With November being Veterans Appreciation Month, the service of active and former military members is being officially honored again. There will be parades, speeches, and recognition for that one day, all begging the question “Now what?”
Now, corporate America needs to change their thinking because veterans have a lot to offer as employees. They are trained to make split-second, command decisions, something most Americans can’t conceive. This experience provides tangible benefits to potential employers, as their leadership qualities, resiliency, determination and vision for mission accomplishment is molded in the crucible of combat. Their concept of selfless service and sacrifice makes vets loyal, hard-working employees; it should be what makes them the most attractive recruiting base for corporate America.
“Not for fame or reward. Not for place or for rank. Not lured by ambition or goaded by necessity. But in simple obedience to duty as they understood it,” reads the inscription at Arlington’s War Memorial. “These men suffered all, sacrificed all, dared all – and died.” And those who returned? They are cut off from comrades, an army of one, left to figure out how to re-assimilate with only resume writing courses or links to websites with job searches as their guides. There needs to be a serious reassessment of how America treats returning veterans.
Much too often, veterans’ years of service have put them behind their civilian peers in career development when they re-enter the workforce. And in a corporate environment with stiff competition for jobs due to a struggling economy, American employers simply have not been able to understand how the high-end skills of veterans translate into tremendous added value to their organizations.
So how do we change Corporate America’s thinking?
We change it by turning conversation into action, not by promising handouts or simplistic jobs to veterans, but by providing a realistic mission, with obtainable milestones. Our military members should have the same opportunities to succeed as any student graduating college; providing menial jobs will simply no longer cut it.
Many American corporations have declared ambitious goals for hiring veterans from our most recent conflicts. And while that is often commendable in theory, in practice, real benefit is often sorely lacking. The returning veterans deserve nothing less than an opportunity for a career that can take them through life, not just a job with a small paycheck. That implies a program that will recruit, train and offer active mentoring, one that will make use of the considerable skills our veterans have acquired.
Changes must be implemented. But not just any changes. Veterans thrive in programs that are comprehensive, hire them as full-time employees, invest in their training in teams to succeed in the highly demanding corporate world, and then provides them with a distinct career path by deploying them to clients in mutually supporting squads. It allows them to adjust to civilian life with a support system they are familiar with. This kind of comprehensive approach not only suits the needs of the client and the company itself, but it also allows these veterans to use their skills and military experience as both members and leaders of a team.
These brave men and women have served our country; now they’re back. It is time to separate the warrior from the war and allow veterans to become citizens again. Let them also have a chance to succeed and not just survive. America cannot let its interest wane or attention wander when these recent conflicts become a distant memory. Only corporate America can transform the rhetoric greeting returning vets into tangible commitment by integrating veteran leaders across every dimension of our workforce. By doing so, veterans and businesses both benefit measurably.
Corporate America, we dare you to be different. Challenge the status quo when it comes to veterans’ employment programs. Our veterans have served you; now it is time for you to serve them.