*Instructor’s Guide

Veterans, Reservists, Guardsmen, and GSHRM HR Professionals at 13 Stripes Brewery for Networking Event, August, 2021. Sponsored by Carolina PEO and Job Impulse.

Executive Summary

Veterans deserve to transition into civilian employment that complements their backgrounds and interests gained through military service. Yet one-third of Veterans experience underemployment. Often, Veterans are misinformed about advancing in civilian work environments.

Greenville SHRM (GSHRM) has worked for three years to improve employment outcomes for un- and underemployed Veterans by identifying gaps in HR professionals’ understanding of Veterans and Veterans’ understanding of the civilian workforce, and then delivering programs that bridge these gaps. GSHRM promoted the SHRM Foundation Veterans-At-Work Certification, partnered with Veteran-affiliated organizations to encourage cross-communication, invited Veteran HR professionals to join GSHRM and our Workplace Inclusion Committee (WIC), delivered related workshops, held networking events, and facilitated roundtable discussions for members and Veterans.

Feedback from these events was used to develop “Cracking the Code: HR Intel on Civilian Employment.” This 3-hour self-paced video course features HR professionals being “interviewed” by Veterans / GSHRM members on career-related topics. Interviews are interspersed with Veterans’ testimonies about their transitions. Over 20 people and five organizations participated in making this course, providing Veterans with the “the inside scoop” about civilian employment. The course includes videos, worksheets, and resource materials. Following course completion, GSHRM recommends that chapters organize a networking event for Veteran participants and HR professionals to interact and make employment connections.

Cracking the Code’s first release was completed by nearly 40 Veterans in July 2021. A total of 18 veterans and 13 GSHRM members attended our chapter’s follow-up networking event, held at Veteran-owned 13 Stripes and sponsored by Carolina PEO. As a direct result, several Veterans received interviews and at least one Veteran is newly employed.

Learn about Cracking the Code’s effectiveness and SHRM Pinnacle Award winning status.

How to use Cracking the Code (CtC) as a Self-Directed Course, Followed by a Networking Event

1. Board Commitment. SHRM chapter or council board of directors makes a commitment to employment of Veterans, Reservists and Guardsmen by assisting them their transition to civilian employment.

2. Committee Selection. Board assigns responsibility to a SHRM chapter or council committee, such as a workforce readiness committee or a diversity & inclusion committee.

3. Leadership Roles. Assign committee members leadership roles, such as:

  • Veterans At Work point of contact (for communication, reporting purposes)
  • Cracking the Code point of contact (for communication, reporting purposes)
  • Veteran organizations point of contact
  • Marketing lead
  • Chapter meeting programming lead
  • Sponsorship and networking venue lead

4. Veterans At Work Certificate. Encourage committee members (and all chapter/council members) to earn the free SHRM Veterans At Work Certificate to enhance their understanding of Veterans employment issues. Set a target goal and deadline for completion.

5. Notify Us. Notify Greenville SHRM at greenvillehr@gmail.com of your plan so that we can set up a registration button just for your chapter or state council. Reporting on participation is now made easy.

6. Become Familiar with CtC: Committee members prepare by taking Cracking the Code: HR Intel on Civilian Employment modules and worksheets. Set a deadline for course completion by committee members.

7. Connect with Local Veterans Organizations. Reach out to local Veterans’ organizations. Share CtC with your Veteran contacts. Ask if their organization(s) would like to partner with your chapter or council to deliver this program for the benefit of their participants. If yes, continue!

8. Planning the Schedule. Once you have buy-in from the chapter or council, the committee, and the local Veterans organizations, you can plan your program schedule. There is a sample schedule at the end of this section.

9. Marketing. Begin marketing the course among Veterans organizations, other job-search assistance organizations like Goodwill, staffing agencies, state employment agencies, and chapter or state council members. Marketing tools could include press releases to media, social media, flyers, newsletter articles, and word of mouth. View Marketing Samples.

10. Encourage! Check with Greenville SHRM for updates on your course participants. Send weekly notes to encourage them to complete the course and attend the networking session.

11. Networking Event. Ask your Veteran contacts about venues that are frequented by Veterans, Guardsmen and Reservists. Hold your event in a location that is familiar and comfortable for them. Find a sponsor to cover the cost of unfussy appetizers and a limited number of drinks. Play ice-breaker games and have some raffle prizes (market these!) to make it fun. Use color coded name badges to identify guests as 1) Veteran, Reservist, or Guardsman in Transition, 2) Employer, 3) Service Organization, 4) Committee Member. Perhaps have a table for “on-the-spot” resume reviews, or an “elevator pitch” area. Perhaps have stations titled, “Ask me about ATSs” or “Ask me about Salary Negotiation Techniques.” Select experts to staff the stations from among your membership.

12. Consider an Honorarium. CtC is a free program created by Greenville SHRM for other SHRM chapters and state councils. If you would like to provide an honorarium in exchange for use of this program, please consider a gift $100 or any other amount to Upstate Warrior Solution or another Veterans service organization in your area. Or, you may choose to donate to the SHRM Foundation – please list “Greenville SHRM – Cracking the Code” in the dedication.

13. Feedback and Repeat. Gather feedback after the networking event. Find ways to improve the program and consider repeating at an appropriate time.


  • February: Board decides to utilize CtC Board selects and notifies committee leader.
  • February: Committee leader assigns project leadership roles:
    • Liaison to Veterans organizations
    • Promoter of Veterans At Work Certificate to chapter or council members
    • Point of contact for CtC with Greenville SHRM (greenvillehr@gmail.com) for reporting, feedback
    • Point of contact for CtC course participants
    • Marketing lead for CtC to Veterans and Employers
    • Planner of April webinar or meeting
    • Planner of May networking event
  • March 1-31: Committee members complete CtC.
  • March 1-31: Marketing campaign geared toward Veterans, Reservists, Guardsmen in transition AND employers that hire.
  • April 1-30: Veterans, Reservists and Guardsmen complete the course.
  • April 12: Hold webinar or meeting for SHRM chapter / council members and guests. Topic is Benefits of Hiring Veterans, Reservists, Guardsmen. Feature or recognize chapter or council completers of Veterans at Work and CtC. Announce date, time, place for networking event.
  • May 5: Hold a networking event soon after course completion. Invite chapter or council members and guests that are in the position to hire. Invite Veterans, Reservists and Guardsmen that have completed CtC.
  • May 6: Follow up with attendees to gather feedback, report outcomes to committee, board. Consider repeating the program periodically.

How to use Cracking the Code (CtC) as a 4-week Course

This program also lends itself to small group lessons. SHRM chapters or councils could develop a 4-week course, for example, held for 2 hours every Tuesday from 6-8 pm. The course could be arranged as follows, with two videos shown per lesson.

  1. Gather a group of Veterans, Reservists, and Guardsmen in transition and a smaller group of SHRM chapter or council volunteers (HR professionals).
  2. Set the course dates, times, and location in a place familiar to Veterans.
  3. Introduce CtC and the purpose, agenda (10 minutes).
  4. Watch the first CtC video as a group (20 minutes).
  5. Break into small groups. A good small group ratio is 1 volunteer to 3 Veterans. Discuss the video content. Encourage Veterans to share experiences related to the video topic and to ask questions of the HR professional (20 minutes).
  6. Each small group shares key learnings with the larger group (10 minutes).
  7. Break (10 minutes).
  8. Repeat 4 – 6 with second CtC video.

All other elements of this program as described above, such as a membership meeting focused on The Benefits of Hiring Veterans, or a final networking event with CtC course completers and employers, can be incorporated into the 4-week course design.

Visit Greenville SHRM. Questions may be addressed to greenvillehr@gmail.com.

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