Veteran Resource Groups can engage all employees – not just those who served

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By Robyn Grable, founder, Service to Civilian

Did you know that only 33 percent of employees in the United States are engaged in their jobs, according to Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace report? In fact, employee engagement increased only 3 percent from 2012 to 2016.

Yet employee engagement is critical to a company’s success. After all, an engaged employee is a productive one. An organization’s biggest and most precious investment is its employees. So why aren’t more organizations investing in the development of their employees? A career advancement program helps sustain employee engagement, as employees are given the opportunity to progress both personally and professionally.

When military service members transition to the civilian workforce, they often miss the camaraderie and closeness of the military culture. During their service, there is a shared purpose, focus on mission, and bond that often remains between veterans for a lifetime.

There is something you and your company can do, with very little outlay: Create a veteran resource group. No matter how big or small, you can start and build a successful VRG.

A successful VRG will provide:

  • Veteran employees with a place to meet up, collaborate, and learn
  • Support and camaraderie for veteran employees with others with shared experiences
  • A mentoring platform to help veteran employees learn how to build a career and navigate their professional life
  • Insight for nonveterans in the company, about the valuable assets veterans bring to the workforce, help dispel myths around the military experience, and elevate the company’s brand as a veteran-friendly employer

Building a VRG starts by identifying people in the company who are former military and/or have a passion for helping veterans. Often, civilian employees see a VRG as a great way to connect to their colleagues who served and learn more about their experience. You’ll also want to include veterans in the company who identify as former military and have an interest in developing the group. However, don’t assume that every veteran employee wants to be part of the VRG. And make sure the group is open to all employees, even if they aren’t veterans.

A VRG should have the following:

A leader. Choose someone who will champion the issues, needs, and opportunities of the group, as well as identify gaps in resources. This person should be passionate about helping bridge the military-to-civilian divide at the company. Whether or not they served in the military is not as important as their commitment, passion, and access to resources.

A clear purpose. Why are you forming the group? Are you looking to elevate awareness of veterans’ issues, provide mentoring and support to veteran employees, or offer discounts and services to veterans?

Goals. Set tangible goals against which you will measure the effectiveness and impact of your group. While meeting and getting together will have its benefits, the VRG should have goals that tie and contribute to the purpose. This will resonate with the members, especially veterans.

Feedback. Have mechanisms for feedback and support, which will create a culture of inclusivity and commitment in your veteran employees. Periodically check in to ensure the company is meeting their needs and vice versa.

You can start your VRG small and let it build. Use the VRG to make sure veterans are well informed about potential opportunities and benefits. Pass along information from the Veterans Administration and the Department of Defense. Inform members about job and career opportunities within your company. These are all great ways to build engagement and career advancement knowledge, which lead to long-term employment.

Most American workers will switch jobs 10 to 15 times between the ages of 18 and 48. And with the unemployment rate at the lowest it has been in years, hiring managers are scrambling to retain the best talent. Veterans are looking for their next career, not just a job after the military.

Regarding career opportunities, VRGs also help veterans continue their development as leaders. Participating in a VRG gets them involved with planning, management, communication, and the execution of programs and events. By working with top leadership and people from across all areas and levels of the company, the VRG can provide a level of professional development that may not be available in their everyday job.

If your company doesn’t have a VRG, contact us. Service to Civilian will work with you at no charge to set up the group and connect your VRG to other groups here in the Upstate.

Coming soon: a Golden Career Strategy class just for veterans. Companies can sponsor veterans to attend. The class will focus on helping veterans transition, finding a civilian career, and targeting their search. To learn more about this opportunity, inquire about hiring veterans, or create a veteran initiative at your company, please call 864-580-6289 or email info@servicetocivilian.com. Do a great thing for your company and your community – hire a veteran, start a veteran resource group.

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