Is Your Company Veteran-Friendly? Veteran-Ready?
In U.S. corporations, less than 10 percent of our nation’s workforce are members of Business Resource Groups (BRG), also called Affinity Groups. When it comes to Veterans BRGs (VBRG), with more than 200,000 service members leaving the military each year, you would think these numbers would be much higher. It is an indicator to companies of employees’ desire to engage in their companies beyond the daily 9-5 work day.
At VETLANTA, we are on a very specific drive to recruit as many VBRGs in the Atlanta area to join forces with VETLANTA and dozens of other companies with one goal in mind…helping veterans. As a VBRG leader, you are looking for ways to enhance camaraderie within your company, and ways to bring together veterans for opportunities to socialize, get involved in the community, or perhaps to coach, teach, or mentor in the workplace.
The purpose of VBRGs is much broader than a bunch of veterans gathering together to talk about old times or network. Some examples of the benefits of establishing a VBRG in your company are to:
- Foster professional development
- Enhance work performance
- Assist in matching mentors with mentees
- Assist Human Resources (HR)/Talent Acquisition in recruiting a diverse workforce
- Increase community partnerships
- Encourage interaction and relationship-building within and across work groups.
What VETLANTA would like to offer is a short primer or quick reference guide, courtesy of one of our members and former Marine, Kevin Horgan. Keeping it simple, Kevin has broken down the primer into five key components; Conduit, Champion, Communication, Caution, and Continuity.
What channels exist now within your company that allow the VBRG to be established, grow, and become part of the culture of your company? You need an HR shepherd, the conduit for being taken seriously and being recognized. They can help in preparing a BRG charter that truly recognizes the BRG as a company-sanctioned organization. If you are not an officially chartered BRG, you get nothing. An important aspect is that your HR conduit can keep you out of trouble.
Your VBRG champion should be a veteran on the staff or a senior manager with some influence and access to your company’s senior management. If not a veteran, it should be a partner with a personal affinity to the military (family, social, a student of the craft, etc.). The role of your champion is to be both a mentor and a cheerleader.
Develop and maintain an extensive email/key contacts list. Assign a co-chair to send out tweets, and messages on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and any other social media at your discretion. Send out a weekly “what’s happening and what’s next” email, but do not inundate. It is important to take the VBRG message out to the members and even prospective members through internal company communication means. It would include recent activity, planned events, announcements, surveys to gain some input from your members, etc.
If you are just starting a BRG, the approach of crawl, walk, run works best. Start accumulating small successes and learn as you go. As you begin to chalk up these successes, you can grow the events and/or activities in which your VBRG will participate. A very easy first step, Veterans Day recognition for all company employees and perhaps a letter from the company President thanking every veteran in the company for their service. You’ll need your HR conduit and champion both fully engaged to accomplish this, but it can be done very easily. So, don’t be overly ambitious in scope at first.
A popular and influential Champion, a dedicated HR Conduit, an effective Communication co-chair, and successful events can bring you new members and guarantee Continuity. If you are not growing your members and having those small successes along the way, your VBRG will become irrelevant very quickly. For every person you entrust with tasks, outreach, or communication, ask that he or she bring two members into the fold, even if only for one event.
Banding together with other BRGs within your company is a great way to raise awareness and maintain relevance. Reaching out to organizations, such as VETLANTA, allows you to capitalize on lessons learned from other VBRGs, to collaborate and coordinate activities. Don’t make the mistake of operating in a vacuum. You are just one email or phone call away from
help from VETLANTA. It is what we do as veterans…we help each other.
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