Q: As women and men return to their jobs after military service, what can I as an employer do to assist them in this transition?
A: Thank you for your great and timely question. The National Guard and Reserve are an integral part of our military. Almost half of the men and women serving in our armed forces are members of the National Guard and Reserve. Employers are vital in enabling employees who are members of the National Guard and Reserve to serve their country. Moreover, employers’ active support and encouragement is critical to their employees’ success.
A veteran’s return to work following a deployment or mobilization is an employment transition, and he or she often brings new skills of leadership, teamwork and a broadened perspective that can be invaluable to your organization. Additionally, like any other employee making a transition, a veteran’s transition may face some unusual circumstances. Here are tips from www.realwarriors.net.
Employers can help ease the reintegration of the heroes they employ in a number of ways:1
Foster Respect and Reintegration
• In preparing a workforce for return of military members, it is important to set a climate of positive expectations for all employees, emphasizing productive, supportive and effective work relationships and performance.
• Meet beforehand with the returning service member’s colleagues to discuss the transition, its impact on the team and related issues.
• Planning a welcome back event such as a breakfast, lunch or office party is an appropriate gesture that can foster cohesion and a sense of community.
Prepare the Transition
• The transition back to work involves realignment and renegotiation of roles and responsibilities – old tasks return to the employee and new ones are added. Prepare the returning military member for any significant changes, as he or she will be alert to whether or not “the things I used to do” are still in place.
• Prepare the person or persons who may have occupied the position during the military member’s service. Understand that they too have a process of readjustment. Acknowledging this and expressing appreciation for their work will further assist in setting a climate of respect, trust and acceptance.
• The transition can take time. Job-related training and education in areas such as new software programs or administrative management can help the returning military member feel confident in his or her skills and knowledge.
• Plan for special accommodations for those who have been injured. One’s self-esteem is greatly tied to being able to work. Thoughtful and timely planning to accommodate injury will send a positive message to the entire workforce.
• Transitions will go well for the majority of returning individuals. A small number, such as those exposed to the most intense combat/threat to life or those who have additional issues (e.g., divorce, financial issues), may experience ongoing stress.
• Stress may appear as persistent sadness, withdrawal, sleep issues or family or workplace conflict, as well as alcohol or other substance abuse.
• These experiences require early attention and referral for medical support:
- Suggest that the employee seek assistance, such as an employee assistance program (EAP) if available or a mental health professional.
- Reminding the employee of available medical and counseling benefits provided by your organization can be helpful as well.2
Answers to Questions
• Seek assistance from Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR). Call (800) 336-4590 to speak with an ombudsman. Ombudsmen serve as confidential, neutral liaisons for employers and employees who seek assistance or clarification regarding their rights and responsibilities.
• For more detailed information about specific employment rights and responsibilities, visit www.esgr.mil. This website is a great resource for the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.
• Don’t hesitate to call your employee’s military commander or supervisor if you have a question or concern. They face some of the same challenges and know that it is in everyone’s best interest to work together. Quite often they can offer alternatives to meet individual needs.
By taking a more active role in supporting employees in the National Guard and Reserve, improvements in the quality of life for all employees will directly enhance the success of the organization and provide an invaluable service to the nation.