Employing Veterans

Today, we commemorate 70 years since the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. We also celebrated Veteran’s Day last month. Therefore, it seems only fitting to discuss employing veterans today—both military veterans of Vietnam and more recent conflicts, and also members of the “veteran’s generation.” Both groups of veterans present various opportunities for your business that are an important part of your HR management strategy.

Employing War Veterans

Despite the skills that veterans gain while serving in the armed forces, many of them struggle to find work upon returning home. There are a few reasons why:

  • Many people don’t realize the many transferable skills veterans have. People focus on the combat and fail to recognize other abilities veterans gain from their service.
  • Veterans from the Vietnam War were commonly treated with disrespect, and some of those who disrespected them now run companies today.
  • The media has covered many stories of veterans who go berserk from post-traumatic stress syndrome and then commit high-profile crimes.
  • In Iraq and Afghanistan, the media has reported on many “mistakes” made by our soldiers that may lead a potential employer to expect errors from veterans.

We tend to hear a lot of negative things about veterans. Positive things either go unreported or are not remembered. Wartime mistakes by veterans are less common than you may realize, and they are unlikely to transfer into the workplace anyway. Also, most of the veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome (and not all do) deal with it successfully. The fact is that veterans have gained solid skills that can be useful in many different businesses. They can be great assets to your organization. They have excellent training in leadership, teamwork, working under pressure, meeting deadlines, planning, and adaptability—skills that all businesses need but many potential hires struggle with.

Some great programs exist in helping veterans find work—and for helping your business find veterans. For example, the VETS program (federal level) matches job openings in your business with veterans who have appropriate qualifications for that position. When posting a job through their service, you are not required to post it publicly, which saves you valuable screening time. There are many similar programs at the state level. Also, veterans receive regular background and drug tests while in the service, saving you much of that expense and worry when hiring one.

In addition, the government has granted tax benefits for hiring unemployed veterans. For example, tax years 2009 and 2010 included a tax credit of up to $2,400 for every veteran hired after 4+ weeks of unemployment. If you hired a qualifying veteran during that period without knowing about the tax credit, you can still claim it for up to three years after the hiring date. More recently, the Putting Veterans to Work Act of 2011 just passed both houses of Congress and awaits the President’s signature. It will grant $2,400 for veterans hired after a month of unemployment and $5,600 for veterans hired after six months of unemployment. It will also offer a $9,600 tax credit for veterans with disabilities connected to their military service.

Veterans Generation

When we talk about age diversity in the workplace, we tend to focus on the Baby Boomers. Because of the many baby boomers who are reaching retirement age, they tend to get much of the over-40 attention. However, there are still members of the generation previous to Baby Boomers in the workplace. This previous generation is called the “Veterans Generation” due to its association with World War II. What is not immediately apparent to someone new to this term is that it includes those born during World War II as well as those who lived through it.

If you can picture the very first educational videos (you know, the black-and-white ones with the authoritative bass voice narrating extensively on the virtues of American life), then you have an initial picture of the Veterans Generation. Most of the adults and many of the older children in these videos were members of the Veteran’s Generation. These videos may seem to deliberately stereotype the culture of the period, but they actually portray it very well. Because of various social and political conditions, conformity and respect for authority came to define this generation.

Members of the Veterans Generation can be great assets to your organization. Their experiences have made them wise, and they are capable of learning new skills (contrary to prevailing opinions). They are still working because they can’t stand not to work. Also, they may move slower, but they can produce just as much as younger employees because they have learned how to work smarter. If you have members of the Veterans Generation in your workplace, be certain to recognize their value. They bring knowledge to the table gained through adversities that younger generations haven’t faced. Their dedication to your business will make them among your most loyal employees. They recognize the importance of saving money and keeping your costs down, and they will work hard and avoid taking too many breaks.

If friction exists within your organization between the Veterans Generation and Generation X and Y, help them understand the value the other generation brings to the workplace. Frictions often arise because these generations view authority differently from each other, and they have different priorities that often conflict. When they recognize that they value different things and can see each other’s strengths, you will have much smoother working relationships between them.

proHR Consultants Can Help

We can help you establish a corporate culture that reduces generational tensions and assists employees of widely varying ages in communicating effectively with each other. We can also help you to gain the potential benefits that come from hiring war veterans. Also, the discipline of both war veterans and the Veterans Generation make them excellent choices for your more difficult jobs that require a strong work ethic and lots of dedication. They know how to work, and they will bring that key trait to your table.

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