Veterans Day on Nov. 11 presents an opportunity to recognize the unique qualities veterans bring to the workplace and to reward them with the right mix of benefits tailored to their special health, wellness and financial needs.
There are roughly 19 million U.S. military veterans—a bit under 10% of the country’s adults, according to Pew Research. This is a significant population of potential employees, especially since hiring service members and military families has a proven impact on business outcomes. For example, ADP’s Inclusion Summit found veterans offer a unique combination of “teamwork, leadership, grit, resilience, empathy and the ability to problem-solve in the most demanding circumstances”—qualities that translate to performance. In fact, the Kellogg School found CEOs who are veterans perform better under pressure and are less likely to make risky investments or engage in corporate fraud.
As employers, understanding the unique skills and needs of this employee segment can help differentiate and define your value as an organization, in turn helping you attract and retain high-performing veteran talent. With this perspective in mind, let’s walk through four tactical steps that can help you harness your workplace benefits to better serve those who serve.
#1: Define the mission: Understanding veterans’ financial outlook
It’s important to frame some of the implications of military service so organizations can better understand how to pivot to recruit and support veterans. There are both positives and points of friction that can affect a veteran employee’s financial outlook: On one hand, veterans and their families can access resources for education, job training, health care, and special discounts, but at the same time, they are more likely to face inconsistent spousal income, delayed home ownership, increased risk of predatory payday lending and identity theft, and above-average credit card debt.
Additionally, transitioning to and from military life can also carry mental, professional, and financial costs. A Wounded Warrior Project survey found 6 in 10 wounded veterans struggle to make ends meet, while many also face PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Sadly, financial strain can exacerbate underlying mental health issues. What’s more, the Military Family Advisory Network found 38.4% of veteran families had less than $500 in an emergency fund—or no emergency cushion at all. Keeping these issues top-of-mind can help businesses better plan and communicate a benefits package that’s more relevant to veterans.
#2: Smooth the transition: Consider holistic financial benefits and education tailored for veterans
Transitioning to civilian life is a journey, and veterans may benefit from a wide range of workplace benefits that can help them smooth out that experience. Traditional offerings like employer-sponsored retirement accounts can carry added weight for veterans, who may have started saving in workplace retirement plan later than their peers. In fact, Gartner found that veteran talent is 49% more likely to name retirement preparedness as a personal well-being goal. Equity compensation and financial wellness benefits are also easy wins; Equity shares can offer veterans an ownership stake and wealth-building potential in their new career, while financial wellness typically comes with access to topical financial education, budgeting tools, planning resources, and personalized coaching. Taken together, these financial benefits can offer veterans access to wider financial choices and resources.
Beyond these basics, work with your benefits provider to tailor benefits education and communication around topics unique to the veteran experience. For example, support around credit, debt, cybersecurity, identity theft, and predatory lending can be especially relevant to service members and their families, who are disproportionately affected by these issues. Additionally, many companies (including ours) offer job recruitment programs and financial training calibrated specifically to help veterans translate the skills and experience they’ve acquired into rewarding futures in non-military settings. Workplace veterans groups and professional networks can also contribute to a welcoming and dynamic workplace environment.
#3: Expand your scope: Connect to outside resources
Part of the financial support and education you offer veterans through your workplace benefits suite could include referring employees to outside resources such as aid and community support for which your veteran employees may qualify.
For example, Veterans Affairs offers a wide range of resources—including health insurance—with programs at both the Federal and state levels. But, these resources can be confusing, and employees may appreciate thoughtful information. Additionally, there are many more government, non-profit, and private organizations that you can highlight to add value for your veteran employees, including Veteran and Military Transition Center, Transition Assistance Program, transitional health insurance programs, the GI Bill benefits, VA Home Loans, and Veterans Pensions, VeteransPlus, Wounded Warrior Project, and Operation Homefront.
#4: One size doesn’t fit all: Offer veterans broad benefits and personalized support
Curating a holistic workplace benefits offering can support veterans in building a stronger financial position, from creating a budget and emergency savings reserve, to resolving debt and investing for the future. Consider including access to personalized financial coaching or even a financial advisor through workplace benefits like financial wellness and retirement. That way, veterans can tailor and level-up their workplace elections and personal financial planning in a way that best suits their unique goals and needs.
Every veteran’s personal financial reality will be different, and part of supporting them at your company includes helping in the adjustment to their changing financial situation. Don’t underestimate how much your workplace benefits can help.
Kate Winget is Senior Revenue Officer at Morgan Stanley at Work.