- The Essential Military-to-Civilian Transition Resource

ERGs: Taking Care of Our Own

by Heidi Lynn Russell, Contributing Editor

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Article Sponsored by: The GEO Group

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In the military, you already know what it means for your troops to “have your back” in all situations, whether you’re training stateside or serving abroad. But what if you could take that same spirit of camaraderie, teamwork and understanding that naturally exists among veterans and transplant it into your new civilian workplace?

Meet the “Employment Resource Group” (ERG), a collection of workers who join together based on shared characteristics or life experiences. Some companies refer to ERGs as “Affinity Groups” or “Business Groups.” In the past, ERGs have formed for women, African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Asian Pacific Islanders and others. But as more military members have exited the service, companies are also adding “Veteran ERGs.”

Participating in a Veteran ERG helps you assimilate into a company’s culture, says Wally Massenburg. He is the first Global President of “RAYVETS,” the ERG at defense contractor Raytheon Company in Waltham, MA. “When they join RAYVETS, they have an affinity that’s large. We take care of our own,” says Massenburg, who is also a retired Navy Vice Admiral who served for 39 years.

Think of an Employment Resource Group as your “center of gravity,” Massenburg adds. It can lead to valuable connections that foster a sense of belonging and career advancement. To help you leverage ERGs, here are some best practices from Raytheon and two other companies with strong ERG programs: Level 3 Communications of New York, NY, and ViaSat Inc. of Carlsbad, CA.

ERGs provide a sense of stability to help you stay at your job. Sixty-five percent of veterans are likely to leave their first civilian job within the first two years of employment, according to a study released in early in 2015 by Syracuse University and VetAdvisor. An Employment Resource Group can help you beat those odds, says ViaSat’s VP of Human Resources, Melinda Del Toro.

“It’s about making a connection in the first few days of someone’s time here and letting them know the ERG is available to help them and setting up opportunities to meet to talk about what’s working well, addressing their questions and forging support,” Del Toro says.

ViaSat is near the Marines’ Camp Pendleton and employs nearly 500 veterans. Five veterans at the company pushed for the creation of their ERG, which was launched in May 2015 and dubbed “Veterans@ViaSat.” In just six months, membership grew to 120 members.

“They said they saw value in transition assistance for new employees. So when we have new veterans start, they learn about how the company works versus their military experience. Those were the things the founders of the ERG wanted to offer Ð transition assistance and mentoring,” Del Toro says.

Level 3 Communications launched the “Level 3 Veterans ERG” (VERG) in the middle of 2012, and it now has 470 members, says Mary Beth McGrath, VP of Global Talent Management. The group offers the “Buddy Program,” pairing new and seasoned employees who are veterans.

“Through this program and its activities, veterans receive help adjusting to civilian life and life at Level 3 through professional-development activities, one-on-one opportunities and community team-building activities,” McGrath says.

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