By: Joshua Wilson, Corporate Relationship Manager
Potent Volunteers, Powerful leaders, and Passionate Advocates from all walks of life, some grizzled and others steaming with vicious excitement, representing every branch of service, and from every type of industry, gather together once a year to discuss and celebrate military service and the state of military affairs. The Symposium event provides a venue for veteran advocates to collectively work to improve our understanding, coordination, and efficiency in addressing life after the military. At the annual Warrior Community Integration Symposium hosted by America’s Warrior Partnership, one can find professors discussing new research to prevent veteran suicide or implement community care based on research in one corner, and in another, groups of grizzled war veterans sharing stories and enjoying comraderies. In other corners, healthcare practitioners consider their approach to invisible wounds, and nonprofits teams heartily discuss new and better ways to give back to our countrymen. This meshing and molding of individuals from so many industries and disciplines is very impactful as it reminds me of an important lesson: veterans can be worlds and lifestyles apart after military service, but when one serves and supports the United States, they are changed forever and forged in a brotherhood of self-pride, love for country, and dedication to others. Military advocates share a bond that is undeniably potent, strong, and impactful.
In the business corner of the Symposium, industry experts and human resources executives kept their focus on one of the most important factors for a veteran’s quality-of-life: meaningful employment. These leaders of industry have long been convinced that military veterans and their families were great investments, and many of them already possessed high-quality military affairs programs. Those that didn’t were quickly looking for resources and advice to start their own. Others sought improvement in external areas. For example, on our employment panel about building a veteran-friendly environment in your business, Johnson & Johnson spoke with America’s Warrior Partnership about how they made tremendous strides in veteran community support by seeking suppliers and vendor companies who are owned by veterans. JP Morgan Chase discussed how they had, again and again, exceeded their military hiring goals because they focused great energy on ensuring their hiring programs were visible, competitive, and openly championing veterans in the public space. Apollo Global Management also attended our panel, where they spoke to leveraging their significant portfolio of companies to reach US military veterans all over the globe for the purposes of providing them support and community. All of these individuals acknowledged that we still have far to go to reduce veteran underemployment and maximize veteran retention in our current respective workplaces.
For those who were unable to attend our panel or the Symposium all together, but express a desire to learn about what some of the best companies do in the military space, I would like to share some of the things I learned at the Symposium for building or improving your veteran program. First, great companies always seek creative ways to identify veterans and military-connected employees. Feel free to offer a free lunch, a day off, or other incentives for self-identification and participation in corporate military initiatives. Even having a simple handout which includes discounts, resources, and an invitation to your veteran resource group is a great way to show a person who is a veteran or family member that you support them. If your organization has the resources, be sure to create a dedicated webpage that not only encourages military-connected individuals to apply, but also provides resources for military on the site. In the event your organization wants to be especially supportive, list out the benefits of being a military veteran or family member at your organization in addition to noting accomplishments of military-connected employees at your organization. Some expressed concern at the Symposium that small businesses lacked specific resources to implement websites, hire dedicated staff, and create elaborate military-specific programming, but even small organizations can make the time to create a dedicated veteran’s Facebook page or a mentorship program where military veterans, family members, and advocates coordinate volunteer activities and address community concerns.
Organizations can communicate support of the military to their employees and the general public by celebrating military holidays and encouraging the recognition of the sacrifices and successes of the military-connected employees at their organization. Actively monitoring and setting goals for veteran retention and career projection has been proven very valuable for public goodwill and focused improvement of military quality of life programs within the organization.
Hiring military members as recruiters and ensuring that your executive board is represented by military members also makes a huge impact, and the Symposium’s the most dynamic speakers and presenters were often executive leads who had previously served in the Armed Forces. The veterans who spoke at the Symposium showcased some of the power of American military leadership, and rest assured, the veteran stands out with confidence and competence when they address a room. Don’t just hire veterans, but strive to develop them into visible leaders, and the added value will speak for itself.
Focus your military affairs program on community, and retention for your organization will increase in both amount and diversity. The military advocates sense of purpose and contagious enthusiasm seems to always shine regardless of level of military connection or level of educational attainment, what war one served in, or how long, or at times even whether they served or simply support those who serve. The Symposium reminded me that veteran advocacy is for everyone and when people come together to serve our military, the business community evolves past its industry and it’s profits to something more: a community of people bonded by compassion and duty, and that’s good for business.
About the Corporate Veteran Initiative
America’s Warrior Partnership’s Corporate Veteran Initiative (CVI) empowers businesses to develop and implement workplace solutions to enable veterans to thrive in their careers and become valuable assets to their employers. The Corporate Veteran Initiative accomplishes this by providing businesses with insights, guidance, and training to improve engagement of veterans in the workplace through a three-phase approach: Assess a company’s current workplace culture; Serve veteran employees through a customized veteran-engagement program; and Retain veteran employees by providing long-term guidance and support for both the company and employees.
For more information about CVI contact Josh Wilson, 706-306-1283 or firstname.lastname@example.org.