When you think about tapping our men and women of the armed services for employment opportunities, chances are you don’t normally think of the over 1.3 million active “part-time” military reservists and National Guard. Today, with the downsizing of the military that has occurred, reservists comprise almost 50% of our nation’s armed forces. To maintain our nation’s readiness, they devote one weekend per month and 2 weeks per year. However, in the case of war or other international disturbances, a reservist can be called out for as long as 270 days per year. What Does All This Mean To An Employer? Well if you’ve been reading my column for the last year, you know by now my feelings about the top value of military experience in the civilian workplace. The character quality of the reservists is no different. Their military training may, in some cases, be less extensive than their active duty counterparts, but companies that employ reservists are gaining tremendous benefits. Most specifically, these personnel have a strong work ethic and exhibit the value of loyalty and responsibility on the job. Employers who embrace the active reservists and National Guard personnel are finding a win-win for everyone. <*SPONSORMESSAGE*> How Can Employers Embrace A Reservist?
- Keep employee relations positive. There’s nothing worse than for a supervisor or a peer group to look down upon an employee who is serving his country, either because he doesn’t work at the company for the 2 weeks or because some accommodations are made to his work schedule. There should be no ill-will for his committing 12 weekends and 2 weeks per year to the country.
- Consider making compensation whole. While on active duty, many employers provide differential pay if the salary the reservist is earning is not equal to the pay he receives from the civilian job. While this practice is not required by law, it certainly is a rather inexpensive way to promote company benefits and really live up to the status of a military-friendly company.
- Communicate regularly. Reservists are required to give an employer notice of duty within a reasonable amount of time. Develop a dialogue with reservist employees and let them know you support and encourage their service for our country. Breaking down any barriers will go a long way in planning for an absence and winning the respect of a good employee.
- Promote your policy in your recruiting strategy. Many applicants that would like to serve in the reserves/guard are fearful to mention this during the interview process so as not to hinder their chance at an employment offer. By embracing their reserve duty, the employer is more likely to increase their pool of qualified applicants.
- Maximize the networking potential. Many citizen soldiers serve side-by-side with other reservists who are rich in technical talent, as well as potential customers. By creating a positive workplace and encouraging their participation in drill weekends, you are opening up your sphere-of-influence and developing some great “ambassadors” for the company. Don’t be surprised if your positive initiatives bring a flood of qualified applicants to your doorstep. Everyone likes to feel appreciated.
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While all these are common-sense basics to keep in mind, it goes without saying that every employer should follow the law. Fortunately, there are some very valuable resources available. In 1994 a law was passed that protects the rights of reservists and National Guard personnel. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) is described and supported in detail by the National Committee for Employer Support of the National Guard and Reserve. For more information, go to their website at http://www.esgr.org or call 1.800.336.4590.