HR leaders confessed to having little familiarity with the military. Of course, as the report notes, a lack of understanding about military culture and veterans' experiences makes it difficult for HR to place them in the proper jobs.

Tellingly, more than 80 percent of recruiters said their organizations lacked specialized training to help civilian staff relate to veterans. And nearly 70 percent said they didn't provide any special assistance to veterans during the onboarding process. The numbers suggest that while businesses invest in hiring veterans, they're not making the same commitment to onboarding and training.

Training and Onboarding Realizes Veterans' Potential

An organization that fails to assimilate veterans probably won't see the full measure of their traits that initially seemed attractive during hiring (commitment to teamwork, loyalty, etc.). Moreover, businesses will squander financial gains when they can't make the most of veterans' talents. According to Gartner, veterans prove that they perform 4 percent better than average employees. For a 1,000-employee organization averaging $150,000 in revenue per employee, this translates to a $6 million yield. Also, veterans' dedication to work results in a lower turnover rate of 3 percent. For the 1,000-employee organization, that commitment to showing up creates an annual savings of $1.3 million.

Financial leaders can ensure their organizations don't miss out on those kinds of gains by giving HR departments the resources to strengthen the onboarding and training of veterans. Consider how veterans often struggle to convert military language to business world language, and thus can't articulate how their experiences and knowledge can be applied in civilian jobs. HR departments need to make that translation easier by learning military culture and meeting veterans more than halfway in the onboarding process as they learn the lay of the land in their new jobs.

Also, training can be improved by assigning mentors to newly-hired veterans. Mentors can regularly answer veterans' questions, address concerns and give feedback. Team meetings and informal gatherings can also help veterans assimilate.

Enhancing the onboarding and training for veterans will remove much of the sting and setbacks of adjustment to civilian work and let them quickly become productive employees. With a mix of formal and informal programs and constant communication, veterans can be on the same page as their colleagues and learn to savor their new workplaces.