Editor's note: The following is a contributed piece by Jeff Morin, chief of staff at Sallyport Global and veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps.
Smart employers understand that hiring veterans can be a good move for their businesses, and it is clear many are getting the message as unemployment rates for service members drop to record lows. But business leaders who want to get the greatest benefit from investing in our troops — and ensure that our returning soldiers are positioned for success — need to do more to help veterans with the transition to civilian employment and adjustment to corporate culture.
Veterans returning from active duty today bring a bevy of skills learned during their service, including technical, project management and leadership experience. As a result, more than 60% of post-9/11 veterans have said their military backgrounds prepared them for civilian employment. It's clear that veterans are more equipped than ever to enter and contribute to the workforce, which is why employers need to focus more on supporting their transition to a non-military work culture.
Despite the obvious adjustment required, more than one-third of veterans say they did not receive support for their transition, and more than half of those that did have said the assistance was not effective. After being rigorously trained to maintain certain conduct and habits for years, the civilian workplace and its nuances present a very unfamiliar landscape for veterans. Many struggle with the less regimented environment they encounter and are subject to misplaced stereotypes about military service. This can lead veterans to feel isolated or to disengage from their peers at work.
After multiple tours of duty and more than 32 years in the Marine Corps, I understand the military mindset. Now retired and a member of the civilian workforce with defense and security contractor Sallyport, I can see the challenges better from both sides. In my professional capacity, I've been responsible for ensuring that employees feel comfortable within our company culture — even working to bring multiple company cultures together during a merger — and I encourage more employers to build workplace cultures that support and engage veterans.
The Marine Corps and every branch of the military have a clear mission and vision that serve as guide posts for all operations and greatly shape the cultures of the institutions. Veterans will feel welcome when businesses hold similarly strong values. Service members will thrive at companies with a sense of purpose and direction and at businesses in which a commitment to a greater goal is imbued in every aspect of the work.
In the military, veterans learn a respect of hierarchy and face well-defined paths for promotion. While not all companies are as rigorously organized as the military, those that have a clear route for upward advancement ensure that veterans are engaged and encouraged in their positions.
Additionally, many civilian employees do not understand the experiences of their veteran co-workers. And they might not even be aware that they have colleagues who served. By recognizing and celebrating military service, employers can break down barriers between veterans and civilian employees. This not only creates a more welcoming and supportive environment but helps foster closer relationships between all.
Veterans are a valuable asset for any company, but they need to be fully integrated in the workplace to realize these benefits for themselves and their employers. That begins at the top, with business leaders making sure their company culture works for all employees, including those who are veterans.