The message “hire veterans” has been a hot tagline for years. Federal agencies, non-profits, and corporations benefit immensely by hiring veterans because military veteran employees are attentive, possess leadership skills, work well on teams, have a global perspective, take initiative — and can adapt well to changing conditions.
There are other immediate benefits companies receive when they challenge military veterans to adapt their skill sets to meet today’s business challenges as well.
The ideal method is to challenge veterans to higher levels of performance in the organization. Veterans fought in Iraq, Afghanistan, Grenada, Panama, Vietnam, and other locations across the globe, and they performed their military duties while simultaneously training teams, maintaining equipment, operating in grueling conditions, and safeguarding resources. The military knows that challenging people is how you derive optimal performance from individuals and teams. Business, government, and non-profits can also reap these same rewards from this talented group.
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The following five-step process is a basic framework for how to identify and issue challenges so military veterans can help exceed the goals of the organization.
1.) Hire Veterans for Potential and Leadership
What should you look for when hiring a veteran? First, find military veterans who have shown a great deal of independence, initiative, creativity, learning, leadership, teaching ability, international experience, and technical expertise and who have had a fast career progression. Second, worry less about prior rank, branch of service, and formal education level. Instead, look for someone who has the traits you want in a leader in your organization in three to five years. Third, do not worry about the veteran’s office skills. You can easily teach him or her how to use Microsoft Excel or other programs.
What you cannot teach as easily are leadership and initiative. Use those translated military skills to build your organization.
2.) Train to High Standards
Training is what the military services do when they have a new recruit. They bring the person in, set the standards of performance, and train him or her in how to meet and exceed these standards. You should train veterans in three areas: (1) corporate culture, (2) the technical requirements of their position, and (3) formal education requirements.
Corporate culture training is a must-have for new employees because it teaches veterans so much about your organization and how things are done, and it shows them where their military values and your organization overlap. Military veterans love hands-on, task-oriented training, and they enjoy seeing the larger picture. Training someone for a logistics position? Show them the ordering system in the morning and then have them assist with customer deliveries in the afternoon. Connecting all systems together and demonstrating the larger purpose will make your training program a success. Finally, when you are training, do not forget about the value of a college-level degree and other certifications.
Veterans are used to reviewing what they have done, receiving coaching for personal improvement, and seeking out additional training to improve their performance.
Veterans need to know about the educational requirements for positions three to five years in the future so they can complete any formal education requirements.
3.) Challenge with Additional Responsibilities
Veterans live to be challenged. Indeed, the desire for a greater range of challenges is a big reason why many military veterans leave the service. Identify the challenges your department faces and let the military veterans start attacking the small ones. As they work on and successfully complete the small challenges, they are training and adapting to be successful at the larger challenge you give them next. Schedule frequent check-ins to answer questions and assess progress.
4.) Translate Military Skills Sets to Your Organization’s Greatest Needs
By challenging veterans, you will force them to adapt their military experiences and training to your organization’s needs. One of the greatest benefits to veterans is that their military experience can be directly used to make your organization better. Military skill sets in leadership, planning, competitive analysis, safety, procedures, and coaching can be put into practice immediately. When a veteran translates his or her military skills to benefit your agency or company, it is a huge win.
Military skill sets must be translated in a way that supports and supplements an agency’s mission, charter, regulations, and operations.
5.) Coach, Listen, and Support to Grow Veteran Employees
Veterans are used to reviewing what they have done, receiving coaching for personal improvement, and seeking out additional training to improve their performance. Give veterans timely, specific, and actionable feedback in a private setting and constructive manner. Listen to their suggestions about how to improve the department’s operations, and give them additional training to improve their weak points.
Use the “battle buddy” concept and pair the military veteran with a co-worker in another department. That will give the veteran an independent person to answer questions about the department’s culture and norms. Do not coddle veterans or treat them differently. Set a high standard of performance and give them the resources to excel at their jobs.
Corporations, agencies, and departments that challenge their military veteran employees will get the best of their present and future performance. The use of the five-step military veteran process of Hire-Train-Challenge-Translate-Coach, as well as translating and applying universal military skill sets to your organization, accomplishes two vital tasks. First, it gets military veterans training and engaging quickly and early in your organization’s culture and operations. Second, by focusing on translating and applying military skills to your organization, you show veterans that you want and demand that they bring the full value of their military experience and training to create greater value for your organization, stakeholders, and customers.
Chad Storlie is a retired lieutenant colonel with 20-plus years of active and reserve service in infantry, Special Forces, and joint headquarters units, and an OpsLens contributor. He served in Iraq, Bosnia, Korea, and throughout the U.S. and was awarded the Bronze Star, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Special Forces Tab, and the Ranger Tab. He is the author of two books and has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University. This article is from OpsLens and is used by permission.