In the increasingly competitive job market today, companies are looking for qualified, talented applicants, and they’ll need to provide the right career development programs and opportunities to keep them. Veterans, who make up just over 20 million Americans, are an underutilized resource for companies today. With additional training and specialized skills, veteran employees bring diverse experiences and knowledge to the modern workforce.
But employers are vastly underutilizing veterans. A Syracuse University study found that veterans typically changed jobs at least two times within their first few years of employment. Furthermore, they found that it took veterans, on average, three positions before they settled into a job where they were willing to stay long term. This is because they often haven’t found an inclusive civilian workplace in which to actualize their skills.
Organizations that offer inclusivity and help transitioning gain valuable employees with experiences and skillsets—self-discipline, perseverance, teamwork—that make them strong assets in the working world.
Veteran mentoring programs can be an ideal solution for assisting service members back into civilian working life. Establishing a high-impact mentoring program could help lower the higher than average unemployment and turnover rates for veterans, while benefitting organizations in numerous ways. Let’s take a look at five important reasons organizations should create veteran mentoring programs.
1. Mentoring Unearths Veteran Talents for Leadership, Flexibility, and Problem Solving
Veterans present a plethora of skills and training that can be useful to employers. From their military experiences, they can bring an agile mindset ready to tackle diverse challenges while setting and achieving tough goals. Sometimes though, it can be hard for civilian employers to understand military experience or terminology. This can leave certain knowledge or skills hidden from hiring managers and HR personnel when placing veterans in positions.
Through a mentoring program, a mentor would be able to discuss the veteran’s military experience with them to dissect it for its equivalent civilian terms. They could help reshape the veteran’s resume and qualifications to identify the best ways to discuss and showcase their skillsets and leadership abilities through appropriate terminology. Employers have a significant amount to gain from properly utilizing veterans’ abilities for a more productive employee and team member.
2. Mentoring Boosts Veteran Morale and Engagement
For a veteran, a mentoring relationship creates an avenue for greater social interaction and connectivity with colleagues and leadership executives. Feeling more connected to the organization and their colleagues can help veterans make a more successful transition to civilian life. This transition period, at times, can be an isolating one for veterans, but giving them someone to confide in and learn the ropes from can help them acclimate at a quicker pace, allowing them to become more engaged employees.
Mentors naturally want to see their mentees achieve goals and will be able to connect mentees with the right people and resources that can benefit them. A study by the Department of Veteran Affairs found mentoring programs to be the most advocated for program by study participants when it came to transitioning veterans to civilian life. Mentorships can provide a casual and low-stress relationship that allows veterans to be themselves, and smooths the transition into working with other civilians regularly.
3. Mentoring Promotes Inclusivity in the Workplace
Offering employee programs that are more inclusive of various groups in the employee population helps to create a more cohesive and connected workplace for companies. Initiating a veteran mentoring program allows veterans to see they are welcomed and cared for within a company’s priorities. A mentoring program can connect them to other veterans in the organization or to civilian colleagues. In both situations, veterans can learn from mentors how to adapt to civilian life, or how to progress and develop within the company.
Whether in one-to-one mentoring or mentoring circles, veterans can also help others better understand their experiences, and dispel any myths or stereotypes people might have about being in the military or adjusting to civilian life. Opening this kind of dialogue helps to create a more empathetic and understanding work environment for all employees.
4. Mentoring Increases Veteran Retention with Career Development
Like any employee, some veterans might not know what they want out of a career or what direction to take. A mentor can address these thoughts and help them discover their passions and talents in a civilian setting. They can point out the different avenues a veteran can take based on their interests. An impactful mentoring program not only helps organizations attract adaptable veteran talent, but also ensures that they create an environment veteran employees don’t wish to leave.
Mentors can help connect veterans with new opportunities and people who can help them on their path of growth within a company. To retain skilled employees and develop future leaders, it’s critical to understand their career objectives and align them with organizational goals. Career mentoring enables both career development and leadership development to help veterans gain new skills and feel engaged with co-workers and the organization. This type of engagement leads to better retention of employees, and can save a company money by avoiding turnover that can lower department morale.
5. Attract Veteran Talent and Top Candidates
Creating a veteran mentoring program can help attract other top candidates to an organization. Seeing that a company is putting in the time and effort to invest in its employees is a big incentive to job candidates.
This goes for veteran and non-veteran talent. Employee programs of many kinds can lure top talent, signifying that the company cares and is worth working for. If veterans perceive they will be welcomed, and can also build a path for career development, they are much more likely to pursue a company’s open opportunities.
Implementing a mentoring program and increasing retention rates among veterans can help create a stronger, more agile workforce nationwide and build a wealth of benefits for any employer. Veterans harness the time-honored characteristics of strength, perseverance, and loyalty that the military fosters, and are beneficial employees for organizations of all sizes.
McKenzie Brower is a contributing writer and media relations specialist for DiversityInc Best Practices. She writes for an array of human resources and training blogs. A strong supporter of social justice causes, she encourages others to have an active voice in promoting equal treatment and opportunity for all.