How to Successfully Manage Veterans in the Workplace

Transitioning from the military to the civilian workforce can be challenging for many veterans. But, when employers have a pulse on appropriately managing them, the outcome can be a win-win for all parties.

Successfully managing veterans in the workplace requires a great understanding of the military background. Veterans are often accustomed to highly structured environments, bringing many valuable skills and experiences to the table.

It’s in the best interest of employers to offer veterans support throughout their transition to civilian life by promoting an inclusive and supportive work environment. Continue reading to learn how to effectively manage veterans and foster a culture where they can thrive.

7 Tips for Managing Veterans

There are several ways that organization leaders can effectively manage veterans on the job. The following are seven proven strategies:

1.   Eliminate stereotypes

When you rely on assumptions, you are doing both yourself and your veteran employees a disservice. One common stereotype about veterans is that many of them suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but this is not the case. The veteran experience is diverse—not all vets see combat, so it’s important to judge on performance versus a preconceived notion.

Another popular misconception is that veterans are very rigid, but the reality is that they often have to make quick decisions in changing conditions to achieve a common goal—a skill set that is highly sought after in the civilian workplace.

2.   Refrain from micromanagement

No one likes to be micromanaged, and that tactic most certainly won’t bode well with veterans. Once they understand what is needed and how to do something, don’t hover over them. By providing autonomy, you are showing your employees that you trust them to do the right thing and make the right decisions. Free your mind of any bias that you might have about the way veterans may think or act on the job post-military training.

3.   Provide clear expectations

Set clear expectations with your veteran employees from day one, so there is no question about their objectives. Be sure to directly define the roles, responsibilities, and operating procedures of the job, as ambiguity can lead to confusion. Direct communication is always best, especially as it relates to detailed instructions and tasks. A thorough onboarding and training program should also be in place, and employees should be told how their performance will be measured.

4.   Explain office culture

Many veterans are unfamiliar with how civilian office culture works. For lack of a better term, vets may experience somewhat of a “culture shock” during their initial transition. In the military, it’s all about doing whatever is necessary to accomplish the mission, whereas in the civilian workplace, time and budget may take precedence.

Rank in a civilian office may be confusing to vets because they are accustomed to knowing someone’s role and seniority based on their military uniform. As an employer, it’s important to share who reports to whom and where they fit in within the organization.

5.   Offer a mentorship program

Onboarding at a new job can be overwhelming for anyone, but even more so for a veteran who has newly entered the civilian workforce. Providing mentorship opportunities and employee resource groups (ERGs) is an excellent way to help new hires kick-start their career. Pairing veterans up with other fellow vets can help create a positive work environment and increase retention rates. Employees are much more likely to stay with an organization when they feel valued and respected.

6.   Support professional development

Maintaining ongoing communication with veterans is a great way to learn how things are going on the job, and what projects they are excelling in. It may take some trial and error to determine what tasks are best suited for them based on their skill sets. Ask veteran employees what they need help with and if they have any suggestions for improvements. Offering clear career advancement pathways and professional development opportunities will show them you’re committed to their long-term success. Once you have successfully hired a veteran, don’t stop there. Continue to prov ide professional development.

7.   Lead by example

Individuals with a military background tend to have high expectations for leadership and expect all missions to be accomplished. Managers who lead by example in the civilian workplace will thus earn the respect of veteran employees. Vets are accustomed to structure and strong leadership and naturally will expect that same level of professionalism at any job. Be sure to explain the hierarchy of leadership and how it works, along with the company’s objectives.



Thrive and yield a mutually beneficial relationship

For veterans, working toward a higher purpose is of the utmost importance. That’s where as an employer you have an opportunity to share how they can continue to serve within the civilian workplace and in the community.

With the right preparation and strategy, you will be able to successfully manage veterans in the workplace. Veterans are known for being excellent and long-lasting employees, so it behooves organizations to take the right steps—to create a culture where vets can truly thrive and yield a mutually beneficial relationship.

At SURESTAFF, we help veterans successfully transition to the civilian workforce, increase public awareness about hiring veterans, encourage others to hire veterans and their spouses and educate the staffing industry and its customers about the benefits of hiring veterans.

Request an employee today!


About the Author

Kim is a seasoned content marketing professional with over twelve years of corporate communications experience. Her “sweet spot” is withKim Wacker creative writing both short and long-form. She has a proven track record working with IBM, Jackson Healthcare, and Walt Disney World, among many others. Kim is a singer and actor and has been performing on stage and screen since she was a child. She has a great passion for TV and film production and went to school for broadcast journalism. Connect with Kim on LinkedIn.