Reflect on your onboarding strategies and consider adding a few new elements to be inclusive of Veterans, both with and without combat-related injuries.
There are some important cultural distinctions to keep in mind when a member of the armed services transitions into the civilian workforce. First and most obvious is the fact that the military has a very clear hierarchical structure. In fact, rank is worn, literally, on your uniform (and understood by ALL). There is no misunderstanding as to who's in charge, who gives the orders and who follows them. Furthermore, career growth and promotion opportunities are clear and distinct. Lastly, the focus is always on accomplishing the mission at hand - taking credit for the work doesn't matter. This level of camaraderie and collaboration within and among all branches of the military is simply a way of life and an unspoken understanding.
The civilian workforce tends to be more ambiguous. The chain of command is not always obvious and can be somewhat confusing (even for those with no military experience). The work environment may be flexible some days and not on others, and there is not always a standard or equal path to move up the career ladder. This is not to say that military and civilian cultures do not and cannot mix. It is just a reminder to civilian employers that some extra time and attention may be warranted during an orientation period.
To ensure a smooth transition, consider the following (these suggestions would apply to any employee, and are basic good on-boarding strategies):
It is important to recognize that psychological health injuries (such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder) and brain injuries gained during one or multiple deployments are acquired injuries/disabilities. The Veteran may need some time on the job in order to figure out: (1) that he or she may need some support and (2) that exploring the possibility of a workplace accommodation might be the answer.
Facts about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the responsibilities of employers with regard to reasonable accommodation can be found in a variety of sources. A few official sources include: the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice, Cornell University's Employment & Disability Institute and the ADA's National Network of Disability Business Technical Assistance Centers (DBTACs). Additionally, DBTACs can be contacted from anywhere in the country by a single 800 number, which routes the caller to their particular region for assistance: (800) 949-4232 V/TTY.
There are several sources for financial assistance and tax incentives to help employers (including small employers) make accommodations and comply with the requirements of the ADA.
One of the biggest challenges faced by people (Veterans included) experiencing the impact of a non-apparent disability (or invisible injury) is whether or not to disclose this information to a prospective or current employer. Many people believe disclosing such information will have negative consequences, for instance, an employer not furthering an employment opportunity or, if the person is already employed, terminating him or her. Whether or not this is true, it is a common perception that often leads employees or potential employees to not share information. The issue is confusing to both employers and employees alike.
First and foremost, be up front with all employees and prospective employees about your organization's process for requesting and receiving accommodations on the job. You will alleviate stress for all parties if a clear plan and policy has been put in place and shared with all.
Consider the following promising practices:
Should an employer, HR professional or hiring manager need or prefer additional one-on-one assistance regarding accommodations for Veterans with disabilities, or any employees with disabilities, the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) can help. JAN is the leading source of free, expert and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations. Contact JAN via phone at (800) 526-7234 or (877) 781-9403 (TTY) or online at AskJan.org
Consider contacting JAN for suggestions on how to ensure your policies and procedures are structured in a way that is universally accessible. Two links of interest include: Employees' Practical Guide to Negotiating and Requesting Reasonable Accommodations Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); and (for hiring managers) The Employers' Practical Guide to Reasonable Accommodation Under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Assistive Technology: Assistive technology is technology used by some individuals with disabilities in order to perform or improve functions that might otherwise be difficult or impossible. Assistive technology can include mobility devices such as walkers and wheelchairs, as well as hardware, software and peripherals that assist people with disabilities in accessing computers or other information technologies. Through the use of assistive technology, people can keep working or regain employment. Assistive technology in the workplace can range from a simple pointing device to a sophisticated computer screen-reading program.
The Department of Defense (DoD) Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP) provides real solutions for real needs while ensuring that people with disabilities and wounded service members have equal access to information and opportunities in the Federal government. Federal agencies/hiring managers can partner with CAP to provide needs assessments and training, as well as assistive technology and accommodation services, at no cost to the requesting agency. Contact a CAP representative for more information.
The National Assistive Technology Technical Assistance Partnership (NATTAP) provides technical assistance regarding funding of assistive technology.
Job accommodations for people with disabilities are usually low cost or no cost. A recent study conducted by JAN found that 56 percent of workplace accommodations cost absolutely nothing. Of those accommodations that did have a cost, the typical one-time expenditure by employers was under $600.