It was like going “back to the future”…back to 2009 when I spoke at a conference for the first time on the subject of military-to-civilian transition. I think I maybe had 15 people in the audience, max. Long-timers will recall my posts from back then; how exciting it was to see more and more interest in the topic with each passing year, to the point where I found myself standing before packed rooms.
I still do a lot of conference speaking, usually on some aspect of recruiting and hiring Veterans. This month, however, I went back to doing something for the first time: addressing a group of HR professionals on the topic of onboarding Veterans with the goal of accelerating performance in their first 45 days on the job. I work with organizations every day on implementing onboarding programs, but this month’s conference was the first to accept a proposal on the subject. Progress.
As in 2009, at that very first Diversity conference presentation, this time there were about 10 people in attendance. A far cry from the usual hundred or so. I say this not to brag but to show how far we’ve come in the last 4-5 years. I imagine that next year there will be more HR folk sitting out there in the audience, ready to learn about on-boarding and retaining Veterans, and even more the year after that. It has to start somewhere, so 10 felt about right. I’m just glad to see the conversation shifting from “Why you should consider hiring Veterans,” to “Why you should protect your hiring investment through on-boarding and retention.”
It was really fun to spend 75 minutes with my 10 new acquaintances because the topic is one I’m passionate about. Hiring Veterans is one thing; positioning them for early and lasting success is quite another. I was able to harken back to my days as an internal Organization Development practitioner, solving complex issues in an integrated way to achieve measurable business outcomes. And, it got me back to my roots as an executive coach helping retired military officers navigate the choppy waters of civilian leadership.
This conference group was small but engaged. They got what I was talking about and saw the wisdom of expanding the aperture to include retention -- not just recruitment -- of Veterans. Smart organizations do not isolate these activities but integrate them. I am honored to be part of these efforts with so many clients and look forward to the future where more and more conversations focus on performance and engagement. Only then can we track retention in a meaningful way: not just reporting the number of Veterans hired, but the number of Veterans who have built successful careers in our organizations over time; the number who get promoted and meet their business and personal objectives. That is a conversation I can’t wait to have.
Thanks for all you do.