This year, I had the opportunity to moderate a panel discussion entitled 'How to Successfully Include Veterans in the Workplace' at the 2017US Business Leadership Network (USBLN) Annual Conference in Orlando, FL.
It was my pleasure to introduce a number of experts in this field, who were able to showcase a series of successful programs that are evidently making an impact in veteran inclusion for some of the nation's biggest businesses.
Jovi Stevenson, Director Disability Inclusion at Getting Hired
Do I have to be a large company to make an impact?
It is not just large firms that can demonstrate a positive influence on veteran hiring and inclusivity. There are simple measures that can be implemented for small businesses too:
Educating managers on the benefits of veteran experience, as well as best practice in communication, support and accommodations for this group
Connecting newly transitioning veterans with internal veteran-specific resources to help them more easily navigate your business
Initiating mentor programs that support veterans in engaging with colleagues and the broader business
Explaining the accommodation request process in detail and encouraging veterans to be forthcoming about their needs
Setting out a clear path for career progression to demonstrate ongoing support and a commitment to professional and personal development for all veterans
Understanding where quick wins can be gained to bolster inclusivity is essential to creating ongoing improvements in this area. However, companies must also work hard to ensure they create an open and inclusive atmosphere in which veterans and individuals with disabilities feel comfortable to come forward and disclose their needs.
LeAndre Yarrell, Network Engineer III for Northrop Grumman, was one of the key presenters at this year's panel. As an Army Veteran and graduate of the USBLN’s Rising Leader program, LeAndre shared invaluable insight on his personal experiences in transitioning from the military to civilian work. Countless support from his mentors coupled with self-determination resulted in an unforgettable and moving journey of preservation and ultimately success.
During the session, LeAndre outlined his company's commitment to continued veteran support and career progression through access to ongoing training programs and opportunities for higher education. He highlighted how a range of internal Northrop Grumman initiatives helped the business to secure a listing in the Disability Equality Index for Best Places to Work in 2016, while also ranking in U.S. Veteran Magazine's Top Veteran-Friendly Companies and the Diversity Inc. Top 50 Companies for Diversity.
“It was an honor being one of the key presenters on this year’s panel discussion. I was afforded the opportunity to share my journey with the audience on how I transitioned from the military to civilian work while sharing many of the challenges I faced along the way. I wanted to accomplish two key things while I had this platform. First, I wanted to share my journey (the challenges and successes) in hopes that it would inspire people to believe in themselves and understand that anything is possible through hard work and perseverance. I was knocked down on numerous occasions but fought to pick myself up to continue pushing forward and striving for success. Secondly, I wanted to help raise awareness on some of the challenges we as veterans face when entering or while working in the civilian sector. Many companies want to hire veterans but do not understand them well enough to ensure their comfort and success once on boarded. I feel as though we were able to successfully raise awareness on this topic and am hopeful that the organizations in attendance are committed to making a change” – LeAndre Yarrell, Network Engineer III for Northrop Grumman.
Successful programs can deliver change
It is important to register how the right level of support can help businesses tap into the wealth of talent that veteran job seekers can provide. The latestU.S. Department of Veterans Affairs data shows there are more than 20 million veterans at present across the country.
Moreover, with 80 percent of veterans moving on from their first job after leaving the armed forces within two years, there is a clear need for businesses to be doing more to attract as well as retain talented individuals with disabilities.
As a result, companies should be committed to supporting veterans throughout their career; not just at the point of hire, but through in-depth onboarding channels, mentoring, education, training and community connection.