3 Steps Your Nonprofit Can Take to Create a Welcoming Environment for Veteran and Military Spouse Employees
Veterans and military spouses bring a wealth of unique experiences, skills, and ideas to the nonprofit sector. By taking thoughtful steps to create a welcoming work environment for this community, nonprofits can establish themselves as veteran and military spouse friendly employers — allowing them to tap into this large and diverse talent pool.
What is a military friendly employer — and how can your nonprofit become one? To find out, we spoke to Jamie Rimphanli, Corporate Account Manager for Hire Heroes USA, a nonprofit organization that empowers service members, veterans, and their spouses to succeed in the civilian workforce. Here are three steps she recommends for cultivating a supportive workplace for the military community.
1. Embrace diverse perspectives and skills
Veterans and military spouses are often lumped together, but they are diverse groups that come from a wide range of backgrounds. “These groups both bring a diversity of perspectives and experiences to nonprofit organizations,” Jamie says.
While their technical skills will largely depend on the roles they’ve performed in the military or professional lives, don’t overlook the valuable soft skills that this community can bring to your organization. Technical abilities can often be learned and refined on the job, but soft skills aren’t as easily picked up.
“The military trains everyone in leadership,” Jamie says. “They build team members and communicators. Military spouses, meanwhile, often show grace under pressure and are good at managing competing priorities, sometimes with minimal resources.”
2. Be flexible and realistic
In the past, some employers have expressed hesitancy around hiring military spouses, knowing they may one day need to relocate for their partner. Jamie points out that even if a military family moves every 2-4 years, this does not make military spouses a higher-than-average flight risk.
“The days of staying in a company for 30 years are gone — three years in a position or at an organization is pretty normal,” she says. “The opportunity to bring on talented military spouses outweighs the perceived risk of their departures.”
Jamie also notes that the rise of remote work has created more opportunities for nonprofits to offer both flexible careers for military spouses and jobs for military spouses at home. Remote and flexible work options are attractive benefits that can help your organization attract and retain veterans, military spouses, and non-military candidates alike.
“Remote work is an opportunity to cast a wide net when hiring — and a chance to retain talent you’ve invested in,” Jamie says. “If it’s a position that can be done virtually, moving is not a barrier to hiring a military spouse.”
3. Build reliable, informed support systems
Everyone needs a support system at work, especially those making the transition to civilian life or getting settled in a new location. Jamie says that nonprofits can play an active role in building those systems for their veteran and military spouse employees through mentoring programs, military-affiliated working groups, and a culture that values and understands military life.
As you work to help these employees connect to your organization and find their place in it, it’s also important to educate yourself about their experiences. Jamie recommends exploring online resources like those provided by Hire Heroes USA. Most importantly, listen to members of the community.
“Ensuring that the people we want to understand have a seat at the table and a voice that is heard is key to understanding the various experiences represented in the military community,” Jamie says. “Creating a safe and inclusive environment so people can share their experiences can increase organizational knowledge about this community.”
Veteran and military spouse friendly employers gain more than talent
When you hire military veterans and spouses at your nonprofit and create a supportive environment, you not only benefit from their unique talent and perspectives, but also signal to other employees that you’re committed to inclusivity. Don’t be afraid to ask questions as you go, build on what you learn, and prioritize clear communication to keep everyone on the same page.
“Communicating interest, investment, and expectations helps this community, like most employees, feel comfortable in the workplace,” Jamie says.