Advocating for Veterans; Hire a Hero

Since this month’s We Know Next theme is HR Advocacy and several SHRM members have been “heading to the Hill” in Washington, D.C., I wanted to take this opportunity to encourage the need for thinking differently as it relates to hiring veterans.

We’ve been behind closed doors discussing what it would be like to bring a potential threat to our culture into our organizations by hiring those who may have PTSD. We’ve looked at it as something that might upset the apple cart and make our lives more difficult.

Could it possibly be our misconceptions, created by our fear of the unknown, or stories running around the news, that cause us to want to avoid any future workplace disruptions when it comes to hiring veterans?

Here are a few things that perhaps cause us hesitation:

  • Skills Translation – We are worried that we won’t be able to transfer their military skills into civilian skills and we’re just not sure how to do it.
  • Negative Stereotypes – We often think that veterans will be hard to “control” or won't “comply” and we’ve already formed an opinion about how “rigid” they may be.
  • Skills Mismatch – Perhaps we’ve not looked into creative ways to take someone with extensive work ethic and leadership capabilities and bring that person into an everyday role within our organizations.
  • Concern about Future Deployment – Somehow, in the back of our minds, we are worried that we’ll spend a considerable amount of time in training and developing this new hire only to have them be called back to active duty.
  • Acclimation – Again, we put on our protective parenting garb and worry about the veteran fitting into our culture and/or perhaps bring disruption.

Most of these reasons are valid, but I propose a question worth pondering:

What assures us that any new hire is going to fit in and be a perfect match?

Yes, we have skills that allow us to “read” people and we even have personality tests that can gather pertinent information about potential crazies so we can weed them out. But aren’t we taking risks when we hire to begin with?

As recruiters and hiring managers, what assures us that our candidates aren’t saying only what we want to hear, to get the job, only to wind up “going postal” a few months down the road?

Why must we look over our glasses at veterans with our arms folded as if to say, “Okay, prove it!” I propose instead, that we keep an open mind.

Here are a few known reasons to hire veterans:

Proven Leadership: Many veterans were put into leadership roles at early stages of their time in the service. The real world, front line and often battle-proven leadership developed in the military is well beyond that of a similar leader in a civilian job.

Mission Focused: Every member of the military is used to working in an environment that is focused on the mission at hand. They are not clock watchers, but rather are focused on what it takes to be successful in their mission.

Team Players: From the early stages initial training, all members of the military are used to working in a team environment. Some teams are small, others very large, but all members of the team know that their individual efforts are to support the team in reaching the larger objective.

Work Ethic: The work ethic of veterans is unparalleled due to the need to depend on each other for their lives. Every military person knows that their life and success depends on their teammates. As a result, the work ethic of veterans is vastly stronger than the normal civilian work ethic. People who have served in the military are used to working long hours in non-traditional environments.

Training and Education: Veteran’s have been trained in nearly every occupation imaginable, with a strong emphasis on technology. Most of the training schools of the military that teach technology, leadership, sales, management and operations surpass those available to civilians.

Did you know that your organization could earn an Expanded Work Opportunity Tax Credit for hiring qualified Veterans?

I believe smart organizations that start thinking and doing things differently will be those on the cutting edge. They’ll start incorporating training and education to leadership and employees, on the value of welcoming veterans.

They will creatively incorporate these initiatives into their Employer Brand Strategy, perhaps on their career pages, saying “We Hire Veterans” and share a few video testimonials.

My question is, "Will this be you?" Will you be the one to take the bull by the horns and start advocating for the rights of our Veterans and give them a chance?

The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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