For years now I’ve been asked a very predictable set of questions from client organizations: “Where can we find Veteran candidates?” “How do we translate their resumes?” “Why can’t we seem to find any Veterans that fit with our culture?” and even “Why should we hire Veterans at all?”
Recently, however, I’ve noticed a shift in the questions I get about Veteran employment. Now I am hearing questions like, “How can we retain the Veterans we hire?” and “What are the common transition challenges of Veterans?” This is a welcome progression, as it indicates that many organizations are ready to look beyond sourcing and hiring Veterans to the broader issue of retaining them and making them successful.
The transition experience and impact on retention have always been the areas of greatest interest to me, as they speak to something deeply personal and individualized: the way in which people adapt to and find happiness and success amidst changing circumstances.
Fifteen years of coaching Veterans, educating employers, and researching successful transitions from military service to civilian employment have resulted in a sizable database of trends related to success and derailment. As more and more organizations take on the challenge of retaining the Veterans they hire, it strikes me that one theme in particular could be helpful to share.
I’ll frame it as a conundrum: the number one mistake I have seen employers make in the pursuit of Veterans is exactly the same as the number one mistake I see Veterans make in pursuit of employment: assuming that the degree of change/difference will be minor and easily addressed. This assumption has led to countless failed hiring initiatives and taken time to calibrate; by now many of you have recognized or are in the moment of recognition now, that sourcing, recruiting and hiring Veterans is a bit different than with other segments of the labor force. The same goes for engaging and retaining them.
When I am asked about lessons learned, my answer is simply: apply what you learned about Veterans as job candidates to the challenge of retaining them. Recognize there are differences and proceed accordingly. Reach out to those who know more, who have done it successfully, rather than wasting time and resources through trial and error.
My two cents. What are your thoughts?