Our Impact

How can Greater Boston businesses support Veterans in the Workplace?

Posted by Katie Conroy on June 14, 2019

Retired U.S. Army Colonel Mark Elliott went from commanding the largest signal brigade in the Army and running a $19B portfolio for the government to becoming the Head of Military and Veterans Affairs for JPMorgan Chase & Co.  

Transitioning from military office to corporate boardroom 

Elliott recalls how he handled the adjustment to civilian life, saying: “For me, technology is technology, but technology in the military is not the same as it is in a corporation. The pace is a lot different. The military tends to be sporadic: times of super excitement and then lulls of nothing really happening. A corporation is constantly moving on a regular basis, trying to reinvent themselves and stay ahead. So, veterans must get accustomed to that pace and adjust. 

“A lot of people will think about a veteran’s skills as leadership, the can-do spirit, and resiliency. All those things are true for all veterans”. 

Veteran employment advocacy is not a new notion, rather one that is just gaining steam in the last decade. In 2011, JPMorgan Chase co-founded the Veterans Job Mission coalition. The original 11 companies of the Coalition set a goal to hire 100,000 veterans by 2020. Flash forward to 2019, the coalition is now more than 200 companies strong, and its new goal to hire 1 million veterans is already more than halfway to completion.  

With programs such as the Veterans Job Mission coalition and Hiring Our Heroes program led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, we have seen direct impact. The overall veteran unemployment rate was cut in half between 2011 and 2016 from 8% to 4.3%.

Since 2011, the conversation has changed from not only hiring veterans for private sector roles, but also placing them in the best-fitting roles with the goal set on improving retention. This is where corporate transition programs such as JPMorgan’s Pathfinder Veteran Mentoring Program becomes so critical. However, considering small to mid-sized businesses hire the most veterans in the nation, it is critical that businesses in Boston become more engaged in comprehensive programming and resource allotment for veterans acclimating to a new workplace.

Three lesson of corporate culture shock for veterans

  1. Advocating for yourself and your career. Elliott explained, “Veterans are not used to self-promotion, they are not about “I”, its always about “team”. When you enter an organization, you must be your best career advisor. There are those who are going to assist you along the journey but if you don’t raise a hand, sometimes the assumption is that you’re okay. 
  2. Mastering corporate jargon. Many civilians take for granted the learning curve it takes to understand the acronyms and phrases that become engrained into every day vocabulary at work. The military has its own set of jargon. This can lead to miscommunication or frustration, and sometimes these conversations can feel embarrassing for civilians and veterans alike. Taking the time to explain the lingo is an important part of onboarding for veterans. Elliott recalled his own early experience when signing emails: “It took a while for people to ask me what ‘VR’ means, and in the military, it means ‘very respectfully’. When using this in my signature’- VR, Mark’, people had no clue, and they were afraid to ask. Now I use Best Regards."
  3. Establishing a new network.  “Veterans enter civilian workplaces somewhat handicapped in the sense that they don’t have the network civilians do. They left that network in the military. In his role as Head of Military and Veterans Affairs, he oversees a veteran’s network program called Pathfinder created at JPMorgan Chase that helps create an instant network of supportive peers that can answer questions, listen to frustrations, and give advice based on personal experience. This is critical to help in assimilation during the transitionary period.

What can business owners do to support veterans?

The Greater Boston business community has a lot to offer when it comes to career opportunities, networking, and education. Hiring managers and business owners can sometimes feel overwhelmed or don’t know where to start when looking to support veterans when they become civilians within their organizations. 

Elliott and his team at JPMorgan Chase along with the Veteran Jobs Mission have years of experience and advice that they are committed to share with the Chamber community.

Hire more veteran applicants who have the skills you need

Competency-based hiring trends are on the rise, and for good reason – hiring managers need to know that their employees will enter their organizations with the skills needed to succeed regardless of specific educational background. The same can be said for career paths in the military. The only difference is communicating military experience effectively. Elliott and his team make sure to foster dialogue with hiring managers and incoming veterans to align expectations. 

With less than one-half of 1% of all Americans serving in uniform over the last 10 years, HR professionals and hiring managers often lack the knowledge on how to read veteran resumes and place their skillsets.

JPMorgan Chase has trained 12 recruiters to hire veterans who know how to read resumes and source candidates for talent. They have also worked within office culture to create streams of communication where hiring managers and non-veteran recruiters know when to flag a role that could be very well suited for veteran applicants. 

With unemployment rates so low, and technology career gaps so wide, JPMorgan Chase turned to the military to strategically create a pipeline of opportunity that the business desperately needed. Elliott explained, “We created a new program this year that develops the talent we need to fit our demand. We have a firm of over 50,000 technologists, but what we need now are software engineers which are very difficult to find in the military. Tech for Social Good identifies veterans who may not have experience but who have aptitude and put them through an apprentice program to generate effective software engineers that have an opportunity to thrive at JPMorgan Chase. 

Provide veteran employees with acclimation resources and programs

In the U.S., four out of five companies lack formal training to help civilian employees relate to veterans. Elliott and his team nurture an important program called Pathfinder, a peer-to-peer mentoring initiative that pairs new veterans with a seasoned veteran employee that can help newer associates establish themselves during their transition. They created the Pathfinder Playbook which is an open resource available here. The program includes conversation guides, trust-based relationship building, and technology-enabled pairing.

Easy First Steps for Small Businesses

Elliott and his team are passionate about their commitment to veterans, and for small business engagement, he acknowledged “We are always mindful in talking with small to mid-sized businesses where often, resources are the largest roadblock. For Boston business owners, we have compiled a few easy first steps to start creating a culture more supportive of veterans that you can explore today:

  • When looking to hire veterans, carefully reflect and understand what skillsets you need. When you can, take a chance on a veteran. 
  • Utilize free resources like the Pathfinder Playbook. 
  • Contact the Veteran Jobs Mission for more information.

For more information, please do not hesitate to reach out to the Chamber, the Veteran Jobs Mission, or JPMorgan Chase with any questions you or your business may have on how to support our veterans more effectively in the Boston community.  

To all those currently serving in the Army or any other branch of the military, we at the Chamber thank you warmly for your service to our country.