Once you've hired a Veteran or military spouse, you may be wondering what you can do as an employer, manager, supervisor, or human resource professional to support them in your workplace.
Here are 8 ways employers can best support Veteran and military employees:
1. Understand and Value Servicemembers and Their Spouses
The essential first step in supporting Veteran and military-related employees is recognizing what they bring to the table.
When you think about key traits you want in your employees — hard work, resiliency, leadership, teamwork, and commitment to the mission — Veterans and military spouses embody them all. They know how to manage and lead people, how to handle stressful situations, how to think about unique problems, and how to work in teams to solve them.
Allowing a Veteran or spouse to contribute their skills to your company is simply good for business — and we’ve seen it in action at AAFMAA.
“AAFMAA is proud of our distinction as a Virginia Values Veterans employer and we are committed to hiring Veterans and military spouses because it is part of our history, heritage, and mission to serve the military and Veteran community,” says AAFMAA President Michael J. Meese, Ph.D. (BG, USA, Ret.).
Meese adds “AAFMAA has found that hiring military Veterans and military spouses is very important because they can directly relate to those in the American Armed Forces community we serve. Military Veterans and military spouses are dedicated, mission-oriented, and quick learners who are easily and rapidly integrated into our Association. They are great leaders, colleagues, and teammates.”
2. Establish Hiring and Leave Policies with a Servicemember’s Obligations in Mind
A small percentage of your employees may serve in the National Guard or Reserves, and they can be called to deploy or participate in extended training at a moment’s notice.
While on the surface this may seem detrimental to productivity, the training and leadership experience these servicemembers gain from their time away from work ultimately benefits the organizations that employ them. It’s important to remember that this time away is not a vacation, but rather hard work and an opportunity to acquire skill sets that are valuable to your business.
“In my twenty-plus years in business and as a Reserve and National Guard Member, I have been fortunate to work where my employer and teammates truly valued the experience I brought to the workplace,” says Jerry Quinn, Chief Operating Officer and Secretary at AAFMAA (COL, USAR). “When it is time for my annual military training or a longer deployment, they have always surrounded me with care and support so I could stay focused on my military mission. Having been able to grow in both of my professional careers — in the military and in financial services — has also allowed my civilian workforce to feel connected to the national mission. Employers' support of the Guard and Reserve is an essential component that has allowed the United States to maintain an all-volunteer force for more than 50 years.”
To better support your employees in the Reserve and National Guard, consider creating a company policy regarding military leave. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has a great online toolkit that can help. Also, make sure you’re familiar with the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) of 1994, the federal law that establishes rights and responsibilities for members of the Reserve and National Guard and their civilian employers.
3. Offer Internships and Apprenticeships for Veteran Candidates
Internships and apprenticeships can provide Veterans with an opportunity to obtain required certifications, master all aspects of the job, and learn more about your company while they’re separating or retiring from the military. AAFMAA’s relationship with SkillBridge — a DoD program that provides training and development opportunities with employers seeking high-quality skills, facilitated for us by HireMilitary — is a recent addition to the cadre of professional resources beyond our own walls. It’s just one of the ways through which we can share our commitment to and support for hiring Veterans, servicemembers, and military spouses.
If you’re a job seeker looking for an internship or apprenticeship, check out the U.S. Department of Labor’s resources for servicemembers and Veterans to find an opportunity in your area.
4. Create a Veteran Resource Group
A Veteran Resource Group (VRG) can help newly-hired Veterans feel as though they have landed in a familiar environment, while also giving them a community where they can grow their career, share their experiences, and grow as leaders.
Essentials for creating a Veteran Resource Group include:
- A place to meet up, collaborate, and learn
- Support and camaraderie for Veteran employees and others with shared experiences
- A mentoring program to help Veteran employees navigate their professional life
Often, a VRG also provides feedback to organizational leaders on issues that are important to Veterans.
5. Expand Your Wellness Program Benefits
A thoughtful wellness program can attract better talent and keep your current employees healthy and happy, which leads to more productivity.
When you make it part of your mission to employ Veterans, consider expanding your wellness program benefits to better support Veteran needs, such as mental health strategies, Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), and physical fitness options.
6. Provide Remote Work Options for Military Spouses
It’s no surprise that a flexible work schedule, including working from home, is now a key part of employee attraction and retention strategies for many organizations — but especially for those who employ military spouses.
In fact, when you provide remote work opportunities for military spouses, your candidate pool increases tenfold with a community that’s creative, resilient, resourceful, loyal, and generally has higher formal education.
When it comes to retention, offering spouses a stable career that is flexible enough to move with them when they receive their next orders can help to reduce turnover and increase retention, productivity, and job satisfaction.
7. Offer Veteran-Friendly Group Term Life Insurance
When you choose AAFMAA to protect your employees with affordable, customizable Group Term Life Insurance, your business will enjoy competitive rates and added benefits your employees simply won’t get from any other insurance provider or broker.
“AAFMAA’s Group Term Life Insurance provides your employees and their beneficiaries with the best life insurance services available to the military community — and that’s the peace of mind they deserve,” says Justin Pearson, Vice President of Business Development at AAFMAA. “Unlike any other life insurance company, our Survivor Assistance Services team supports loved ones through the entire process of a Member’s death, from navigating benefits to obtaining entitlements earned through your service. It’s one of the ways we've been supporting military families for over 143 years.”
Participants can buy individual policies for themselves, their spouse, children, and grandchildren which they can keep even if their career path changes. Plus, as an AAFMAA Member, your employees will have access to additional benefits, including Survivor Assistance Services, VA Claims support, government benefits expertise, and so much more!
Download the AAFMAA Group Term Brochure for more information.
8. Encourage Your Employees to Volunteer
Another popular benefit employers can provide Veterans is a robust community engagement or volunteer program, which can help attract and retain talent, form stronger teams, build a positive public image, and give your employees a greater sense of purpose.
For instance, if you have Veterans on your team who are athletic, they might consider joining Team Red, White and Blue, which organizes sports-related activities.
Consider offering paid time off for employees to volunteer with an organization that aligns with their interests and values, as well as your corporate values, or use volunteerism as part of your team-building strategy.
Hiring Veterans and military spouses has proven to be a successful strategy for many organizations. When you commit to hiring members of the military community, keep in mind the eight initiatives above so that you can properly support them in their roles.
Employing Military Veterans Toolkit, Society for Human Resource Management
Veterans Employment Toolkit, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs