How to Celebrate Veterans Day with Purpose
Depending on where you work, Veterans Day might be celebrated with intention or it may be one of those holidays that is glossed over. As an Army Veteran and now, a CEO of a fast-growing tech company, I think it’s best used as an opportunity to connect with the veterans on your team and in the workplace.
Since leaving the Army, I’ve worked in companies where most of my colleagues didn’t have any connection to the military. When there’s a lack of comfort or knowledge, stereotypes can often fill the void. When there isn’t comfort or knowledge, fear and hesitation can take over. In my own experience, after I’ve gotten to know colleagues, they’ll often share that they wanted to hear more about my military experience, but they were worried that they’d say the wrong thing or ask a dumb question.
Fear keeps us from having meaningful conversations that bring us closer. So in celebration of Veterans Day, I put together this resource for folks, whether in HR, company leadership, or just culture builders wanting to celebrate Veterans Day with purpose and intentionality.
In it you’ll find:
Veterans are a protected class
Ideas for celebrating Veterans Day at your company
In the U.S. there are ~ 9 million veterans in the workforce today. While the BLS data doesn’t break out the percentage of veterans in technology, veterans tend to be underrepresented in startups, although many groups have emerged that focus on placing veterans in tech/startups.
Veterans are a protected class
It’s always important to understand how veterans fit into broader workplace concepts like protected classes.
A protected class is a group of people who share a specific common identity or characteristic (such as race or sex) and who are therefore legally protected from discrimination on the basis of that characteristic. The term “protected class” is usually used in reference to employment discrimination.
Within protected classes, there is veteran status. Under The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), employers cannot discriminate against past or present military service members. The law also gives service members the right to be reemployed at their civilian job following a period of uniformed service.
Ideas for celebrating Veterans Day at your company:
1. Use All Hands for spotlights and education
All Hands meetings are a great opportunity to celebrate Veterans Day. Here are a few ideas you can pull from to make it fit your company culture. If these spark ideas, check out this blog post on celebrating Heritage Months for even more ideas:
Spotlight veteran employees and give them an opportunity to share something from their military service.
Ask your Veterans Employee Resource Group (ERG) if they’d like some time to share the work they do. If you don’t yet have a Veterans ERG, keep on reading!
Prioritize education — not just celebration — and do a spotlight on a notable veteran and their contributions. It’s especially nice if they contributed to your industry so their accomplishments feel more meaningful to your team.
Share a few tips for managers and peers on how they can best support their veteran colleagues. The conversation guide below is a downloadable that would be a great resource to share afterward.
Do an activity and have the prize be something from a veteran-owned business.
If your company doesn’t have any veterans (yet!), you can reach out to a veteran and ask them to come share their experiences with your company. With this kind of ask, it’s a best practice to compensate people for their time.
2. Stand up a Veterans ERG
Veterans Day is an excellent time to stand up an ERG for veterans if you don’t have one already. Here, we share an ERG 5 step framework from Ethena standing its first ERG up, and also other examples and resources for ERGs in general.
3. Educate your team on respectful conversations
Check out this conversation guide for best practices on how to best engage with veterans. It’s an especially good resource to share with managers so they’re equipped to have respectful and meaningful conversations.
4. Check that your hiring practices are inclusive for veterans
Finally, Veterans Day is a great opportunity to check in on your hiring practices to ensure they’re inclusive for veterans. This type of regular audit helps support an inclusive hiring process in general, but it can be especially helpful for veterans because of Affinity bias. Affinity bias is a type of unconscious bias where we favor people who look, act, and think like we do. This can work against vets when applied to the tech industry because chances are, their interviewer won’t be a veteran and therefore won’t share many touchpoints.
Conduct Values Interviews
A Values Interview, not a culture fit interview, can help veterans who may not fit the traditional culture of tech to still demonstrate they’d be a good fit for the role.
Resources for hiring veterans
Here are some great orgs that help tech companies hire veterans: Breakline, Shift
DEI training can help
Making inclusive workplaces is what we do. If you’re not sure where to start, implementing a regular cadence in your organization on DEI training (diversity, equity, and inclusion) is a good place to start. Request a sample DEI training today to see it in action.
While DEI training is a great part of a comprehensive DEI strategy, there are other pieces to the puzzle. Check out 7 strategies to promote DEI at work for additional tips and resources as well. And to all my fellow veterans, Happy Veterans Day!