Appreciating our veterans requires more than a simple “Thank you for your service.” Our servicemen and women have sacrificed more than most of us can even imagine. Many come back with wounds, both visible and invisible. Let’s celebrate Veterans Day by committing to take action in support of those who wear our nation's uniform. Just as companies are dedicated to supporting other underrepresented groups, they need to make a concerted effort – beyond Veterans Day – to become “veteran-friendly” organizations.
Here are some ideas on how to celebrate and appreciate veterans in your organization:
Do you have targeted recruitment efforts for veterans? Approximately 250,000 service members transition out of the armed services every year. While there are extensive programs to recruit other underrepresented groups, companies could do better in funding and supporting efforts to specifically recruit veterans.
Think outside the box.
Consider the strengths and skills veterans can bring to your organization as a whole. Rather than looking at how their application might fit one specific position, look at it across all the open positions in your organization.
Listen and be curious.
Instead of just thanking veterans for their service, ask them to share stories about it. Show a genuine interest in learning about their experiences. And then ask, “What’s next for you?” or “How can I support you?”
Focus on development.
A veteran coming into your organization may have been out of the workforce for a while. Focus on enabling them to grow, develop, and learn new skills. Collaboratively set goals, give them authentic feedback, and build a coaching mindset to support these veterans (and others) in the organization.
Through their service, our veterans have had different experiences than most of us. These experiences give them unique ideas and ways of working. As you look to improve diversity and inclusion, consider all voices and, specifically, the perspectives of your veterans.
Build retention strategies.
According to a report from VetAdvisor and Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families, only two in 10 veterans will hold their first non-military job for more than two years. Focus on helping veteran employees connect and collaborate with civilian co-workers, learn new skills, and adapt to the workplace.
Give to a charity.
If you have a social recognition program, give employees the opportunity to donate some of their recognition points to a local veterans charity. Advertise that this is available and use Veterans Day as the launch point for the activity. Alternatively, for any recognition moment given on Veterans Day, your organization can donate an additional percentage of the reward amount to a veteran's charity. This enables your organization to give back to the community and encourage gratitude at the same time.
Find a service opportunity.
Sponsor a local volunteer activity that not only supports veterans, but also builds teamwork, connection, and trust. You can do this at any time, not just on Veterans Day.
Create an environment where veterans are comfortable talking about their service with their colleagues and leaders. Host a veteran Q&A session to share stories, build emotional connection, and spark engagement with those who have served.
These are just a few ways to build a culture of belonging where everyone is valued for their diverse backgrounds. Take a few minutes today to just pause and breathe in a sense of gratitude for our veterans, their service, and the many gifts and opportunities we have living in the United States.
About the AuthorMore Content by Lynne Levy