Performance accountability will set up newly hired veterans for success

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By Robyn Grable, founder, Service to Civilian

This is the final piece in a three-part series on hiring veterans. In the first installment, we looked at defining job responsibilities, interviewing candidates, and offering the job. Then we looked at how to successfully integrate new hires into the company — from the first day through the first several months. This week, we’ll look at how performance accountability and management can ensure success for newly hired veteran employees.

Veterans are very accustomed to being reviewed, held accountable, and measured for performance. Like with civilian employees, knowing you’ve completed a task and how well you did is vitally important in the fulfillment of your employment.

Ensuring the smooth transition and early success of new hires, especially veterans, in the first 90 days is a key responsibility for managers. Managers should check in with new hires on a regular basis. Your newly hired employees will have been exposed to plenty of information, people, and experiences once they’ve completed their first month on the job. This can be an overwhelming time and is the best opportunity to check in. Ensure the environment is set for questions. Provide meaningful insights about any contributions they’ve made on the job to recognize that you see the work they’ve done, and to give them a sense of how they’ve performed, based on expectations.

Employer feedback should be given throughout the year as performance issues, good or bad, arise. A formal evaluation is ideally a recap of things that have been addressed during the year. Be as clear and direct as possible about shortcomings or mistakes, but also take the time to provide solutions to those problems. DO set goals. Focus on improving or sustaining performance in the future, rather than dwelling on past mistakes. Negative feedback should include steps for improvement.

Therefore, the third foundational pillar is your performance management process.

Documentation. Documentation allows the employer or employee to preserve a written record of the happenings and discussions surrounding a specific event. Documentation of the employment relationship provides a record that may be necessary to support such actions as employee promotion, employee pay raises, and disciplinary action including employment termination.

Countless HR resources and professionals will tell you: If it’s not documented, it didn’t happen. Veterans live this each day. From their orders to a new duty station to mission plans and sitreps (situation reports), everything is documented. It is factual and not judgmental. It describes events as they occur, not according to the beholder’s opinions and thoughts. The documentation also describes the actions that were taken in notable instances such as when you formally recognize or discipline an employee. 

Evaluation Process. Performance expectations serve as a foundation for communicating about performance throughout the year. When you and an employee set clear expectations about the results that must be achieved, and the methods or approaches needed to achieve them, you establish a path to success. For veterans, clear expectations about the mission and the desired result are vital. They will expect this as civilians and excel within these boundaries. In general, veterans want to know what is expected of them in terms of their work and productivity. Provide feedback to show that you really do care about what these hardworking people are doing for you, and offer constructive criticism when it is warranted.

The evaluation process should be meaningful. If you have no plans for following up and holding employees accountable, a formal review process will be meaningless, just a check in the box. If you truly want meaning, the evaluation process should be structured around goals that tie into the organization’s goals, mission, and values. The evaluation process should be measurable and discussed monthly, quarterly, and annually.

Disciplinary Process. Progressive discipline policy and procedures are designed to provide structured corrective action to prevent a recurrence of undesirable employee behavior and performance issues. It creates an opportunity for the immediate supervisor to schedule a meeting with an employee to bring attention to the existing performance, conduct, or attendance issue. The supervisor should discuss with the employee the nature of the problem or the violation of company policies and procedures. The supervisor is expected to clearly describe expectations and steps the employee must take to improve performance or resolve the problem.

While serving in the military, veterans are constantly in training. They are always learning new skills and perfecting current skills. Without a structured corrective action process, an employee doesn’t know what to improve or why. The process should be progressive. The formal disciplinary process may include a verbal reprimand, a written reprimand, suspension, and termination of employment. For most problems, each step in the complete process is necessary. For more serious problems, the earlier steps may be eliminated. The degree of discipline taken must correlate to the seriousness of the offense and the employee’s record. A clear action plan should accompany each step of the discipline process. Consistency is key here.

To learn more about hiring veterans or to create a veterans program at your company, call 864-580-6289 or email [email protected].

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