There are numerous reasons for hiring military veterans: they exude confidence; demonstrate leadership, teamwork, and critical thinking; and have proven their ability to work under pressure. They take their responsibilities seriously and know the meaning of hard work—for instance, there are no holidays or weekends off when deployed.
Rather than rattling off a long list of other assets, the takeaway is that making military veterans part of the team translates into greater operational efficiency for companies. Further, it helps decrease the veteran unemployment rate, which was at 4.8% in June.
National Military Appreciation Month in May, as well as Memorial Day on May 31, prompted me to think about best practices for attracting and retaining military veterans, which is part of the company culture at Lendmark Financial Services. And for those organizations looking to become more military-friendly and military-ready, here are several ideas worth sharing and putting in place.
Partner With Local Veterans’ Groups
Since every state has its own veterans organizations—with some states being home to 2,000-plus groups—consider discovering what organizations are near your company and how you can get involved. In fact, take this idea a step further and partner with those organizations to show your company’s support, perhaps by volunteering at a local event or asking a veteran to speak to your employees about the challenges of transitioning from military to civilian life.
VETLANTA, for example, is an Atlanta organization operated exclusively for veteran social and business networking, and connecting to community services. The organization holds quarterly summits and events specifically for HR professionals focused on encouraging hiring vets. By partnering with groups like VETLANTA, companies can glean helpful information and ideas on how to attract and retain former military members and their spouses.
In general, many veterans organizations do things like host career fairs that match veteran-friendly employers with veterans who are ready to interview. Some of these events include guest speakers who provide information about veteran-related topics to employers or company support groups. Lendmark finds its partnership with VETLANTA a win for both organizations.
Implement a Formal Recruitment and Retention Program
Approximately 250,000 members of the military transition out of the armed services each year and look for military-friendly companies as potential employers. They want to know the skills they’ve gathered will be appreciated elsewhere—and some companies do better than others at attracting them.
To develop a winning military recruiting strategy and make your organization an employer of choice, consider starting a dedicated program aimed at recruiting and retaining veterans. For instance, Lendmark launched a Veterans Integration Program (VIP) in 2015, which formalized the company’s initiatives to remain inclusive of veterans, their spouses, and caregivers. The program includes benefits like providing a monetary bonus for employee referrals of VIP hires, posting jobs on veteran-specific sites, and relocating veterans and their families.
Since retention is just as important as recruitment, the program also includes the establishment of a veterans forum and buddy system, recognizing and publicly appreciating our VIPs through various internal channels, and giving each vet a commemorative gift on milestone occasions with personal messages from the CEO.
The veteran’s forum allows VIP members to collaborate on initiatives and brainstorm ideas for program enhancements in partnership with Lendmark’s HR leadership team. The buddy system pairs each new veteran hire with a more tenured employee at the company who is also a veteran, which gives new hires a friendly source to turn to with questions about how to transition to corporate life and succeed at the company.
Think about adopting similar initiatives—not only for your veteran employees, but for their family members and caretakers too.
Support Employees Who Continue Military Service
To show how much your company supports military veterans, recognize your veteran employees who continue serving in the military through the reserves. Or if an employee’s spouse serves, recognize him or her as well to show your commitment of support.
Companies should also acknowledge and appreciate veterans at their company on each military-related occasion, including Military Appreciation Month, Memorial Day, and of course, Veterans Day. Lendmark also recognizes all 125 of our military veterans during our annual manager’s meeting. And on Veterans Day, our C-suite calls each VIP to thank him or her for supporting and selflessly serving our country.
Consider also supporting Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. This program promotes cooperation and understanding between members of the reserves and their employers and aims to help resolve potential conflicts that could arise from an employee’s military commitment. The organization also has a Statement of Support Program, which requires employers to sign a pledge to act as advocates for employee participation in the military.
Bolster Your Staff and Company Morale—Hire a Veteran
The U.S. Census Bureau reported that there were more than 18 million U.S. veterans in 2019. As stated earlier, a quarter of a million veterans transition out of the military each year and are seeking careers with military-friendly companies. We at Lendmark can attest to the fact that military veterans are loyal, hardworking, and dedicated employees—a true asset to our company.
So, to attract and retain employees from this highly competent group, work with external partners on recruitment and employment best practices, recognize veterans and their family members throughout the year, and support them at their jobs internally. Additionally, support participation in the military for those who are still involved.
Many companies throughout the nation—large and small—have programs in place that support hiring veterans. If yours is lacking, wait no longer to start a program aimed at supporting veterans. Military veterans make great employees as they bring proven leadership skills, they’re adaptable, and, while they can work well on their own, they understand the importance of teamwork and are great team players.
Hiring veterans is not only the right thing to do—it’s simply good for your business.
Kelley Daviss was named executive vice president of human resources at Lendmark Financial Services in 2019, where she brings more than 30 years of human resources experience to her role. She joined Lendmark in 2014 as the vice president of human resources.