GREEN BAY, Wis — Employers in Green Bay and the surrounding area gathered to network and learn how to effectively recruit, support, and retain military and veteran employees during a Jan. 9 summit.
The Wisconsin Committee of Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) and the National Guard Employment Support Program (ESP) hosted dozens of employers, ranging from small businesses to large corporations, at the 2019 ESGR Employer Focus Group summit at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center in Green Bay, Wisconsin, last week. The summit focused on the hiring of National Guard, Reserve and veterans, sharing best practices of successful military affinity groups, and presenting information on federal regulations concerning military members of the Guard and Reserve.
ESGR is a Department of Defense program responsible for fostering employer and Guard and Reserve relationships. Mike Williams, the Wisconsin ESGR state chair, explained the program to the employers.
“We don’t necessarily exclusively represent employers or Guard or Reserve members,” Williams said. He added that the program provides complimentary support to both demographics.
During the employer outreach event, Williams focused on the desired end state that “all employers support and value the employment of members of the National Guard and Reserve in Wisconsin, thereby increasing the readiness of the Reserve Component.”
The National Guard is especially unique in its role since it serves simultaneously as the state’s first military responder during times of emergency, and the nation’s primary combat reserve.
Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, Wisconsin’s adjutant general, likened the National Guard to a three-legged stool. He explained that Airmen and Soldiers rely on the legs of the stool — their families, their employers, and their communities — for the support to allow them to do their job. If any one of those legs are removed, the struggle to balance will affect the Guardsman’s ability to do their job and ultimately to serve their state and nation effectively.
Dunbar related to the employers and asked for their feedback in order to enhance relationships between employers and Guardsmen when it comes to their military service obligations.
“You and I are the choice of the Soldier and the Airman,” Dunbar said. “We share what I believe to be America’s greatest asset.”
Employers also received information about the Uniform Services Employment and Reemployment Act, military and veteran affinity groups, and recruiting and retaining service members and veterans as employees.
“The best person to help you hire a new veteran is a veteran who is already working for you,” said Chris Campbell, the program support specialist for the National Guard Employment Support Program.
This concept was expanded on during a panel discussion where employers shared some of their best practices regarding National Guard, Reserve, or veteran employees. Tammy Mallard, a project manager with Humana, explained that Humana has ambassadors throughout the United States who volunteer for veterans events. In Wisconsin, they volunteer with organizations like Old Glory Honor Flight and 4th Hooah.
“We go out and meet these veterans at these volunteer events, and you see how they work around the community,” Mallard said. “It’s going to probably be the same way they’re going to work for you.”
Timothy La Sage, the military affairs manager with WPS Health Solutions, discussed how WPS merged recruitment efforts for military employees with other major Dane County employers, forming the Wisconsin Association of Veteran Employers.
A Marine Corps veteran himself, La Sage also discussed the importance of understanding and supporting service members in their military profession. This is especially crucial while the service member is deployed.
“We’re real inquisitive on what their job is,” La Sage said. “We also ask them to keep us informed if they are comfortable.”
Tracie Sparks, a corporate recruiter with Walbec Group, said that while there may be challenges to adjusting staffing during service member absences for training or deployments, it is still important to support National Guardsmen and Reservists.
“I think the best way that we can support them internally is to be flexible and just be very encouraging,” Sparks said.
Kerry Rocole, the vice president of human resources for Oshkosh Defense, said the biggest thing they do to support Guardsmen and Reservists is to go above and beyond in terms of the leave policy and the benefits offered to them.
Employers who attended the summit received a framed Statement of Support for the Guard and Reserve to hang at their respective businesses. This certificate is presented by the ESGR program to employers who are advocates for employee participation in the military, therefore maintaining the strength and readiness of Guard and Reserve units.