Don’t Pity Veterans. Hire them!

women vetsPity places the focus on what’s wrong with veterans.

These are the words of Gulf War veteran Phil Klay who wrote a moving piece last month in The Wall Street Journal titled “Treat Veterans with Respect, Not Pity.”

Klay continued: I find it difficult to pity someone who, when his life is considered in its totality, achieved so much good and touched so many people. 

That’s exactly the type of person employers would be lucky to have, and smart companies realize this and have made concerted efforts to hire and develop veterans in their organizations.

In 2012, Families and Work Institute (FWI) embarked on a mission to end the pity party and shed light on the importance of hiring veterans and supporting their families. As part of that effort, the Institute created the VET (Veterans Employment Transition) Award to honor employers who live and breathe this reality, and to share their best practices.

“I want employers to move from a deficient view of veterans to a more positive view,” maintains Ellen Galinsky, the president of the Institute.

“I want them to see what companies can do to support vets,” she adds, “and if they do those things, they’ll end up supporting everyone in their organization.”

The efforts of these employers will be showcased in a Symposium with the Institute’s VET Award winners on June 18 in New York City, moderated by Admiral Mike Mullen (former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) and Deborah Mullen (military family advocate) who are both FWI Board members.

“Vets bring to the workplace their discipline, life experiences, cultural exposure, team mentality, adaptability and the values of mission before self and loyalty,” says Admiral Mullen. “The VET Award winning and honorable mention companies recognize this value. I am looking forward to hosting the VET Award Symposium and hearing first hand from these best practice companies.”

Here’s a sampling of some of what top employers are doing to attract, hire and retain veterans and support their families:

Bon Secours’ retention rate of first year veteran hires is 92 %, and it has committed to maintaining a retention rate of at least 90%. This is due in part to proactively training managers on how to effectively and successfully transition military personnel into roles within our organization. The hospital system rolled out a program called “Workplace Warriors” through the Employee Assistance Program that includes handouts and reference materials for managers, and coaching and counseling resources for the new military employee and the employee’s family, including referrals for mental health and wellness, financial and community support programs.

In 2013, as part of the 100,000 Jobs Mission, JPMC launched a new website called JobsMission.com, a resource for veterans seeking employment and businesses interested in hiring them. Two major components of the site are a collection of leading practices such as Military 101, a manual for recruiters and hiring managers on how to understand military culture and titles, and the Veteran Talent Exchange, which allows vets’ resumes to be shared among coalition member companies and increases the chance for employment. JPMorgan Chase has hired over 6,400 veterans since 2011.

In 2013, USAA increased its annual hiring goal for veterans and military spouses from 25% to 30%—and met it. It did so by both extensive, targeted outreach to this talent pool, attending nearly 80 hiring events around the country and creating a dedicated page on its website (usaa.com/careers) for veterans and military spouses, and by staffing these efforts with both line managers and experienced HR recruiters who themselves are veterans or military spouses. Not only do veterans receive training that helps them transition, but all USAA executives and managers must also have a minimum of five hours of military acumen training, which can be in the form of military event participation or attendance at one of USAA’s regular military guest speaker series or military specific professional development classes.

All these winning employers and the six honorable mention companies—Bank of America, Capital One, Cornell University, The Walt Disney Company, Goldman Sachs and Verizon Communications—will be on hand at the Symposium to discuss the issue of hiring and retaining vets, and to share best practices and the benefits they receive from hiring our former military men and women.

As veteran Klay wrote:

The theologian Jonathan Edwards didn’t consider pity an expression of “true virtue.” Pity addresses the perceived suffering, not the whole individual. “Men may pity others under exquisite torment,” Edwards wrote, “when yet they would have been grieved if they had seen their prosperity.”

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