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4 Ways to Retain your Veteran Talent

Your organization is committed to hiring veterans and has invested in building out a network of connections, attending military job fairs and committed to interviewing and hiring veterans. Congratulations! You are tapping into a valuable talent pool that will benefit your organization…as long as you keep them. Developing a military hiring program that includes retention is critical to long term success and fully realizing the return on investment (ROI) of hiring veterans and military spouses.

The Institute of Military and Veteran Families (IMVF) of Syracuse University in conjunction with VetAdvisor, released their findings from a Veteran Job Retention Survey in 2016 and the information still holds up. Top reasons veterans don’t stay in their job are:

· New employment opportunities

· Lack of career development and advancement

· Quality of work (e.g. not meaningful, unchallenging, tedious, etc.)

· Inadequate compensation / benefits

· Inadequate professional development opportunities

Not surprisingly, the top reasons a veteran would stay in a position are:

· Increased salary/benefits

· Increased opportunity for career advancement/promotion

· Increased opportunity for professional development

· Quality of work (meaningful, challenging, influence with decision making, etc.)

· Work environment/culture

Regarding retention, there are some things from these lists that are out of our control as managers of hiring programs like new opportunities or compensation. There are a few things however, we can control and by implementing some small things, you increase the likelihood of keeping these valuable team members on your team.

1. Hire Correctly

We all look to bring new hires onboard that match the job requirements. With military candidates, the matching of experience vs. needed skills for the job can sometimes be less clear than their civilian counterparts. Before extending the offer to a veteran candidate, ensure both you and the veteran understand how his/her experience and skills match the position. Aligning in the way increases the chances of your new hire staying engaged in the work and finding meaning doing the job.

2. Pair a Veteran Employee Survey with a Mentoring Program

Have you conducted a veteran employee survey to understand how many veterans work for your company? If so, have you had poor response rates?

Since a veteran must self-identify, it is often difficult for HR professionals to have strong data regarding the organization’s veteran population. The reason, there is no benefit or advantage for the veteran employee to self-identify. Creating a veteran mentor program might just be a way to get this information and increase your retention.

A veteran mentor or “Buddy” program means you match a veteran new hire with an existing veteran on your staff. This match may only last a few weeks to a few months and the idea is to give the new hire a person on the staff to assist in acclimating to the organization. A few regularly scheduled calls, maybe a welcome lunch, is a great way for the new hire to feel welcomed once onboard. The benefit also goes to your current veteran employee who gets the opportunity to help another veteran become part of the team.

Recruit veterans to be a part of the veteran mentor program with a veteran population survey and watch how many veterans raise their hand to help other veterans!

3. Create and Utilize a Veteran Employee Resource Group (VERG)

Employee resource groups have been effectively used in corporate America for years and having one focused on veteran and military family concerns is a great idea for keeping your military workforce. If you don’t already have one in place, announce the desire to form a group when recruiting for the veteran mentor program during the population survey. These groups should look holistically at the organization and identify areas to improve the experience for your veteran team members. Everything from the structure of the mentor program to how you market the company to the military community and how you recognize current team members should be reviewed. Having a committed group of veterans working to make the work environment better for other veterans will go a long way to retaining these people.

4. Develop a Veteran Recognition Program

It is no secret that regular recognition and praise of employees increases productivity, engagement and a likelihood of retention with the organization. A program focused on your veteran population will do the exact same thing with this specialized group. Include a write up of the veteran worker of the quarter (great to publicize for recruiting purposes too!) in your monthly newsletter to employees, put the service insignia for your team members respective branch on ID cards or name badges, acknowledge the various military related holidays…these are all small things that can be done to build an appreciative culture towards your veteran colleagues.

Committing to keeping your veteran talent is as important as committing to hire them in the first place. Simply by taking small and inexpensive steps you can help build an inclusive culture where your veteran team members feel valued, increasing the chances of them staying with your team well beyond their civilian counterparts.

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