Joining Unum was wildly different from Nicholas Johnson’s service in the Air Force. Unum was his first job out of the military, and the culture shock was immense.
He swapped strict structure and a regimented chain of command for collaborative workspace, agile ways of working and open-door policies.
“I felt like a fish out of water,” he said.
He’s not alone. In fact, more than half of veterans leave their first employer within a year due to job dissatisfaction, according to VetAdvisor.
Sharing his experience with a lifelong pal and Unum employee Tyler Stokes, the two of them worked with other members of Unum’s Veterans Networking Group to design a program that helps people transition from the military to corporate life.
A few key elements of the program include:
A veteran sponsor. New employees out of service are paired with a buddy or sponsor to have their backs and help them navigate new waters. These sponsors – like wingmen in the military – are veterans who served in a similar rank and branch who teach new hires about the corporate world.
A clear mission. Those who serve know their esprit de corp, or mission, inside and out. This mission gives veterans a purpose and sense of belonging. Reinforcing Unum’s corporate mission of helping the working world thrive helps set their focus, Johnson said.
A corporate mentor. Like the military, each new employee gets a mentor after three months of sponsorship. Mentors are typically director level or above and don’t necessarily have military experience. They teach new employees business acumen and advise on career progression.
Since starting the program last year, eight new hires have completed the course. The next phase is to roll out a toolkit for managers of veterans, which uses the same curriculum but in reverse format, Johnson said.
Johnson said veteran colleagues have a unique perspective, unwavering work ethic, and experience working with people of all different backgrounds, ages and cultures. Team comradery and cohesiveness are important to their success, and they tend to prioritize service above self… an old habit from their military days.
Tips for HR professionals on how to retain valuable veterans by Unum’s Pipan Wilson, chair of the company’s Veteran Networking Group, can be found in this article originally published in Employee Benefit News.