Chief Executives Need To Champion Military Veterans’ Initiatives

Veterans’ Day is a perfect time to take stock of what your company is doing with its programs for vets. As companies everywhere vie for great employees to make their operations prosper and grow, America’s veterans are a highly-skilled, service-focused reservoir of talent in an increasingly competitive recruiting landscape.

While there are lots of parts to creating successful initiatives for onboarding veterans, none are more important than this: Being an involved chief executive.

In the past three years, our organization, the Thayer Leadership Development Group at West Point, has identified best practices for companies in supporting veterans’ initiatives programs, working with companies of all sizes and industries such as Deloitte, ADP, EMCOR, EY, FedEx, Hilton Worldwide, IAP, Iron Sword Enterprises, Mercedes-Benz USA, Office Depot, PenFed Credit Union, 7-Eleven, Starbucks, Synchrony Financial, University of Phoenix, Wyndham Worldwide and Xerox.

We’ve found there are 13 areas of focus for military/veterans’ initiatives:
1) Attracting
2) Recruiting
3) Hiring
4) Training
5) Retaining
6) Providing retail discounts to military and veterans
7) Hiring and supporting military spouses
8) Supporting employees with the New GI Bill
9) Supporting Veterans Philanthropy
10) Veterans networking within your company
11) Supporting National Reserve and Guard employees and their families
12) Purchasing from Service-Disabled Veterans-Owned Businesses and Veterans-Owned Businesses, and
13) Honoring all Veterans and Military within your company

But if you boil it down, the best programs all have the following components:
They Are CEO-driven. Whether it is a smaller company or a larger company like JP Morgan or Starbucks, the program must be championed and supported by the chief executive to gain maximum impact.
Someone is in charge. One person is responsible for overall military/veterans programs. Without a central point of contact for both internal and external personnel, military/veterans programs tend to be fragmented and not coordinated, in particular across large companies.
They are supported. Having a budget and resources to support Veterans’ Initiatives is crucial to their success. As with any corporate initiative, only the programs with funding and internal support are those that get embraced by employees.

Most large companies find that they already have veterans’ initiatives programs underway through industrious and entrepreneurial leaders within the company, many doing these projects in their free time and on their own dime. The first step is to audit what is being done, and most companies will find many ongoing efforts already underway.

By having one point of contact, typically reporting into the CEO, these programs tend to be the best and most successful. Most companies that implement military/veterans’ initiatives programs find that it is in their own self-interests—they become better companies and the overall employee base is appreciative of the efforts to support our military and our veterans.

The Chief Executive Group team would like to express its thanks to all the military and their families for all they do. 

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