As Nov. 11 approaches, many organizations will scramble to find a way to honor veterans, often calling on HR and marketing teams to lead the charge. The subsequent brainstorm might result in a social media post thanking veterans for their service, a company-wide email commemorating those who have served, or a catered lunch and passed-around card to celebrate office vets. None of these are inherently bad ideas – but for the men and women who have served, I think we can do better.
What if instead of a one-time social media post, supporting veterans was part of your organization’s DNA?
Before entering corporate America, I spent eight years as an Infantry Officer in the U.S. Army. Now a CEO, I carry that experience with me every day, and it continues to influence how I lead, hire and give back beyond the walls of our organization.
For those wondering how to honor veterans beyond “checking the box” on Veterans Day, one of the most meaningful things you can do is create opportunities – employment opportunities, learning opportunities, social opportunities – to help veterans find success in life after service.
Don’t overlook veteran talent
It’s not an exaggeration to say I owe much of my career trajectory to my experience in military service. I held leadership positions in operations, product management and customer solutions before assuming the role of CEO at a leading tech repair retailer – and as varied as these roles have been, my success in each ties back to the discipline, problem solving and team mentality instilled in me during my service. While these skills aren’t unique to veterans, you’d be hard pressed to find a vet who didn’t excel in these areas.
At Asurion, we employ nearly 400 veterans in our home office, and we have many veteran franchise owners and store employees across our 750+ tech repair stores. From leadership roles, to customer support, to change management, to store technicians – you’ll find veteran employees at every level of our business. Why? Because their military training and diversity of experience provide them with skills relevant to any number of roles. All we have to teach them is the job itself.
When you hire a veteran, you’re not only giving back to the community of servicemen and women; you’re bringing a valuable, versatile employee into your organization. Veterans are a great source of diverse talent in terms of culture, background and thought, all of which make for a stronger, more innovative organization.
Lend support in the workplace
There are government entities like the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, as well as local nonprofits that can help connect businesses with veteran talent. I would, however, encourage employers to think beyond hiring veterans to how they plan to support those employees in the workplace.
Re-entering civilian life is a huge shift, so be patient as veteran employees navigate the transition to your company's way of working. The learning curve is especially steep if it's their first civilian job post-service – but don’t let this deter you from selecting a veteran candidate for a role. Military service instills adaptability and perseverance within its ranks. Even so, a little extra support can go a long way in helping veterans reach their full potential within your organization.
At Asurion, we have an employee resource group called the Veterans Service Group, which I serve as an Executive Sponsor. It’s an internal organization dedicated to hiring and retaining veteran talent, advocating for veteran employees and fostering awareness and understanding of the military experience among the rest of the organization. It provides a built-in network for our veteran employees and helps educate others in our organization, too, to create a more inclusive workplace.
The support available through this group has been key to helping our veteran employees feel seen and supported throughout their careers at Asurion. This group is employee founded, led and driven – all it takes is a few passionate people to get the ball rolling.
Create an impact beyond your walls
Beyond providing internal support, our Veterans Service Group also serves those outside of our organization. We volunteer with local nonprofits, and our veteran employees help mentor unemployed or transitioning vets, helping them translate their military experience into tangible skills for resumes and job applications.
Everything outlined above didn’t happen overnight and might not be suitable for every company, but my hope is it will get your wheels turning. You don’t have to be a veteran or employ veterans to help those in your community. Words of gratitude are certainly appreciated, but true impact can only be achieved through action.
Dave Barbuto is CEO of Asurion Tech Repair & Solutions, a leading tech repair brand with more than 750 locations across the U.S. Asurion repair experts fix anything with a power button, helping millions of customers get reconnected to what matters most. Barbuto served as an Infantry Officer in the U.S. Army for eight years, including tours in Iraq and Jordan.