Each year, between 240,000 and 360,000 Veterans separate from the military. Team loyalty, a relentless drive to achieve, composure under pressure and exceptional leadership experience make them some of the most sought-after new hires. But veterans can also face unique obstacles in their first civilian jobs. They’re not only learning the ropes at your company, but also adjusting to an entirely new way of doing business in the civilian workforce.

Transitioning to private sector roles can be challenging for veterans separating from active duty. Additional support during the onboarding period can help new Veteran hires get up to speed quickly on communication expectations and cultural norms in your workplace, easing the transition process.

Consider addressing the following:

  1. Communication expectations. In military culture, leaders are used to issuing commands that are followed without question. After all, doing so is often a matter of life and death. In the civilian workplace, the stakes are different and this communication approach can come off as abrupt or abrasive, even if a veteran doesn’t intend for it to be. Email, for example, can be tricky since it’s difficult to infer tone and intention. Some workplaces may also have a cultural expectation that managers explain the reasoning behind their decisions, rather than simply issuing an executive order. Consider pairing new hires with a mentor – ideally a veteran who has also made this transition – who can speak to communication best practices at your company.
  2. Workplace culture. Veterans are used to following the chain of command. Every unit member has defined roles, rank and status. Depending on the company, workplace culture can be far more fluid. Roles are flexible, rules of conduct are often “understood norms” that may not be codified, and career progression is less structured. Consider pairing your new hire with a “peer guide” who will be responsible for helping identify key players, definition of roles and titles and team organizational structure. The peer guide can also be a trusted resource for answering questions that may be as simple as, “What’s the difference between casual and business casual?”
  3.  Company lingo. Many organizations have their own internal jargon. This set of terms or slang may have little meaning to your new hire– just like military titles and acronyms can be confusing to civilians. Help your new hire get up to speed quickly on the office lingo by putting together a quick guide. Include terms that may be industry-specific or generic corporate speak that veterans are unlikely to have encountered. Include this as an appendix to your corporate handbook or training manuals so your new hire can feel comfortable hitting the ground running from day one.

Does your company prioritize veteran hiring? I invite you to share your strategies for successful onboarding in the comments below.


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