Depending as it does on a broad range of participation and inputs, onboarding is a perennial source of pain for organizations: after all, you’re trying to set up your new hires for success at the same time you’re hoping to integrate this new human into your culture and processes. And in this fraught hiring landscape, it’s a scramble to source talent, much less get them in the door. Many organizations have used the post-COVID period to stand up special talent programs adding another layer of complexity. In the last five years, the formation of corporate military-focused talent programs has accelerated in an effort to capture segments of the 300K+ service members transitioning out of the military every year. 

As a provider of talent development programming for corporations looking to do right by their new hires, we at The Ambitious VET Network have some thoughts on onboarding veterans for success in your organization. 

Culture shock is real for transitioning veterans, it lingers for a long time, and onboarding programs have an opportunity to recognize that impact, its presence, and its long-term effects. Yes, there is a lot about military culture that seems overly structured and foreign to an outsider, but for service members who grew up in and learned to thrive in its collectivity and structure, there is a lot to admire. Your onboarding process can acknowledge the disparities between military life and corporate culture. You don’t need to replace it, but you do need to respect it. 

What is often missing for transitioning veterans? For one, clearly articulated purpose, mission and values. Veterans understand what it means to be mission focused and purpose-driven. Your corporate culture should be able to do the same, to articulate a clear mission and purpose, not just for veterans but for the entire team.   

Also often missing is a clear path to promotion and advancement. In corporate culture, the path to career advancement is not clear and relies on skills that aren’t emphasized during military service: networking, sponsorship, and mentorship. Helping veterans understand the importance of a professional network and how to develop one effectively should be an essential part of your onboarding process as well as your ongoing professional development programming.  

Veterans lose an important support network when they transition from military service. The sense of community and the comradery that comes with it is an integral part of military life.   That loss can be extremely difficult if there is not a strong bonding among members of the new corporate team, and that is why the creation of Veteran Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) is such an important part of the corporate experience.   

A basic understanding of the cultural differences that your veterans will likely experience in transition will help refine your onboarding process for your new hires; you can head off some of the transition frustrations that veterans might experience and increase workplace satisfaction and productivity. While you don’t need to be an expert in military transition, awareness of the complexities of it means designing a better onboarding experience for your veterans and frankly for any of your new hires.

We at AVN strongly advocate for investment in onboarding programming that is culturally literate and provides strong mental hand grips and toeholds that reinforce what they learned in the military.  Such programming provides a foundational grounding in what they know so that they grow in what they don’t know. Our programs are built by veterans for veterans. Get in touch!

More About The Ambitious VET Network: 

The Ambitious VET Network (AVN) delivers culturally literate corporate learning and development programs to veterans that strengthen their ability to thrive in and contribute to your company’s mission. Our programs were developed by veterans for veterans, and backed by research, which we believe is integral to a holistic hiring and retention strategy for veteran candidates. 

By: Jennifer Thayer, Chief of Staff, the Ambitious VET Network

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