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How can companies support veterans this Memorial Day? Hire them

Rob Smith

Move beyond seeing veterans as “broken or heroic”

Bill Rausch is the executive director of Got Your Six, a non-profit organization that aims to connect companies of all types with skilled veterans to train and hire. (“Got Your Six” is military slang for “I’ve got your back” because a person’s back would be in the six o’clock position in aviator direction.) Rausch says the process that companies use to hire vets should start before they even start interviewing candidates. Rausch, a former US Army Major, has found that companies should address cultural barriers within their companies before hiring service members.

Rausch says that hiring managers, HR execs and CEOs need to move beyond seeing  veterans “as either broken or heroic.” He stresses that those limited perceptions leave no room for the unique and varied experiences that veterans have. Despite pledges and initiatives to hire veterans, “if HR people and hiring managers see us like that, it’s not exactly going to be the best working environment for either of us,” he said.

Commit to hiring veterans —and follow through

In March 2012, Capital One announced a $4.5 million initiative to help fund the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s “Hiring Our Heroes” campaign to, in its words, “engage the business community in committing to hire 500,000 veterans and military spouses by the end of 2014.” Capital One Vice President of Operations Ben Lamm knows firsthand how important it is to recruit and transition veterans into the civilian workforce.

The former U.S. Army First Lieutenant points to Capital One’s still-active military recruitment portal that helped him break into the company back in 1999. “[It’s] the biggest connection we’ve had in terms of helping military veterans and spouses find meaningful employment anywhere.” As for Capital One’s share of that 500,000 hired goal, Lamm says that the bank has hired several thousand veterans and military spouses since 2014.

Know that veterans need money AND a mission

Mike Schindler, US Navy veteran and author of U.S. Veterans in the Workforce: Why the 7% are America’s Greatest Asset, says that while everyone loves money, the focus on cold, hard cash above all else is less of a motivator for veterans than it may be for others. Schindler is also the head of Operation Military Family, a non-profit organization designed to support military families. He says he’s seen many cases of veterans “burning out” after transitioning to civilian life and making money-driven career decisions. “They were on mission before with a sense of purpose,” he said. “Now it’s all about money and that doesn’t make any sense.”

Look beyond entry-level hiring

US Marine veteran and manager of the Military Service Institute Jeff Cleland says that for companies looking to hire veterans, it’s important to look beyond entry-level hiring. Since the military can leave transitioning veterans with a small civilian network, they have to build networks “as adults instead of an 18- to 22-year-old college student.” Cleland says companies should look to hire veterans outside of the typical age range or experience level. They should be looking at the 26- to 34-year-old manager who has military leadership experience and is a recent college grad,” he said.  “That is often an untapped source of talent.”

Realize the value veterans can bring to the workplace

Each of the military veterans that spoke with Yahoo Finance emphasized the value that veterans bring to the workplace, such as leadership, decision-making and team building skills. “Unlocking and unleashing that potential in a business is a very powerful thing,” says Lamm.

Rob Smith is a U.S. Army veteran and a reporter and producer at Yahoo Finance