Thanks to the generosity of Comcast NBCUniversal, the nonprofit PsychArmor Institute launched the School for Guard, Reserve & Veteran Employers to educate all employers, employees, corporate leaders, and talent development managers on the unique benefits, opportunities, and challenges for Veterans in the civilian workplace.
One of the nation’s leading employers, Comcast NBCUniversal is on the front lines of transforming the way employers engage the military community, from their fellow Fortune 500 companies to local businesses in the communities they serve. From founder Ralph Roberts’ service in the U.S. Navy during World War II to the service of Comcast’s thousands of Veteran, National Guard and Reserve members, and military spouse employees today, the company places high value supporting them as they translate their skills and grow alongside their colleagues throughout the next phase of their lives and careers.
Carol Eggert is Comcast NBCUniversal’s Senior Vice President, Military and Veteran Affairs. A retired U.S. Army Brigadier General, Carol has more than 30 years of military and civilian leadership experience. We recently asked Carol, who also serves on PsychArmor’s Board of Directors, to share more about why Comcast NBCUniversal is partnering with PsychArmor to help employers recognize that the benefit to hiring Veterans is a two-way street. Not only can employers help Veterans and their families find meaningful work after their service, but Veterans also bring a unique set of leadership skills and experiences that will exponentially benefit your workplace.
Comcast NBCUniversal recently received the Secretary of Defense Freedom Award, the highest honor the Department of Defense awards to employers for support of National Guard and Reserve employees. We are honored to receive this recognition of our commitment to inclusiveness of the entire military community. The private sector has recently been very effective in hiring Veterans, and the Veteran unemployment rate has declined more steadily than the general population unemployment rate. But Comcast NBCUniversal has committed to expanding the military talent pool to utilize the amazing skills of those still serving in the military via the National Guard and Reserve, as well as the military spouse community, which is often highly educated but underemployed due to the transient nature of their spouse’s military career. We’ve also made it a point to engrain our valuation of the military community throughout all aspects of the company’s business model. Events, such as ones we’ve hosted throughout the last two years centered on signing the Statement of Support with DoD’s Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, are a terrific opportunity to build local community ties between our company’s regional leaders and their counterparts from nearby military installations as well as their community partners from government, non-profit, and other business sectors.
We have set ambitious goals of hiring 10,000 military community members by the end of 2017, but we aren’t looking at each individual as another number. We care about the sense of community that our local offices and teams have built in their areas. One example of a recent accomplishment in this space came from our Comcast Beltway region, which covers Maryland, Washington, DC, Virginia, and parts of Delaware. The Beltway region partnered with the DoD’s Military Spouse Employment Partnership group to launch a hiring program at Fort Lee, Virginia for military community members in the area. This hiring program consisted of a 10-week course on becoming a virtual customer care agent for Comcast, and it graduated 11 military spouses, one Veteran, and one actively serving member of the Virginia National Guard. Because of that local partnership with the Fort Lee Army Community Service office, 13 military community members in that local area now have Comcast careers to call their own. There are so many examples like this around the company now, thanks to the commitment everyone has made in rallying around this hiring goal.
It’s pretty simple to see how military hires have improved Comcast – the company was founded by a World War II veteran of the Navy, Ralph Roberts. You can look up and down the leadership chain at Comcast NBCUniversal and see the impact the military community has made. I believe that our military community employee resource group, VetNet, is one of our strongest assets as a military-ready company. With more than 5,500 members across the country providing onboarding, mentorship, and development opportunities for our military community employees, you’d be hard pressed to find another private sector employer with that type of built-in benefit. But VetNet predates the Military and Veteran Affairs team at our company, and its strength was established largely through the hard work of military veteran employees like Steve Salata, the vice president of our Net Promoter System program and a Navy vet; Guard/Reserve employees like Will Baas, the vice president of talent acquisition for our Northeast Division and a currently-serving U.S. Navy Reserve captain; and military spouses like Martha Soehren, our chief talent development officer. The creation of this Military and Veteran Affairs team was simply an extension of an already well-established culture of positive military community impact on the Comcast NBCUniversal family.
Any employer not engaging the military community as a whole – not just Veterans, but Guard and Reserve members and military spouses – is making a business mistake by failing to tap in to a vast and under-utilized talent pool. I’m a huge proponent of presenting “the business case” for the military community, and how their inclusion in the general workforce helps to improve all aspects of a company’s operations. At Comcast, we’ve found that our military community employees on the frontlines of customer service have stronger performance metrics than the general employee population. There’s a lot that goes in to that formula and how it equates to revenue, but the bottom line is that it means stronger customer engagement and retention, which drives our company forward. Going even beyond that, we partner with non-profits that are helping companies understand the military space. We are a partner of PsychArmor Institute and sponsor the School for Guard, Reserve & Veteran Employers, a collection of free, engaging courses developed by leading subject matter experts.
The Employer School has something for every employer, regardless of their level of experience with the military community. For Comcast NBCUniversal, we stress to all of our workforce with touchpoints to the military community – hiring managers, human resources and talent acquisition professionals, etc. – the value of taking the courses regularly, even as a refresher if they’ve been completed before. The military community landscape is constantly shifting, and having these courses available for employers helps keep them on top of their game in terms of understanding this strong and ready source of talent.
My favorite courses are the two that help employers get the ball rolling on their military community engagement – “15 Things Veterans Want You to Know” and “Creating a Veteran Hiring Program.” There is a wide gap of knowledge between the employers that are engaged in this space, and those that are not. For the latter, these two courses are a perfect starting point to understand what the military community and veterans have to offer as a talent pool.
All employers, regardless of their level of knowledge or existing engagement with the military community, should take the time to read the Center for a New American Security’s recent study on the civilian-military divide, titled “Lost in Translation.” It uncovers a lot of the core reasons this gap has slowly widened over the last several generations, and provides concrete and actionable items that all parties – employers, military members, etc. – can take now to ensure we close that gap.