ERGs: The One-Stop Shop of Support

ERGs: The One-Stop Shop of Support

In the military, you knew where to go for support on your career, your health, or your family. But now that you’re entering a civilian job, you may feel disconnected and on your own. That’s where an Employee Resource Group (ERG) comes in.

Think of it like a one-stop shop that handles everything from getting you acclimated into a new job, to connecting you with fellow veterans. Many ERGs will even support your family if you’re called up for duty in the Guard or Reserve.

“An ERG provides veterans with a dedicated community with which to share the experience of transitioning to corporate life, while also building a sense of camaraderie and mentorship. Companies with an ERG will recognize that veteran hires have unique experiences and needs when compared to our other employee hires,” said John Tansill, head of veteran initiatives at the FDM Group.

Not all ERGs are created equal, however, so we asked FDM Group and other employers with large veteran communities how they set theirs up. As you job hunt, ask about ERGs. It may help you ferret out the most military-friendly organizations.

Read on to see some good examples of strong ERG programs.

Accenture

Why did you launch your ERG?

Accenture’s Military ERG was established to provide a support network for veteran employees, their family members, friends, and supporters. New members learn about the Military ERG during orientation and are encouraged to sign up through their local chapters.

“I am proud to say that our Military ERG has over 1,200 members in the U.S., across 30 locations,” said Christopher Green, North American military recruiting lead and U.S. Navy veteran.

How does your ERG contribute to retention of veterans?

It provides robust transition training and helps veterans establish a valuable internal network. “Our monthly workshops focus on career advancement and other topics that are important to our ERG members, including mentoring and a buddy support system to help further ease their transition,” Green said. How do ERG members engage their local community?

ERG chapters develop localized strategies to engage with their local veteran and military communities. For example, the Seattle chapter volunteers for career fairs and transition workshops at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The Washington, D.C., chapter helps with wreath-laying logistics at Arlington National Cemetery. And the Austin, TX, office sponsors a memorial walk to raise awareness for a local veteran foundation,“ Green said.

How my ERG helped me:

“Our Military ERG provides access to an energetic, supportive group that shares similar backgrounds and experiences — which reminds me of military camaraderie. It’s a shoulder to lean on. Members have dealt with similar issues, and overall it’s a great forum to share concerns, stories, and questions, and to extend support to fellow Accenture veterans.” – Carlos Rivera, Accenture management consultant, U.S. Army veteran

Amazon

Why did you launch your ERG?

Established on September 11, 2011, “Amazon Warriors comprises veterans, as well as those who are still serving, their families, and all Amazon employees who support them,” said Tim Bomke, military programs manager for Amazon. The group has active chapters throughout the United States with thousands of participants.

The Amazon Warriors’ mission is threefold: to develop veterans to deliver exceptional results at Amazon, to enable Amazon to make the best use of veteran talent, and to give back in communities through volunteer efforts.

How does your ERG contribute to retention of veterans?

Amazon Warriors provides members a professional network of support and resources to be successful through developing relationships with others, networking, and mentorship opportunities. Additionally, Amazon makes the onboarding, training and development of veterans a top priority. “Amazon Warriors provides knowledge and experience that will assist and influence Amazon’s current and future ventures and help our members to thrive and grow in their careers long-term,” Bomke said.

How do ERG members engage their local community? “Amazon Warriors members are passionate about giving back to the community,” Bomke said. “We have participated in the Old Glory Relay with Team Red, White, and Blue, and partnered with orga-nizations like the Puget Sound VA Hospital to deliver gifts to every patient in the hospital.”

How my ERG helped me:

“During my time at Amazon, I have found the Warriors network to be a beneficial resource for my development, and I rely on the veterans, spouses, and advocates for support and for new hires.” – Tim Bomke, military programs manager for Amazon

Caterpillar

Why did you launch your ERG?

“A critical element to veteran retention is employer support and development of veteran and military affinity groups,” said Jennifer Madeley, global diversity & inclusion manager at Caterpillar. The company established the Armed Forces Support Network (AFSN) in 2007 to attract veterans, assist them with the transition to corporate life, and to support employees and their families when they - or a family member - is called to active duty. AFSN has approximately 400 members in over 40 locations. The most senior levels of the organization sponsor the ERG.

How does your ERG contribute to retention of veterans?

Once on board, the ERG provides the opportunity for veterans to network with others like themselves. AFSN provides a wide variety of professional development, community service, and social opportunities. It also maintains a list of volunteers who are willing to conduct informational interviews and mentoring sessions. AFSN has hosted a variety of guest speaker events, often in partnership with other ERGs, that have focused on topics including leadership, stress management, work-life balance, and community service.

How do ERG members engage their local community?

AFSN is involved with several community service events, most notably Honor Flights, Habitat for Humanity builds, and Goodwill events. Last year, Alexander S. Leanos, chairman of AFSN, participated in a Goodwill event called the "Stand Down for Homeless Vets."

“I worked at a station that provided homeless vets with different articles of clothing from Goodwill. We had several hundred people come through our station that morning. I was extremely impressed that, despite their predicament in life, many of these vets still carried themselves with pride and dignity. Many of them joked and laughed with me as I helped them pick out their new clothes. The experience was invigorating and helped refocus me,” Leanos said.

How my ERG helped me:

“AFSN has allowed me to extend my personal network within Caterpillar. I work as an engineer, but through the ERG I have met, and become friends with, a group of people from other specialties such as purchasing, marketing, logistics, and IT. I would not have met these people had it not been for the ERG.” – Alexander S. Leanos, senior engineer and chairman of AFSN

Eaton

Why did you launch your ERG?

“At Eaton, we value the contributions of the men and women who have served our country and are now making daily contributions to the continued success of our company,” said Amber McElhiney, manager, inclusion ERGs. The company formed the veteran’s inclusion ERG (iERG) to increase recruitment. It launched in 2014 and currently has about 600 members.

How does your ERG contribute to retention of veterans?

The iERG helps veterans connect, share experiences, and help each other transition to civilian employment. It offers special programming on topics of interest, like career development, and the iERG is active in communities.

“Since joining the iERG, I have been a part of helping others transition out of the military to the corporate life by being a mentor, helping others find mentors, and advising leaders within the organization of the value that veterans bring to Eaton,” said Tracy Knuff, supply chain compliance/global offsets manager.

How do ERG members engage their local community?

Around the holidays, the iERG collects items for Eaton employees or family members who are deployed. “We also participate in community events, especially in our locations that have a military presence like Fayetteville, NC (Fort Bragg). We are developing a buddy program in 2018 to help with the transition from the military to employment with Eaton. The program will pair a new employee with another veteran to help them learn the culture at Eaton,” McElhiney said.

How my ERG helped me:

“Being a part of the iERG has provided me with a network within Eaton to carry on the camaraderie I had while serving in the military. The guest speakers, reading clubs, and community events have provided opportunities for professional growth and team building.” – Tracy Knuff, Army veteran, Veteran iERG co-lead and supply chain compliance manager for Eaton

Exelon

Why did you launch your ERG?

Chapters of the Exelon Military Actively Connected group have started at different times around the country. “The company doesn’t really launch them – the employees are the ones that start ERGs and the company supports them,” said Aaron LeMay, recruiting program specialist who oversees military programs. So far, there are four chapters: Chicago, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.

“It’s based on the employees’ desire to start [an ERG] and their willingness to put in a fair amount of work,” said LeMay.

How does your ERG contribute to retention of veterans?

“We get the names of those who have served and mentor them,” said Jim Pearcy, Army Reserve staff sergeant and ERG member. “A lot of military hires come in, and we spend time with them, mentoring them, giving them understanding of the position they have. We tell them, ‘Yes, it’s a tough position, but hang in there, and put forth the effort, just like the military taught you.’ We’ve been having a good success rate at keeping hires. The majority have stayed.”

How do ERG members engage their local community?

One prominent example is their support of a group called Rags of Honor. This veteran-owned business employs homeless veterans in the Chicago area. In 2014-2015, Exelon started a partnership with Rags of Honor for corporate apparel needs, allowing the small company to employ more homeless veterans. Rags of Honor has since moved into a facility that is double the size of its original.

How my ERG helped me:

“I was gone 15 ½ months – 12 months of those were in Iraq. The CEO (at Exelon’s subsidiary ComEd) and resident executive staff all reached out to me when I got back. I presented them with a flag I flew for them over there. You couldn’t have asked for a better reception. When you choke up a CEO, it speaks volumes for what senior leadership thinks of your service.” – Jim Pearcy, U.S. Army Reserve SSGT and ERG member at Exelon

FDM Group

Why did you launch your ERG?

FDM’s veterans program was formally established in 2012 to help veterans make the transition from military service to working in the commercial world. Over 160 veterans have joined the program since its inception. Veterans get involved by letting the company know of their veteran status. An FDM employee connects them with John Tansill, head of veteran initiatives and U.S. Marine Corps veteran.

How does your ERG contribute to retention of veterans?

“The program provides commercially relevant training and industry skills development with a job for a minimum of two years as an IT or business consultant. Throughout their career with us, we offer ongoing support and professional skills development. In addition, we hold informal events like networking evenings, happy hours, and pizza lunches to help welcome new starters into the program,” Tansill said.

FDM also hosts regular lunch sessions for veteran employees only. “These serve as a great mentorship platform, where veterans in FDM’s program are given the opportunity to ask questions – both professional and personal – that are unique to the veteran experience at FDM,” Tansill said.

How do ERG members engage their local community?

FDM is actively involved in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s “eMentor” program through Hiring Our Heroes. A number of FDM employees are currently mentors, providing regular counsel for veterans looking for consistent career development advice from industry professionals. FDM has signed the ESGR Corporate Statement of Support for the Guard and Reserve, and it has also partnered with both the MSEP (Military Spouse Employment Program) and Army PaYS programs.

How my ERG helped me:

“This is my first position after the military which involves me having to learn new life skills. The military is a very structured environment where there is little room for error or failure. FDM helped me through that transition by exposing me to a diverse culture and it continues to help you succeed at any cost. They have become my new family who haven’t left my side. Working with computer code seemed unattainable for a military retiree who could tell you how traffic is passed but couldn’t tell you what that traffic consisted of or why it existed. FDM gave me that opportunity to answer those questions and I am eternally grateful for it.” – Doug Blair, FDM consultant systems engineer

Leidos

Why did you launch your ERG?

“Launching our Veteran ERG, which is identified as the Military Alliance Group (MAG), was an easy decision, since approximately 20 percent (over 6,500 out of 32,000+) of all Leidos employees are veterans,” said Dale Crewe, MAG co-chair. MAG has been operating for several years. There are over 100 active MAG members across 15 active chapters.

How does your ERG contribute to retention of veterans?

MAG provides an additional communication forum for employees and supports team camaraderie at employee work sites. The ERG allows for cross-company collaboration and networking with other veteran employees across the enterprise. It also hosts recurring meetings and workshops to maintain awareness of veteran-related initiatives and capture feedback from employees related to their career concerns.

How do ERG members engage their local community?

They have various opportunities, such as the Navy Bridge Run, said Dat Q. Dang of the San Diego chapter. "This annual Navy-hosted event raises money for the Navy's Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) programs,” he said.

How my ERG helped me:

*“With ERGs located all over the U.S., I’ve made connections with Leidos employees from Washington D.C., to Tucson, Arizona. These individuals have given me invaluable advice for my path ahead while ‘speaking my language’ of military jargon. Additionally, with technological connectivity (Lync), I am able to ask questions and get immediate feedback from mentors and MAG leadership within our own network.” * – Dat Q. Dang, San Diego MAG member and U.S. Army Reserve 1st Lieutenant

This article is a follow-up to an article published in the September/October 2017 issue of Search & Employ, titled “Maximize Your Employee Resource Group.”

By Heidi Lynn Russell

This article appeared in the March-April 2018 issue of Search & Employ Magazine

Categories

March-April 2018