Last year, the U.S. Navy gave me the opportunity of a lifetime. I was invited, along with a small group of CEOs, to live on the USS Stennis for 24 hours.
Related: 100 Veteran Friendly Franchises
When we touched down, I knew it was going to be an adventure, but I hardly expected my night’s stay to reshape my business strategy. Aboard the Stennis, I saw firsthand the strength and comradeship sailors use to defend our country. I also realized the incredible potential they could offer America’s entrepreneurs after completing their service.
Why hire a hero?
Veterans, I’ve learned, bring a fierce skill set to the workplace. With military training and related experiences under their belts, they understand integrity, commitment and collaboration better than any other group I know. They’re accustomed to following a chain of command, so they understand how to navigate office politics, and they’re exceptionally hard workers.
The signs are, however, that more business leaders are joining forces with veterans. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, veteran unemployment is at its lowest level in more than eight years and programs are emerging across the country to promote servicemen and women.
4 steps to bet on a vet
If you’re ready to recruit, hire and retain some of America’s military heroes, then I’ve got orders for you:
2. Build a supportive squad. Once you’ve opened your company’s doors to veterans, it’s time to welcome the new recruits aboard. Information technology company CACI International, with a veteran at its helm and about 30 percent of its hires coming from the veteran pool, is another organization doing it right.
CACI operates programs like the Vet Connect initiative, which partners its former service members with senior CACI employees to ensure a smooth transition.
Retaining high-performing vets takes more than perks; it requires support. Follow CACI’s lead with a mentorship program that pairs veteran hires with long-time employees. Caring for veterans often means caring for their families at the same time, so implement policies like paid paternity leave and generous vacation time.
3. Plan for a long tour of duty. Retention is one of the main challenges facing both employers and veterans. According to the Institute for Veteran and Military Families, roughly two-thirds of veterans are likely to leave their first post-military jobs because 1) they don’t feel their abilities are being fully utilized; 2) they need more compensation; or 3) they feel their work lacks meaning.
4. Showcase opportunities for advancement. Of veterans surveyed who had quickly left their first post-military jobs, 45 percent noted that they would have stayed had opportunities for advancement been available. Help veteran employees see a road ahead with career-planning workshops. Education reimbursement programs, too, can help veterans feel they’re moving forward. Above all, promote from within. It’s a simple policy, but selecting managers from rank-and-file employees is the best way to signal opportunities for advancement.