SUPPORTING VETERANS AND SPOUSES
Pam Webster, assistant vice president of talent acquisition for transportation company Enterprise Holdings, headquartered in St. Louis, MO, encourages employers to do what they can to support veterans and their families, especially for those called to active duty. “Send gift baskets to deployed employees to keep them engaged in the company and show them your support,” she says. “Find out ways to help the spouses who may be working and having to manage the family and household while their spouse is deployed—mowing the lawn, minor household repairs, child care, etc. Invite the spouse to company events when the employee spouse is deployed. Even simple things like recognition of and honoring their service to our country can go a long way—and don’t forget to thank the spouse, who also made sacrifices.”
USAA provides a number of benefits for military spouse employees, with a couple of unique opportunities. Monthly Deployment Support Groups provide a chance to share, learn and gain insight from others experiencing deployment of loved ones. Its program My Helper is a subsidized concierge service that provides a variety of services, including finding child care, taking a car to be serviced and shopping for groceries.
While not all companies will have the resources or staffing needs to bring these opportunities on-site, providing a resource sheet, subsidy or needed time off for a similar service could be options as well.
DEPLOYMENT CYCLE SUPPORT
To help ease the impact a deployment can have on a family, deploying Guard and Reserve employees and their families receive a USAA deployment-preparedness kit that includes information about leave procedures, estate planning and USAA contact information.
USAA provides a dedicated team of human resource advisors to National Guard and Reserve employees and their families during their entire deployment cycle. These advisors assist employees and their family members with pre-deployment benefits questions and actions, and facilitate the re-employment process.
To help deployed employees and co-workers maintain contact during deployments, USAA established a Pen Pals program. Employee volunteers commit to writing deployed employees at least once per month during their deployment. The program provides encouragement to deployed employees and keeps them connected with USAA.
Upon their return to USAA, deployed employees receive a personal letter from the USAA Chief Executive Officer and a small gift at a recognition ceremony by their unit leadership and peers.
GOAL SETTING AND MEASUREMENT
Setting and announcing a goal for veteran/military spouse hiring, and tracking metrics along the way, allows employees to feel ownership of the program. USAA says veteran and spouse hiring “is a top priority that permeates every level of the organization.” USAA’s top internal metric is the percentage of veteran and military spouse hires. They’ve increased this goal in recent years, up to a current level of 30 percent of new hires.
Initially, USAA assesses job notification/advertising effectiveness by gaining feedback from job seekers. They ask them to indicate upon application if they are a veteran or a military spouse and how they heard of a job announcement. The company tracks and reports the results on a regular basis. To improve this capability, USAA has dedicated funds to external job advertisement channels to receive analytics behind effective advertising. Based on the results, USAA can redistribute funds to the more effective channels to ensure veteran job seekers are able to find ads. Additional resources are dedicated to track hiring metrics for veterans and military spouses to measure effectiveness of these same channels.
When any employee leaves USAA, including veteran and military spouse employees, exit surveys are used to gain a deeper understanding for the reasons for their departure. Overall effectiveness is measured by the success of the employee through annual appraisals, as well as retention. USAA’s talent acquisition team also uses Voice of the Customer methodology to assess and evaluate the effectiveness of its Military Recruiting Program by surveying the company’s business and hiring managers to glean input on the hiring process.
USAA is currently developing a dashboard that shows metrics related specifically to veterans and military spouses.
USAA is currently developing a dashboard that shows metrics related specifically to veterans and military spouses including percentage of new hires, feedback on training and professional development, and retention numbers. For small businesses that may not have the technological resources to do something similar, tracking can be as simple as collecting and recording these numbers manually, then comparing them to previous time periods in a spreadsheet.
TRACKING VETERAN HIRING
Some employers choose to use an applicant tracking system to manage resume flow and to maintain a record of who’s applied, who’s been interviewed and who’s been hired. Keeping a record of this is especially important when launching your veteran recruitment program.
Don’t use an applicant tracking system? A simple spreadsheet will help you keep track of potential candidates, interviews and hires so that you can measure your recruitment progress.
Whether sourcing through databases or hiring fairs, SunTrust Bank, headquartered in Atlanta, uses its applicant tracking system to determine how many veterans applied; how many are moving through the phone screening process and actual interviews; and how many have been hired.
Russell Jolivet, SunTrust’s vice president of talent acquisition, advises that the importance lies in making veteran hiring a part of the recruiter’s daily goals, allowing it to become a systematic part of the organization. Companies that count and track employees are better equipped than companies that don’t when it comes to analyzing performance and providing metrics that support the business case for hiring veterans.
Here are some tips for getting started:
- Develop a strategy to capture veteran status during the application process. Example: Inquire about a veteran’s or a transitioning service member’s status on the application, and be sure to keep the question broad enough to include spouses.
- Maintain a record of veteran status applicants: applications, phone screens, interviews, hires and departures (if applicable).
- Stay current with policies, news and best practices.
- Be active in the local veteran community.
- Be patient! “HR has to be the conduit to help change minds, where it makes sense—and this does not happen overnight,” Jolivet says.
RETENTION AND BENEFITS
Roush Enterprises' Veterans Initiatives Manager Dave Dunckel notes that it’s easy to say, “create a veteran-friendly workforce,” but if you aren’t really serious about it, it won’t work. If you give veterans a clear career path, they’ll follow it, because that’s what they’re used to. “That’s a challenge for us because we have to develop those paths, so career management and planning needs to be a focus,” he says. In addition, each veteran who works at Roush can have a flag put on the sleeve of their shirt. The company also lets veterans park closer to the building as a benefit. American flags are hung throughout the building, with more on the way. But be mindful of the rest of the workforce, too. “Be careful not to alienate the other employees,” says Dunckel. “Veteran-focused initiatives have to be in conjunction with an overall retention policy.”
As a longtime military-friendly employer, Verizon, headquartered in New York, has instituted a variety of programs to help retain veterans and military spouses once they begin work. Evan Guzman, head of military programs and veteran affairs, says that the Verizon Veterans Advisory Board, a veteran affinity group, is one of the most effective retention strategies the company has implemented. This group provides formal and informal support in the areas of employment, health care, new legislation passed by Congress and access to key published information for all veterans and Reservists employed. This board also serves as the Verizon contingency team to speak out for veterans and erect memorials and other engagements related to service member support. With hundreds of members, there are enough participants to create subgroups, such as a veteran business council, which includes newly hired veterans and those working overseas. In addition, the company has an intranet site exclusively for veterans’ use.
Verizon encourages veterans, Reservists and military spouses to share their stories to feature in their internal communications. This helps other employees learn and appreciate the valuable contributions of their military peers. Employees who volunteer to participate are thanked with incentives or corporate gear. More important, veteran and military spouse employees feel like they are a part of an organization that really cares.
Training and human resources policies also play a role in retention. Verizon provides on-the-job training and development programs and hosts professional networking events for veterans and military spouses. The company also offers a generous emergency military leave policy for employees who get called to active duty, making up the difference between the employee’s base pay and his or her military base pay for up to 36 months—which exceeds the requirements set forward by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). Military spouses who are facing a family deployment are offered opportunities to explore options for working part time or remotely.
The result of these and similar programs? Verizon’s retention rate among its full-time military employees is more than 90 percent.
MILITARY SPOUSE SUPPORT AND RELOCATION
A common challenge for companies is how to handle the relocation of a military spouse employee. When a service member is required to move to a new duty station (a “Permanent Change of Station,” often known as a “PCS move” or “PCSing”), it is also a period of transition for the spouse.
It’s never too early to take the first step of making a plan! First Data Corporation, a global business solutions company headquartered in Atlanta, has not yet had a military spouse need to relocate, but the company is well prepared for such a situation. While not always feasible, First Data supports employees transferring to another office location. For those circumstances, they have created a list of all remote or potentially remote jobs within the company that can be offered to current employees. Although the company has offices nationwide, these “work from home” jobs allow for a more seamless transition for the individual.
If none of these options work out, First Data’s human resources team will continue to provide support and help the spouse find a new job at his or her next location. First Data turns to reputable organizations and programs such as Hiring Our Heroes, Operation IMPACT and the 100,000 Jobs Mission for additional resources and programs.
While some moving costs for a transitioning service member can be covered by the military, a military-friendly employer can provide small additional considerations to spouses to help ease the transition. Providing a few extra days off to prepare for a move or offering to cover pet boarding costs while your employee visits the new duty station will build goodwill.
A military-friendly employer can provide small additional considerations to spouses to help ease the transition from one location to another.
La Quinta Inns & Suites, headquartered in Irving, TX, is another company that understands the challenges military spouses face due to PCS moves and deployments. With more than 800 hotels throughout the U.S., Mexico and Canada, La Quinta is able to offer career opportunities that provide portability, promotion, flexibility and competitive benefits (the latter becoming more and more important with the current downsizing of the military and the growing number of transitioning service members).
Many of La Quinta’s military spouses have started in hourly-level roles in one location, progressed “through the ranks” after PCSing to multiple locations, and are now in leadership positions, including general managers. Fellow employees are also very supportive when veterans or spouses are in need of time off or a schedule change because of family obligations, deployment requirements or unexpected emergencies, and are quick to accommodate these types of needs.
You can also plan for some of the unique needs of military spouses before relocation occurs. For example, Booz Allen Hamilton, a management-consulting firm based in McLean, VA, offers flexible work schedules and the opportunity to work remotely. These arrangements are not unique to military spouse employees but are certainly attractive to them. Booz Allen Hamilton also makes it a point to create spouse focus groups to identify any challenges spouses are facing and work to address them.
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