07/30/2012 04:13 pm ET | Updated Sep 29, 2012

U.S. Employers Help to Pave a New Beginning for Military Vets

The media headlines reflect a bleak reality for returning vets: "As Wars End, Young Veterans Return to Scant Jobs".These reports are echoed by employment statistics. According to Reuters, unemployment among recent veterans was at 13.3 percent in June 2011, more than four percentage points higher than the national average. More than two million military veterans are expected to transition to the civilian workforce by 2016.

As an organization committed to addressing the major issues in the changing workforce, changing families, and changing communities, Families and Work Institute (FWI) began to look for solutions a number of years ago. The first place we looked was through an ongoing award program we run with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Surely the winners of the Sloan Award for Excellence in Effective and Flexible Workplaces -- a rigorous process created to identify cutting-edge solutions -- would have begun to create programs to attract, develop and retain service members transitioning into the civilian workforce and they had, which we described in a report.

But more was needed -- we felt we needed to raise the importance of this issues with the many other employers connected to us -- so we had speakers at conferences and conference calls to share best practices.

But still more was needed. First, we felt that employers should focus more on the assets that veterans can bring not just the problems. Admiral Michael Mullen, retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and member of FWI's Board of Directors, puts it best:

Our veterans are returning home to a tough economy, and yet, they are of an extraordinary generation with great potential to continue to make a remarkable difference in the workplace.

Second, we felt employers needed to focus on the military family, not just the service member. Deborah Mullen, Military Family Advocate and member of FWI's Board, emphasizes this:

The past eleven years of war have seen unprecedented service and sacrifice by our nation's military families. Many have endured long separations fraught with anxiety over the safety of their loved ones serving in harm's way. As these families return to communities across our country, we should recognize their service and sacrifice and make every effort to help them achieve a successful transition.

And so our Board of Directors created an Award -- the Work Life Legacy Military Award -- as a way of surfacing what some employers are doing for service members and their families and inspiring other employers to each take a small step to make a difference for those who have served us. As a research organization, there were stringent criteria, but they have paid off.

Today we are proud to announce the first round of winners:

  • Bon Secours Virginia Health System

For their model training program of 1,500 military radiology students that could lead to job opportunities in the health system after completion of military service; for their implementation of workplace flexibility for transitioning employees and their families; for their management training and EAP programs that educate and support managers on how to assist employees during this transition to employment; and for their monthly employee newsletter (Good News) that frequently highlights how military employees are integrated into the staff in a welcoming way, focusing on their value.

  • Citi
  • For creating Citi Salutes, a one-stop resource for the military community; for the success of Citi's North America Service Initiative, which has trained and mobilized more than 500 Citi employee volunteers to assist transitioning service members and their family members; and for the mentoring programs and the company-wide Military Veterans Employee Network to provide new service member employees with experienced managers who can serve as guides for service members during their transition and throughout their careers with Citi.

  • JPMorgan Chase & Co.
  • For their comprehensive and coordinated approach that includes dedicated hiring teams and relationships with military bases, recognizing the unique assets and needs of veterans, Guard and Reserve; for launching the 100,000 Jobs Mission coalition with ten other firms (now grown to 59) to collectively hire 100,000 service members, including wounded warriors, by 2020, and raise national awareness of this issue; for their "high-touch" recruiting practice that ensures that every veteran applicant receives a call within five days to discuss their resume, opportunities and next steps; for promoting the economic growth and development of veteran-owned suppliers; for co-founding the Institute for Veterans and Military Families with Syracuse University with its entrepreneurship bootcamp for disabled veterans.

  • USAA
  • For their strategic partnerships with more than 30 veteran-focused organizations; for their Military Hiring and Transition Initiative and their Military Talent Management team--staffed and led by veterans -- that is responsible for every aspect of their work from hiring, to on-boarding, to mentoring and professional development including a preferential hiring priority for veterans and military spouses; for creating rewarding entry-level hiring models; for building leadership training models; for establishing complimentary support and culture programs such as VetNet -- an internal community for veterans and military spouses; for benefit offerings assisting the military family such as military spouse Work From Home opportunities and flexible leave options addressing the specific needs of military family members.

    In a time when there is so much bad news about the business community, these and the other companies we will be honoring at Cipriani's on Sept. 19 provide inspiration and hope.
    This is just the beginning and we hope you will join with us!