Chances are good that you know a Veteran. According to the most recent U.S. Census, there are over 17.4 million veterans in the United States. They are our mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings, friends, and coworkers.
Even though I come from a family of veterans – my father, grandfather, and uncles are veterans – I didn’t have a true appreciation for their service until I spent a summer studying abroad in Russia following my sophomore year in college. While I went to learn the Russian language and culture, what I came home with was the utmost appreciation for the freedoms I have living in America, and for the military service personnel who sacrifice their lives to protect those freedoms.
Veterans Day is November 11, 2020, and is the official day to honor veterans past and present for their service and sacrifice to their country. They are separated from their families, often for long periods of time, putting the needs of our nation above their own. When they complete their active duty, many veterans join the civilian workforce. According to the 2020 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 46.7% of men and 58.1% of women veterans eighteen years and older are active in the civilian labor force.
Honor Veterans in the Workplace
Business leaders focused on DEI initiatives can build upon their culture of inclusion by recognizing the diverse and specialized backgrounds veterans bring to the workplace. Below are some ideas that you can implement to showcase and honor these individuals at your company.
Share Their Stories
Many veterans feel an immense sense of pride relating to their service and have unique stories to share about their experiences. Create an environment in which it is safe for these employees to share their stories and have their voices heard. Some employees may even feel comfortable sharing their stories on more public forums, such as in your company newsletter or on the company’s social media outlets. However you decide to spotlight veterans’ stories, it is important to also reinforce the value their backgrounds and abilities bring to the workplace.
Hold a Period of Silence
One Veterans Day tradition recognized by nations across the world is a two-minute moment of silence at 11:00 a.m. as a sign of respect for the service and sacrifice of all veterans, past and present. Companies who want to acknowledge the sacrifices veterans have made can choose to halt business for two minutes in solidarity with others around the world. Even in silence, this gesture allows veterans’ voices to be heard.
Make a Social Impact
While many veterans enter the workforce upon leaving military service, many are unfortunately unable to find employment due to disabilities or hardships as a result of their service. Many companies choose to make a positive social impact and support these veterans through charitable donations, or volunteering together. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, over 61,000 volunteers served more than 9.2 million volunteer hours in 2019 to support veterans. Companies can reach out to their local Veteran Affairs office for these opportunities as well as organizations such as Operation Gratitude.
Focus on Hiring Initiatives
Companies can also evaluate their current hiring practices to ensure that their focus on diversity includes hiring people with unique experiences and thoughts, as well as varied backgrounds. Veterans bring a wide set of skills and experiences to the workplace, and they are often adept at teamwork, leadership, and the ability to dig deep to solve problems in rapidly changing environments. Hilton, the multinational hospitality company, acknowledged the diverse backgrounds and talents that veterans bring to their company and created Operation: Opportunity. Through this hiring initiative, they hired 30,000 veterans, military spouses, and caregivers over six years.
Acknowledging the veterans in our communities and workplaces affords us the chance to express our gratitude for their unwavering service. Through this acknowledgement we also cultivate a culture of inclusion and belonging.
About Jennifer Pope
Jennifer is the Co-Founder of Work Shield, the only start-to-finish workplace harassment and discrimination reporting, investigation and resolution solution that protects employees, employers and cultures at the same time. Jennifer’s background as an attorney fueled her desire to help others. She leverages her experiences from Hewitt Associates, Thompson & Knight, and SMU Dedman School of Law to help employers shift the paradigm related to workplace harassment to ensure that everyone has a voice.
Connect with Jennifer on LinkedIn.