By Elaine Dumler
Look out your office window, and you may notice many of the cars in the parking lot sporting a “Support the Troops” yellow ribbon magnet. Your HR department asks about military service on job applications. You may even recall the donations canister in the break room for a few months before Christmas. Is that what it means to be a military friendly company?
In general terms, military friendly companies make it possible for military reserve and guardsmen, along with recently separated servicepersons, to work while providing support for their families. The first way to check on your companies’ military friendly status is to go to www.GIJobs.net and access the list of this year’s Top 50 Military Friendly Companies.
What criteria are used to select these companies? An annual survey focuses on areas such as company assets dedicated to military hiring, company policies in regard to the reserve and national guard, the percentage of new hires who are veterans and the overall vet training and support programs in place.
This current economy is demanding new and different ways of doing business. Fresh ideas depend more on the relationships built with employees and customers than ever before. So, why should your organization strive to be a military-oriented company?
National recognition – The Employer’s Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) recognizes military-friendly companies on their Web site (www.ESGR.org). There is also a map that takes visitors to a list of companies that are considered “Supportive Employers.” These companies have signed and posted a statement of their continued support of military employees.
Marketing – GIJobs.net features military companies on a “Top 50 Military Friendly Company” list. This drives new customers to your site because people like to patronize companies that understand how military knowledge, support, and real-world experience have a positive affect their bottom line.
Money – Opening your company to a great new customer base is often a result of being a military friendly organization. Military customers are loyal and appreciative of those who “give back” to service members and their families. More than 200 companies offer military discounts.
Great employees – Recently, a national news program discussed the qualities that make military personnel perfect employees, and why many companies choose to hire them. They are dedicated, disciplined people who know the value of following procedures and accepting responsibility. Military employees often have valuable skills and technical knowledge they have learned through their service. They understand motivation and teamwork, work well under pressure or stress, and work well despite adversity. They are a diverse group with integrity and a strong work ethic. It costs your company much less to retain a good employee!
To put this in perspective, United Services Automobile Association (USAA) (4)* makes the Fortune 500, as well as the ESGR list, the GIJobs.com Top 50, and the Top 10 military spouse friendly employers lists this year, and they’ve focused on the value of the military family since 1922. Here’s what they say about the military worker: “‘We know what it means to serve’ is more than a slogan. We respect and honor what the men and women in our military risk for us, and what their families go through to support them. Not only have you proven yourself in service to our nation, but you also know our members better than anyone – and can share your unique experiences through service to our members.”
Johnson Controls is proud to be ranked No.1 on G.I. Jobs’ “Top 50 Military-Friendly Employers®” list and believe candidates with military experience bring ingenuity and state-of-the-art training to the workplace. Here’s what they share about the military worker: “We know the importance of having a highly qualified and diverse pool of talent to recruit from, both now and for the future. That’s why Johnson Controls is pleased to be a member of the U.S. Army’s Partnership for Youth Success (PaYS), established to provide America’s youth with the opportunity to match the skills they acquire serving their country with employers like Johnson Controls.”
Whether your organization is striving to be more military friendly, or if you are already on the Top 50 list, here’s what you can do to foster the company/military relationship on a daily basis:
Communication – Create a plan that keeps the lines of communication open from the company to the service member and their family. This needs to be especially nurtured during times of deployment so the individual doesn’t feel like a “newbie” when he or she returns to the job.
Set and maintain firm company policies – This ensures that there is little misinterpretation of policies that may have changed during a deployment. If the policies do change, keep your military workers and their families in the loop through e-mails, letters and phone calls.
Training – Provide ongoing training to help everyone understand company policies in regards to supporting military employees. Everyone needs to know what to expect and how to continue to work together. This helps eliminate any “me against them” attitudes.
Civilian pay – Some companies maintain a partial salary during deployments to help make up the difference between military and civilian pay. This provides great support to the families, and lets the employee know their loved ones are taken care of.
Support of the family – Home Depot designates Blue Star Employees, those who have served in the military during their employment, and holds welcome home celebrations when military employees return. They make it a priority to hire spouses, and also hold family picnics and activities year-round.
Smooth transition back to work – Military members conduct what they call a “left seat, right seat” ride with their incoming counterpart as they prepare to depart the theatre of operations and redeploy home. This allows a specific amount of time for the outgoing person to show the incoming person what is expected of him in this particular job. Then the roles are reversed, and while the outgoing person is still in theatre, the incoming person starts to conduct business as if she was now in charge. This allows time for questions to be asked while the outgoing person is still available.
Many companies adopt a similar scenario in the workplace. Instead of immediately giving back all the responsibilities to the incoming employee (the ones he or she had prior to the deployment), establish a timeline where the person who took over the job would continue to do so, while the other observes. Then, once comfortable in the routine, he would slowly take back over the things he did before the deployment. This way, someone is still available to assist if problems arise. By being patient and communicating with each other, you can create a transition that works and makes things continue to run smoothly.
This time, as you survey the parking lot for yellow ribbon magnets, you either know how to encourage your company to become more military friendly or you can take pride in the fact that you already do work for a company that knows that it’s the right – and profitable – thing to do.
* Number in parentheses denotes company ranking on GIJobs.net “Top 50 Military Friendly Companies” listing.
Elaine Dumler is an author, speaker and “separations expert” who helps military families stay connected throughout the deployment process. Through her current book, “I’m Already Home…Again,” and her newest release “The Road Home,” she provides resources and connection strategies for deployments and reunions, and shows how communities and companies can help. For more information on her books, or to find out about sponsorships and training, call 303-430-0592 or visit: www.imalreadyhome.com.