My father is a Veteran having served 20 years. My husband is a Veteran, having served 23 years. I have written books for military families, spoken at military conventions, given advice and guided military personnel transitioning out of the military into the civilian sector.
One of the most scary parts of a military soldier's life next to sacrificing him/herself for our country, is transitioning out of the military life into a society of judgmental civilians and overrated employers. It's a totally different lifestyle for the Veteran as much as it would be for the civilian going into the military.
I see the struggles of transition from both our military Veterans perspectives as well as their families. I also see a trend lately in companies who want to embrace our Veteran's with employment and start with implementing a Veteran's Placement Program. However, although the idea sounds great, companies fail to see that their program is doomed to fail the Veteran if not done properly.
What is a Veteran's Placement Program?
A Veteran's Placement Program is a program implemented into a company that wants to start hiring and employing our military Veterans. This program usually gives Veteran's preferences in available positions, as well as training, and collaboration.
... so what exactly is wrong with the programs and how can we fix them?
1. Get the right people for the program.
Would you hire a Doctor to fix your Internet? Would you hire a Network Administrator to diagnose your medical conditions? It's obvious that we want the right person to do the right job. This is the same when dealing with Veterans. We want our Veterans to transition out of the military mindset to work in the civilian world, but the civilian company doesn't get out of the civilian mindset to help the military personnel transition smoother. This means hiring Veterans or military experienced people to run your Veteran's Programs. Your human resource staff may work wonders for your company in general, but if they have absolutely no experience with military personnel, they are not qualified enough to run the program! Our Veterans have absolutely no clue what you are talking about in civilian terms no more than your company has any clue as to what the soldier may be talking about in military terms. You need the right people to connect with this community and make them feel less insecure and more confident about their transition.
This staff should consist of Veteran or military-experienced personnel that can help translate a Veteran's skills and talents to your company's focus, as well as provide essential training and assistance if needed. The staff should also be responsible for connecting a Veteran to other Veteran's in the company, familiarizing them with the Company office, and any Veteran-based community services, as many Veterans are relocating from other areas to take the job.
2. Re-adjust your way of hiring.
Let me be as blunt as possible here. It never fails when I look at employment ads from companies who say they are "Veteran Preferred" that their employment ad has the most over-abundant sea of blah blah blah bullshit that makes absolutely no sense to the military personnel. How do you expect to hire Veterans who have worked for 20+ years doing the same job and learning through experience to ALL have Bachelor's Degrees, or better yet, "10 years of experience in Hotel Management"? You need to start re-adjusting your focus to a more diverse perspective.
Instead of "Bachelors Degree in Computer Science", try "Bachelors Degree preferred or equivalent experience". The point is to re-adjust your wording to allow a more experienced candidate to compete on an equal level.
3. Get rid of Auto-Eliminating Resume Software!
This is an absolute NO for a Veteran's hiring program! I cannot stress this enough! Auto-Eliminating Resume Software programs are computer-based software programs that utilize keyword touching to eliminate candidates who do not have specific keywords on their resume. These programs eliminate resumes from even entering the system for preview and most of the time that means Veteran's resumes because they aren't familiar with the process.
In fact, if you are a company who utilizes this software, I wouldn't want to work for you in the first place because you are not "people-friendly" to begin with and you obviously don't want to get to know the people you hire if you need a machine to do it for you. Therefore, this needs to go immediately, and get a real human in place to read the resumes.
4. Training is essential.
As with any new employee, training for the Veteran is going to be an absolutely important transitioning step. Remember, these veterans have spent years doing an amazing job in different fields, but they still had training in each area. Your company's employment ad also needs to mention that training is provided so that a Veteran does not feel he is just being tossed into the sea of civilian sharks.
If you hire a Veteran through your placement program, don't stop the transitioning assistance process once the employment is solidified. Be sure to keep the Veteran's Placement Staff connected with the Veteran at all times during the first few months of transition, and have a training program in place until you are both confident with the transition.
5. Celebrate Veteran's Day.
If you are military-friendly and Veteran's Preferred, then I highly recommend not skimping out on this amazing holiday. Be sure to celebrate your Veteran employees for their dedication to their country and for selecting your company to continue their dedication with. Get your civilian employees involved as well and just enjoy the day!
Many of our Veterans are dedicated hard workers that have years of amazing leadership skills and talents that go above and beyond the typical recent college grad. So if you want to focus on hiring our Veterans, there is more to it than just <em>saying</em> you want to and winning a Veterans Employer of the Year Award just because you hired 20 veterans. A Veterans Employment and Placement Program is a completely new division and requires specialized individuals that are dedicated to employing our Veterans within your company.
The last thing we want is for a company to hire a Veteran, only to tell them they aren't a good fit and let them go. An unemployed Veteran is an absolute devastation to me, so companies who are truly dedicated to hiring Veterans are just as wonderful as the Veterans themselves. Start by perfecting your Veterans Employment and Placement Program within your company.
Hire a Veteran by giving them a new solid career so they can live the American Dream that which they have been fighting for you to have.