RECOGNIZING VETERANS' ACHIEVEMENTS
Derek Blake of Irving, TX-based La Quinta Inns and Suites says the company recognizes its veteran, Guard, Reserve and military spouse employees with a special “thank you for your service” pin they wear on their uniforms. Each pin is unique to their military status. Recognition is important, and these employees truly appreciate the acknowledgment of their service. The hotel chain also provides “Gold” loyalty program status to veterans through its Military Rewards program. Jason Naper, a La Quinta general manager and Navy veteran, says, “The way La Quinta takes care of our veterans and active duty military is overwhelming—this drives my passion into high gear and makes me extremely energized to wake up and go to work every morning.”
USAA specifically designed an internal employee community, VetNet, over five years ago to support veteran and spouse employees, with full support from the CEO and executive leadership team. Both a social and business support group, VetNet is leveraged to share information, post military-related events, seek/offer advice or mentoring on the job, list military-related websites, establish focus groups for specific business needs, etc.
The VetNet team also designs internal social and professional-development events to support the USAA military community. These include a speaker’s series, special events and support for Veterans Day and Memorial Day ceremony programs at USAA. The business uses VetNet for veteran and military spouse job referrals, as well as to find employees with veteran and spouse backgrounds to support initiatives like surveys, inclusion in advertisements and advertorials, or to speak at special events both internally and externally.
The office environment is another way to build a community and display a military-friendly feel. At USAA, displays of military heritage service and history, such as memorabilia, artwork, and awards and decorations, are exhibited throughout workplaces. To share how their employees and their family members have served, USAA created digital Wall of Honor displays in their offices to bring firsthand accounts from people who have actually been there. Employees have an opportunity to submit pictures of their loved ones to proudly share their military heritage. Nearly 1,000 images have been submitted by more than 640 employees, with new ones being added every week.
Employees at USAA regularly commemorate military events, such as service branch birthdays, the 9/11 anniversary, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Military Spouse Appreciation Day and POW/MIA remembrances.
A special event, “Zero Day,” is a physical training event that provides employees a lesson in what it means to serve. It draws nearly 300 employees who put themselves in the place of military basic trainees. Actual military drill instructors put employees through the same experiences new recruits go through, including drill and physical training. The day concludes with a 1.5-mile run in formation.
Thanks to these efforts, USAA has seen increased participation in VetNet events.
OUTREACH TO THE MILITARY COMMUNITY
While having a tactical strategy for veteran hiring is necessary, it is important to step outside of your company’s everyday environment and become familiar with the service members in your community. Getting involved with local veteran organizations is a rewarding way to show your company’s support, demonstrating that you do more than just say you are a military-friendly organization. This may also give your employees perspective into the everyday circumstances veterans specific to your community face, paving the way for a more nurturing work environment and successful retention rate.
Getting involved with local veteran organizations is a rewarding way to show your company’s support.
Fluor Corporation, an engineering, procurement, construction and maintenance company headquartered in Irving, TX, does this with its military support coalition. The company’s initial goal was to establish a foundation that focused solely on supporting service members and their families. Fluor strives to achieve this through donations and active volunteer support, both tangible assets no matter the size of your company.
Fluor’s coalition supports organizations representing all military branches, all service members past and present, and a variety of services including rehabilitation and military family support.
Local involvement can be especially rewarding. The staff of Praescient Analytics, a Veteran-Owned Small Business focused on leveraging analytic technologies to solve complex information challenges and headquartered in Alexandria, VA, is dedicated to furthering the missions of local veterans’ organizations, including the DC-based nonprofit The COMMIT Foundation. Several members of Praescient’s leadership team have participated in the foundation’s mentoring/networking events and working groups aimed at discovering methods for better veteran reintegration into civilian life. Praescient is a certified company in the Virginia Values Veterans (V3) Program. This initiative was created by the Virginia Department of Veterans Services and provides Virginia-area businesses with the education, tools and resources needed to employ veterans. Praescient has committed to hiring several prior service members throughout the calendar year. Its staff is also involved with two organizations that work to provide companion or assistance animals to injured veterans: K9 Navigators and Companions for Heroes.
Smaller companies may not be as able to give financial support, but they can focus on providing in-kind services or volunteering. Recruit family and friends to help welcome a returning service member home from deployment, or donate your time to an organization looking for support. And don’t forget to put photos on social media and your company’s website, to share your commitment with others.
FEEDBACK AND COMMUNICATION
Feedback is an important part of any program, especially soon after a launch. First Data Corporation, a global business solutions company headquartered in Atlanta, encourages email communication between employees and its Military and Veterans Affairs team program managers. The company also uses a feature on its corporate intranet that allows all employees to make suggestions or provide input.
First Data encourages all military-associated employees to self-identify with their Military Affinity Group (MAG). MAG members have additional opportunities to discuss their unique needs and help management understand their concerns in a small group setting.
The response has been significant. Many MAG members have expressed their appreciation for the Military and Veterans Affairs team’s existence and openness to communication. These employees have the opportunity to provide actionable input on what’s working and what could be improved. And not only veterans and spouses have vocalized their support—many employees without a military connection who have heard about the efforts have reached out as well.
“It feels good to do what we do to begin with,” says Michelle Recame of First Data’s Military and Veterans Affairs program (and a military spouse). “But to hear from [employees] really makes the initiative that much more fulfilling.”