There are numerous resources available to help employers in their Veterans hiring efforts, but not all employers know where to find them and whether they are reputable. In response, the U.S. Department of Labor has compiled the following list of free, vetted tools and resources to keep at your fingertips. While certainly not all-inclusive,
this list is designed to be a quick go-to reference guide of helpful sources of information related to Veterans hiring, retention and promotion.
If your company does business using social networking platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, consider joining groups pertaining to Veterans and Veterans' employment. For example, there are currently more than 250 Veteran-related groups on LinkedIn. All will not be appropriate for your company to join, of course, but some will be - if not for posting job descriptions, but for receiving and sharing information.
A few recommended social networking groups to join or follow include the following:
Additionally, nonprofits (such as Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and the Wounded Warrior Project) have their own social networking sites to support the employment of today's transitioning veterans.
Staying connected to issues supporting the employment of Veterans and transitioning Service Members is easy. The following are some suggestions for employers of all sizes and types:
The America's Heroes at Work initiative has fielded answers and supplied resources related to some common (and often unspoken) questions employers and HR professionals have with regard to employing Veterans and people with disabilities. This section offers some quick answers and vetted resources related to common questions about: workplace accommodations; cost, liability and return on investment; candidate qualifications and capabilities; stigma and employees with psychological health injuries and mental health concerns; and staff training and disability-friendly workplaces.
Just as everyone's personality is unique, so is every accommodation. Accommodations are based on a person's needs - typically based on the limitation he/she is experiencing - and are not disability specific.
The most appropriate reasonable accommodation is best determined through a flexible, interactive process that involves both the employer and the individual with a disability. This generally begins with a conversation - and using a problem-solving approach, an employer should:
There is probably nothing "special" that you will need to do - for several reasons. First, many people with "hidden" disabilities (including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)) choose not to disclose in the workplace, mainly for fear of discrimination. Many people have learned to self-accommodate, and generally know what they need to do (i.e., take a short break after sitting at the computer for a long period of time, use lists and other electronic devices to keep them organized, etc.). Second, once a person has requested an accommodation, an open discussion can begin, engaging the individual in the decision making and problem solving process.
The best thing you or your company can do is to have a clear accommodations process in place (including procedures for requesting a job-related accommodation). It should be posted and made easily accessible (via the Web, corporate intranet, etc.) for all potential candidates and current employees. The number of employees with acquired disabilities is growing in this country (according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there is a 73.6% chance of acquiring a disability if you live to age 80), and employing such strategies (which are truly just good management techniques) will undoubtedly lead to greater retention.
According to a recent accommodations study (9/1/09 from the Job Accommodation Network), 56% of accommodations cost absolutely nothing! Of the remaining 44%, approximately 37% of employers reported a one-time cost, 5% reported an ongoing, annual cost to the company, and 2% required a one-time cost and annual costs. Of those accommodations that did have a cost, the typical one-time expenditure by employers was $600. When asked how much they paid for an accommodation beyond what they would have paid for an employee without a disability who was in the same position, employers typically answered around $320.
Regarding liability, the decision to terminate any employee carries with it the risk of possible legal challenges. It is best to have clear procedures and policies in place to ensure all employees are getting the feedback they need in order to perform their jobs to the best of their abilities. The protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act are based on non-discrimination (and ensure equal access in the employment process). It does not mandate companies to hire individuals with disabilities, but hiring the most qualified applicant regardless of disability. Additionally, it does not protect an employee with a disability from being fired due to poor job performance, but from being fired simply because of a disability.
Research studies dating back to 1948 have consistently shown that employees with disabilities have average or better attendance, lower turnover, and average or better job performance, and average or better safety records than their nondisabled counterparts. Additionally, the cost of accommodations for most employers is quite small relative to the benefits gained. Most large- and medium-sized businesses report no significant increase in costs.
Regarding the need for more supervision, military Veterans tend to need less supervision than the average employee. Much of this is based on their military background (stick-to-itiveness, completing duties as assigned and directed, not sitting idle, etc.). All that is needed is what all employees typically need: clear expectations (with an understanding of the chain of command and/or whom to report to with questions).
Time loss will only be a factor if this employee (or any other), doesn't disclose a need for a flexible schedule (which is the most frequently requested accommodation for employees both with and without disabilities).
First and foremost, it is important to expect the same level of performance from all employees, regardless of age, disability, gender, ethnicity, etc. Plain and simple, no one, Veteran/wounded warrior included, should be hired for any reason other than the fact they are qualified - and have the skills to do the job. For candidates with invisible disabilities, such as learning or psychological disabilities, PTSD and/or TBI, the employment process can be a very difficult experience. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one in every five Americans has some sort of disability. In actuality, this number is most likely underrepresented, because many people with invisible disabilities fail to report such. Interestingly, many in the Deaf community (especially those who share the common language of American Sign Language) do not consider themselves disabled. They consider deafness a culture.
Employees with disabilities should absolutely be held to the same standards as those without disabilities. Though it would be an egregious error to make generalizations about any group of people, military Veterans do tend to come to the table with a set of highly desirable and universal skills. To answer questions regarding necessary skills sets, being able to meet the statement of work, and job performance, good employment and management techniques will generally sort out those who have the technical skills to do the job.
An idea to consider: Uniiversal Design is the creation of products and environments meant to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialization. The intent of Universal Design is to simplify life for everyone by making products, communications and the built environment more usable by as many people as possible at little or no extra cost. Universal Design benefits people of all ages and abilities.
True Universal Design is unobtrusive, even invisible. If you've ever been through an automatic door, you've experienced a version of Universal Design. A ramp or curb cut is just as welcome to someone with a baby stroller as it is to someone in a wheelchair. In addition to those whose mobility is limited, the design is intuitive to those who cannot read or hear or those who read or speak a foreign language. Ironically, the "conspicuousness" of a person having to deal (often awkwardly and unsuccessfully) with the barriers of most built environments is what brings attention to their dilemma. "We" have created the handicap and disability. The handicap is the structure itself. The disability comes from dealing with it. In addition to access and inclusion, Universal Design brings with it an extra margin of safety. However, Universal Design isn't about ramps and grab bars, although devices such as these remain necessary for assistance. It isn't a clinical or "special" look.
Consider what would happen if businesses applied the theory of Universal Design to the workplace and employment process. Since human resource personnel and hiring managers will only know if a candidate has an invisible disability if he/she has chosen to disclose, why not create a level playing field for everyone? Performance-based or "working" interviews often will do just that. This strategy may even help those who just get plain nervous during the interview process.
Additional "positive management" strategies would include the following:
"Stigma" generally exists when there is a lack of exposure, education and training. Stigma can only be reduced/eliminated when people change deeply held attitudes and stereotypes. People with disabilities want to be treated like any other worker - with dignity and respect, and valued for the talents they bring to the table. Something you may not have previously considered is the fact that those with psychiatric disabilities/mental illness and other acquired disabilities (including Veterans with PTSD and TBI) may often self-stigmatize (believing that they are weak or damaged because of an illness/disability). For our returning Service Members, especially those dealing with the impact of PTSD, employment serves as a source of achievement, satisfaction and a boost to self-esteem, in addition to providing an income. Work is often a critical element of a therapeutic road to recovery and routine.
About one in every four adults has a diagnosable mental health condition in any given year (roughly translating to 57.7 million people in the United States). Employers who provide workshops on Stress Management, Communication Skills, Anger Management, Addictions, etc. offer a proactive approach to common employee problems, and thus are likely to reduce turnover and improve retention. High-pressure jobs leave people vulnerable to overload. It may benefit the employer to work to develop an employee's skills for working with each other and for handling frustration and stress.
The infrastructure necessary to support employees with disabilities in general includes clear and consistent policies and procedures, including an accommodations process.
Ongoing staff training is important to the growth, health and wellness of any corporate culture. In today's economy, offering ongoing training in the areas of positive mental health, stress management, etc., go a long way to promoting positive mental health in the workplace (not surprisingly, job stress is a common and often costly problem in the American workplace).
Training assistance is available (at a free or nominal cost) from the local Disability Technical Assistance Centers. The DBTAC National Network of ADA Centers offers training on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other disability-related topics in various formats to meet the needs of diverse learning styles. Each DBTAC/ADA Center offers customized training and many of the training programs provide education credit. Check out - Popular Training Formats, What's New in Training!, and Search ADA Training Resource Center. Popular training formats include: Audio Conferences, Conferences & Training Events, Courses, Podcasts, Publications/Training Materials, Toolkit /Train-the-Trainer, Videos, and Webcasts.