When we think about diversity and inclusion, we often assume that it is limited to gender and ethnicity, but it is so much more than that. There is a wide range of backgrounds, educations, and career paths that contribute to a diverse and inclusive workplace. It is crucial to create a community that extends beyond your own experience, regardless of what path you have taken. As Damian Hoffman says in his blog post Improving Hiring Outcomes: Get Outside Your Network!, “The issue is, regardless of how well-intentioned I am personally, I know my professional networks are filled with people that have a similar background to my own.”
In my previous posts Military Spouses for Hire and Hiring Veterans: How to Bridge the Gap, I discuss how we as hiring managers can cast a wider net, how veterans and military spouses can apply their skills in the public sector, and how these candidates have the experience you need to succeed.
Outside of those parameters, the military spouse and veteran candidate pool includes people from all backgrounds who have worked in environments that require one to adapt quickly and embrace a diverse set of individuals. Focusing on competence, authenticity, and being part of a community, allows people to highlight their intrinsic values, which can raise overall happiness and decrease personal bias.
Instead of looking at what college a veteran went to, we should consider what education they gained during their time spent serving our country—and what unique experiences helped shape them into the professional they are today. How were they authentic in their roles and how did that help them succeed? The military operations codes, or MOS’s (learn more about MOS in this post), they have served under can vary, but one thing has proven to be consistent: the ability for military spouses and veterans to adapt to a wide array of work environments as a result of their unique backgrounds, collaborative skills, their commitment to team missions, and understanding that they are part of a community regardless of individual identities. In my experience, these candidates are highly attuned to diversity and inclusion not just because the military attracts people from all different backgrounds, but also because they learn that performance is rewarded, regardless of demographic. In my opinion, this is what helps veterans foster a mindset that is accepting of diversity and inclusion initiatives.
When we look at the culture of military spouses and veterans, one thing that stands out is the ability to create a sense of community as they move from station to station, base to base, and how the community as a whole deals with deployments. As you look to create a healthy environment for your employees, I encourage you to lean on the experiences of those in the pool of veterans and military spouses. Ask them about their encounters with diversity and inclusion, and observe how they transfer their values to their civilian and/or professional careers. Learn how these employees make great and meaningful strides in their lives, and think about how to adopt these practices in your workplace.
When we think of diversity and inclusion, let’s not limit ourselves. Let’s celebrate our unique paths, and work on bringing them together by allowing everyone to be their authentic selves, feel competent in their roles, and be a part of the community we often refer to as company culture. Let’s embrace the perspective each person brings, and always be on the mission to learn how to be better.
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