Create an Inclusive Environment for Veterans

Learning Objectives

This Trailhead module offers next steps to make your work environment more military-friendly and help employees who are veterans achieve long-term career success.

After completing this unit, you'll be able to:

  • Draw parallels between military service and your company's culture
  • Describe the importance of allies in an organization
  • Build a competitive benefits program


Welcome! You’re here because you know the value of hiring veterans, and you're excited to welcome them into your organization. Here we give you ideas that you can put into action right away and long-term strategies that you can adopt as you create a workplace where veterans can thrive. All it takes is a bit of thoughtfulness and planning. Let’s start with a few tried-and-true strategies.

Draw Parallels Between Military Service and Your Company's Culture and Values

Sam Allen, COO, Corporate Marketing at Salesforce, U.S. Marine Corps Veteran

There is phenomenal alignment between the values of Salesforce and those of veterans. Ethos is hard to teach—and vets bring to the workforce tremendous integrity, grit, judgment, and leadership. All values that make Salesforce employees successful. These values along with many others should not be overlooked when reviewing the candidacy of a veteran. 

-- Sam Allen, COO, Corporate Marketing at Salesforce, U.S. Marine Corps Veteran

When it comes to work experience, military service is undoubtedly unique. Fewer than 0.5% of Americans serve on active duty. Still, this unique experience need not create distance between veterans and their civilian colleagues. One way to create an environment where veterans can thrive is to connect your company’s culture to values that veterans regard highly. By achieving a values-based alignment, you can establish common ground.

Casual conversation is a great way to do that. In the Military Veteran Recruitment Strategy module, we talk about the importance of casual conversation during the hiring process. When recently transitioned military veterans join your staff, you can use the information that you glean from your first conversations with these new hires to clarify and articulate how their values and motivations overlap with those of your company or team.

Your company’s values tell new and even longtime employees the story about what differentiates your company from others. And the culture that your values sustain can help you to attract, hire, and retain veterans. With that in mind, managers can explain the company’s values using the veteran’s frame of reference.

Finding common ground between military service and company values can deeply integrate two seemingly different work cultures. Here are two other ways to emphasize these common values.

  • Frequently refer to shared core values you identified during the interview and hiring process. Use these core values to guide conversations, professional development plans, and feedback sessions.
  • Intentionally align your company’s core values with your new employee’s values to reaffirm the potential for future success within the organization.

Allies and Champions

In the Equality Ally Strategies Module, we talk about how being a member of an underrepresented group can feel isolating. Veterans, who represent a small percentage of the workforce, can feel the same way. Even at large companies, some managers may ask themselves, “Wait, are there any veterans on our team? Do we even have any veterans working at our company?”

Support from people in your organization who value military skills and experience goes a long way toward making veterans feel welcome. These allies don’t have to be veterans themselves, or military spouses, or reservists, or even people with friends or family in the military. Anyone can appreciate the attributes that veterans bring to the table.

To show your support to the internal veteran community, these key themes are a good starting point.

  • Ask others about their experiences and share yours.
  • Listen with empathy and seek to understand different perspectives.
  • Show up by being present, engaged, and committed.
  • Speak up as an advocate and talk to others about being an ally.

Tony Prophet, Chief Equality Officer at Salesforce, Veteran Ally

I've seen the power of veterans in the workplace firsthand with my father Dr. Matthew Prophet, Lt. Col. US Army Retired. He pursued his education under the GI Bill through 20 years of service to this amazing country—ultimately earning his Ph.D. and going on to another 20 years of service in public education. I am a firm believer in the power and untapped potential of the veteran talent pool for all industries and certainly tech. 

-- Tony Prophet, Chief Equality Officer at Salesforce, Veteran Ally

One way for allies to demonstrate their support for military veterans is through employee resource groups (ERGs). ERGs are voluntary employee organizations founded on shared characteristics, interests, or life experiences. They offer a great opportunity for networking, and they can be an effective forum for the stories and experiences of today’s military veterans. ERGs can host panel discussions, open houses for the local veteran population, and meetings with members of the executive leadership team to ensure that veterans have a voice in the company’s culture and priorities.

Participating in volunteer opportunities with the military community is another great way for allies to contribute. These activities help employees connect with and better understand the military and veteran experience. Here are a few organizations to consider.

  • Team Red White and Blue enriches the lives of America's veterans by connecting them to their communities through physical and social activities. They host group exercise and community events in several cities.
  • Team Rubicon unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with those of first responders to rapidly deploy disaster relief volunteers. These volunteers deploy to natural disaster areas to provide crisis response.
  • Operation Code is the largest community dedicated to helping military veterans and families launch software development careers. They offer an easy way to mentor veterans who are seeking careers in technology.

Finally, allies can shine a spotlight on veterans who have done great work but are hesitant to brag. That not only helps vets progress in their careers, it also illustrates to others the value of veterans to the organization.

Offer Military-Friendly Benefits

Another way to make your workplace attractive and welcoming to veterans and members of the military is to offer benefits that accommodate their needs. Here are some practical suggestions to build competitive benefits.

Institute a Military Leave Policy
For eligible employees, military leave covers voluntary or involuntary duty such as active duty, active duty training, inactive duty training, National Guard duty, absences for exams to determine fitness for duty, and absences to perform funeral honors. Common military leave policies allow for 3 to 5 cumulative years of leave, with allowances for exceptions and extensions. During some or all of a military leave period, health benefits and 401(k) deductions are unaffected, vacation hours continue to accrue, and their stock continues to vest.

Offer Flexible Work Schedules
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides patient care and federal benefits to veterans and their dependents. Some veterans may need to travel for medical appointments or to participate in VA-specific research studies. Offering flexible work schedules greatly facilitates these needs. In any case, help veterans understand your company’s leave policy.

Allow for Additional Compensation in Place of Health Insurance
Some veterans have a generous healthcare plan under Tricare or through the VA. And they might prefer that to your company’s healthcare plan. If these employees choose not to participate in company-sponsored healthcare, that can save your company money. Consider offering these employees a higher starting salary to align with the total compensation package for non-veteran employees.

Offer Tuition Assistance to Qualifying Military Families
If employees are using educational benefits from the GI Bill, the VA, or the state to earn a degree, consider offering your usual company-paid tuition benefits to their family members who are attending school during their employment term.

Celebrate Veterans Day
Veterans Day is a yearly opportunity to show appreciation for your employees who served in the military. Often we take that day off without reflecting on the reason for the holiday. Take a veteran to lunch and learn more about this colleague’s experiences, or consider planning a company-wide event. Honor the service and sacrifices of veterans in your company without painting them as heroes, which could make them uncomfortable.