Over 18 million men and women in the U.S. are veterans, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Veterans have specialized leadership training, the proven ability to multitask and work diligently in a fast-paced environment as well as extensive experience in complex and highly-matrixed organizations. To tap into the experience and skills of veterans, companies should focus on fostering an inclusive workplace where veteran employees are valued and can thrive. We asked four of our PwC'ers and proud veterans, how leaders and managers can help veteran employees succeed.
Many veterans have a vast military network when they complete their service, but their business network may be limited, if not non-existent. Having a dedicated and proactive resource within a company to connect with fellow veterans can make their transition to corporate America successful—and attract more diverse and qualified talent. Moreover, if companies do not make an effort to hire veterans, it can fall out of focus.
As PwC's Veteran Talent Acquisition Leader, I develop the strategy to attract veterans to the firm. An inclusive veteran talent strategy should include three key elements: bridging military and corporate networks, helping enable veteran applicants to have opportunities that complement their strengths, and tracking veteran recruitment data to help inform and advance progress.
Additionally, similar to other dimensions of diversity, representation matters. It can be a sense of comfort to any new joiner that they have someone to talk to about their shared experiences and backgrounds who can understand and be both an ally and sponsor. This is also impactful for veterans who are joining the workforce. In turn, veterans can enjoy a sense of inclusion that allows them to perform at their best and bring a wide array of experiences and skills to better an organization.
— PwC Veteran Talent Acquisition Leader Jason Jin
Employers that demonstrate inclusive behaviors and policies can better attract veterans who identify with other dimensions of diversity. Many veterans are interested in employers with a veteran-friendly culture, but that likely is not the only criteria for their employer.
As a Black, LGBTQ+ veteran, I sought a workplace that actively supported all of my identities. For leaders looking to champion the intersectional identities that veterans may have, the priority has to be listening and understanding, and it should start at the top of an organization. Leaders need to have those difficult conversations about potential bias, societal social injustice, and microaggressions—and help create space for their people to have these conversations as well.
Creating a culture of understanding can ultimately help create a more inclusive environment for everyone. I am part of both the Black Inclusion Network and the Veterans Affinity Network at PwC, and these communities have helped instill a strong sense of belonging for me at work and often can benefit other veterans like myself.
— PwC Advisory Senior Associate Chanitra Bell
Team leads can reinforce an inclusive workplace for veterans by seeking to understand and support their transition to the team. This can not only net higher productivity, but also establish team culture and tone. During their service, veterans learn to be strong leaders and supportive followers, and as such, managers should lean into three values when veteran team members enter or reenter their function.
There is a smaller population of individuals with direct understanding of military rules and regulations, underscoring the case that leaders and managers understand both the benefits of hiring veterans and the successful ways to support those who are still serving in a reserve or national guard component.
The veteran advocacy manager maps out a veteran's needs in joining a company and helps them understand what roles a company can offer by collaborating with institutions that support exiting service members and veterans in higher education programs. They also coordinate with veteran employee resource groups to help identify dedicated support for veterans once they join an organization. Additionally, and equally important, they educate company leaders and managers on the laws and federal regulations around hiring veterans, as well as supporting veterans who are still serving in the reserve force. The government is clear on what is expected of companies when veterans work there, and the most effective way to follow the law is to have a focused individual working with your recruiters to help support a veteran inclusive environment.
Companies with veteran advocacy managers also signal to veterans and clients that they are a veteran employer of choice and that once a veteran joins the company, they will be committed to helping them succeed if at all possible.
— PwC Market D&I Leader Bob Garcia
Overall, veterans possess a unique set of skills and experiences when they exit their service. For companies to tap into this pool of talent, they should position veterans to succeed in their workplace—from focused recruitment and intersectionality to intentional manager support and formal advocacy. Companies should also consider how being inclusive can translate outside of their proverbial four walls. For example, as part of our Skills for Society pro bono program employees are able to dedicate time to support service members in our communities.
In the end, how we honor and thank veterans is meaningful, and one of the more impactful ways to do so is to support them in the workforce so that they have the opportunity to thrive.