It is now widely accepted that gender, ethnic, and cultural diversity in the workplace positively impacts organizational performance. A McKinsey study, in 2020, found that ethnically diverse management teams outperform their peers measured on financial outcomes. The study found that the superior performance of diverse teams could be attributed to their ability to make better decisions, attract top talent, and provide greater employee satisfaction and engagement.
Despite the increased awareness of the positive business impact of diversity and inclusion, most firms find it challenging to add diverse talent to their workforce. Including veterans in the workforce is essential for promoting diversity of thoughts and perspectives.
Typically, ‘diversity’ is assumed to imply race, gender, age, sexual orientation, and other aspects stipulated by law. Besides the above, diversity is about individuals bringing in unique perspectives based on their backgrounds and experience.
Veterans, by their professional background and training – are strong in leadership, teamwork, and a robust work ethic. They are comfortable with complexity and ambiguity, and quickly adapt to changing circumstances at work. Veterans are comfortable handling cutting-edge technology and thrive in cross-functional work environments. Many veterans also come with international work experience – an asset in today’s interconnected world and global economy.
For organizations to benefit from what veterans bring to the table, requires hiring programs that are specifically aimed at attracting the diverse talent pool of veterans to the organization and giving them a feeling of belonging. Organizations need to design and roll out special recruitment, onboarding, and professional development activities for veterans. Also, veterans’ integration into the organization can be facilitated by offering them on-the-job training and mentorship.
While implementing their diversity and inclusion initiatives, the steps that organizations can take to attract veterans include:
Leverage their military experience – Understand their transferable skills and leadership attributes and see how that can be used to the organization’s advantage.
Provide a structured work environment – Veterans are accustomed to a structured work environment. To ease their transition into the organization, outline to them what their workday will look like, and what performance objectives would they be evaluated against. This also promotes equity and the incoming veterans will be reassured that the processes are fair and impartial and provide equal outcomes for everyone.
Emphasis on teamwork – Veterans are used to working in a team. They thrive in settings that require teamwork and a shared sense of purpose.
Feedback and review – The military is big on ‘after-action’ reviews to discuss performance and areas of improvement. Although this is done in many organizations after the completion of projects, this is especially useful for veterans as it helps them feel less insecure about the differences between the military and the civilian workplace.
Workforce sensitization – Certain positive and negative stereotypes are prevalent about veterans – regarding their behavioural traits and personality attributes. Organizations can mitigate the effects of such biases and promote equality of treatment by dispelling wrong veteran stereotypes. Likewise, veterans already serving in the organization can be used to help incoming veterans transition into the workplace.
Caring for mental health – Many veterans would have recently returned from combat zones. This comes with its own set of mental stress and trauma challenges. The organization should help by talking to such veteran employees frequently to check on their mental well-being and helping them, if required, with helpful resources to overcome any mental health challenges.
Any organization that wants to build a dedicated, professional, disciplined, well-rounded, and adaptable workforce, to meet the challenges of the modern-day business world, would do well to hire veterans.