Bookworm: The care and feeding of new veteran hires

In a normal weeks’ time, you get many applications from many job-seekers.

That’s no surprise in any economy, but what caught your eye this week was that the number has soared. Veterans are returning to the civilian workforce in waves, and they’re reaching out to you for employment.

Fortunately, you might have a place for someone with military experience, but making room on the payroll isn’t all you’ll need to do. In the new book “Field Tested” by Emily King, you’ll learn how to keep the best employee you may ever have.

Every year, and particularly now, tens of thousands of military personnel leave their old jobs to join the ranks of civilian workers. You’d love to tap into a veteran’s discipline, that can-do attitude, and the training that comes from working for everybody’s favorite Uncle.

But there are things you need to do before you post a Help Wanted ad. There are considerations on both sides of the desk, and preparation is key.

First, understand that most employees don’t leave a job, they leave a manager. Managing properly for retention, therefore, is what you ultimately want. Since the average veteran goes through three jobs before acclimating to civilian workplaces, it’s to your advantage to anticipate the challenges that will come with transition.

At issue is that the military is a very different kind of business than the one you have in the civilian world, and you can’t make assumptions. Your new hire may never have had to negotiate for salary or benefits. He or she may be unaccustomed to a more casual, less-regimented office with unique relationships between employees. Office hours are gentler. Even the uniforms are different.

So what can you do for your new hire to help with what amounts to a diversity issue and a “culture clash?” How can you keep him or her working for you?

Arm yourself with an understanding of what your employee is leaving behind and how it affects thinking. Make sure he or she knows what the job entails, how departments work together, what is expected. Don’t assume anything. Pair a new employee with an established co-worker who is a veteran, too. Check in often and keep the doors of communication wide open.

You’ve seen the posters and ads reminding you to hire a veteran. Does it really have to be this hard?

King has studied this subject at length and she says that it could be, but that knowledge is essential for “anticipating and heading off challenges…”

I liked that King, who has a passion for this subject and has “committed” herself to ensuring that veterans are prepared for civilian workplaces, gives employers lots of tools for keeping those challenges in perspective. I also appreciated the first-hand accounts from veterans who’ve made the transition.

Be aware that this book is occasionally repetitive, may feel like baby-steps at times, and is nowhere near reading-lite. Still, if you’re eager to strengthen your business in a relatively easy way, “Field Tested” is a book you’ll salute.

‘Field Tested’

By Emily King

Amacom $29.95 187 pages

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