Getting The Most From Military-Trained Employees

Federal agencies, non-profits and corporations benefit immediately by hiring veterans because military-trained employees are attentive, possess leadership skills, work well on teams, have a global perspective, take initiative and can adapt well to changing conditions.
Written by Chad Storlie on Aug 25, 2016

There are other immediate benefits companies can receive when they challenge military veterans to adapt their skill sets to meet today’s business challenges. The challenge — and ultimate solution — is to encourage veterans to higher levels of performance in the organization.

Veterans fought in Iraq, Afghanistan, Grenada, Panama, Vietnam and other locations across the globe, and they performed their military duties while simultaneously training teams, maintaining equipment, operating in grueling conditions and safeguarding resources. The military knows that challenging people is how you derive optimal performance from individuals and teams.

Business, government, and nonprofits can also reap these same rewards from this talented group if they employ the following, five-step framework:

Hire veterans for their potential and leadership. What should you look for when hiring a veteran? First, find military veterans who have shown a great deal of independence, initiative, creativity, learning, leadership, teaching ability, international experience and technical expertise, and who have had a fast career progression.

Second, worry less about prior rank, branch of service and formal education level. Instead, look for someone who has the traits you want in a leader in your organization in three to five years.

Third, do not worry about the veteran’s office skills. You can easily teach him or her how to use Microsoft Excel or other office programs. What you cannot teach as easily are leadership and initiative. Use those translated military skills to build your organization.

Train to high standards. Training is what the military services do when they have a new recruit. They bring the person in, set the standards of performance, and train him or her in how to meet and exceed the standards. You should train veterans on three areas: (1) corporate culture, (2) the technical requirements of their position and (3) formal education requirements.

Corporate culture training is a must have for new employees because it teaches veterans so much about your organization and it shows them where their military values and your organization overlap. Military veterans love hands-on, task-oriented training, and they enjoy seeing the larger picture. Connecting all systems together and demonstrating the larger purpose will make your training program a success.

Finally, when you are training do not forget about the value of a college level degree and other certifications. Veterans need to know about the educational requirements for positions three to five years in the future so they can complete any formal education requirements.

Challenge with additional responsibilities. Veterans live to be challenged. Indeed, the desire for a greater range of challenges is a big reason many military veterans leave the service.

Identify the challenges for your department and let the military veterans start attacking the small ones. As they work on and successfully complete the small challenges, they are training and adapting to be successful at the larger challenge you give them next. Schedule frequent check-ins to answer questions and assess progress.

Translate military skill sets to your organization’s greatest needs. By challenging veterans, you will force them to adapt their military experiences and training to your organization’s needs. One of the greatest benefits to veterans is that their military experience can be directly used to make your organization better.

Military skill sets in leadership, planning, competitive analysis, safety, procedures and coaching can be put into practice immediately. When a veteran translates his or her military skills to benefit your agency, it is a huge win. Military skill sets must be translated in a way that supports and supplements an agency’s mission, charter, regulations and operations.

Coach, listen and support to grow veteran employees. Veterans are used to reviewing what they have done, receiving coaching for personal improvement and seeking out additional training to improve their performance.

Give veterans timely, specific, and actionable feedback in a private setting and a constructive manner.

Listen to their suggestions about how to improve the department’s operations, and give them additional training to improve their weak points.

Use the “Battle Buddy” concept and pair the military veteran with a co-worker in another department.

That will give the veteran an independent person to answer questions about the department’s culture and norms.

Do not coddle veterans or treat them differently.

Set a high standard of performance, and give them the resources to excel at their jobs.

Corporations, agencies and departments that challenge their veteran employees will get the best of their present and future performance.

Chad Storlie is a retired U.S. Army Special Forces officer with more than 20 years of active and reserve experience. He is an author, an adjunct lecturer of marketing at Creighton University and Bellevue University in Omaha, Neb., and a mid-level marketing executive.