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Honoring Our Veterans and Citizen Soldiers in the Workplace

DSM USA Veteran's Day

November 11, 2019

As a recent graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College National Security Roundtable, I am committed to helping elevate the discussion on the critical importance of our armed services, soldiers and veterans to the overall fabric of our society and everyday lives. On November 11, our country will celebrate Veterans Day to honor the veterans who served our country. It should also serve as a reminder to recognize the value, experience and skills that veterans and citizen soldiers bring to the workplace.

Resources for Hiring Veterans in DSM USA

The Greater Des Moines Partnership recently hosted our quarterly Multicultural Reception, which was sponsored by Athene USA and the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. The keynote presenter, Eric Maddox, the U.S. Army veteran who conducted more than 300 interrogations in Iraq which led to the capture of Saddam Hussein, presented on empathy-based listening. At the event, Iowa Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) presented Athene USA with the Seven Seals Award in recognition of significant achievement, initiative and support that promotes and supports the ESGR mission, which is to develop and promote supportive work environments for National Guard and Reserve service members through outreach, recognition, education and conflict resolution.

While many companies are now aware of the competitive advantages of a diverse and inclusive workplace, some are not fully prepared to successfully attract, hire and retain veterans. The reality is that veterans and citizen soldiers bring a wide spectrum of skills, experiences and perspectives to the workplace, which often include leadership and teamwork training, complex problem-solving skills, cutting edge technology expertise, international experience and a strong work ethic. However, up to 90% of veterans have said they have faced challenges when looking for employment in making the transition from active duty to civilian life, often due to employer misperceptions.

Home Base Iowa

To help address these issues and to attract veterans and their families to Iowa to help grow our state, Home Base Iowa, which The Partnership fully supports, was designed to connect Iowa businesses with qualified veterans looking for career opportunities. Countless resources are available to assist veterans and their families with education and in transitioning to a new community with focused support. Companies may also want to consider developing and implementing targeted recruiting, onboarding, training, mentoring and other career development programs to successfully tap into this diverse talent pool.

The Partnership’s Inclusion Council has also developed a toolkit on untapped talent to assist companies in learning about these high potential talent pools; Veterans, LGBTQ, African Americans, Ex-offenders, Persons with Disabilities and Foreign-born. The toolkit includes business case studies for hiring from these specific groups, local and national resources and community partners engaged in this work. The Inclusion Council plans to host a series of events for employers next year to learn, discuss and engage these under and unemployed pools of talent to fulfill our talent needs.

Preserving History

As we look at veterans and citizen soldiers through the diversity and inclusion lens, it is also important to note that the U.S. military has played an important role in advancing civil rights. Our community is an important part of that history as two ground-breaking programs were initiated at Fort Des Moines. It was the site of the U.S. Army’s first and only officer candidate class for African American men during World War I. Fort Des Moines also hosted the formation of the first Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), later renamed the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), during the Second World War. This rich history is now preserved at the Fort Des Moines Museum and Education Center.

This year, when we once again celebrate Veterans Day, please remember to embrace and honor our veterans and citizen soldiers in the workplace. It is the right thing to do, and it is smart business.

Jay Byers

Jay Byers is the past President and CEO of the Greater Des Moines Partnership. He currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Iowa Chamber Alliance, on the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) Executive Board, Board of Directors and Community Growth Education Foundation, the General Council of the World Chambers Federation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Committee of 100.