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The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has thrown its support behind an initiative designed to create workplaces supportive of employees with connections to the military. Led by first lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden on April 12, 2011, the program was announced in the East Room at the White House.
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden spoke of the many reasons why the country should support military families whose loved ones are serving overseas.
“We’re here today because these Americans in uniform have never served alone. Not at Lexington and Concord, not in Iraq and Afghanistan,” President Obama told hundreds of people gathered in the East Room at the White House.
“Behind every American in uniform stands a wife or husband, a father, a son or daughter, a sister or brother. These families—these remarkable families—are the force behind the force.” Americans cannot expect them to give their best while fighting for the freedoms of the United States while wondering about the well-being of the families they’ve left behind, he said.
“As part of a landmark presidential study directive, for the first time ever the well-being of our military families is now a national priority,” the president said.
“Joining Forces was created to recognize and serve our nation’s extraordinary military families, who, like their loved ones in uniform, serve and sacrifice so much so that we can live in freedom and security,” Michelle Obama said. “This is a challenge to every segment of American society not simply to say ‘thank you’ but to mobilize, take action and make a real commitment to supporting our military families.”
In many cases, military spouses move from one community to another when their spouses are assigned to new duty stations. These transfers can make it very difficult for spouses to continue with their careers or to find similar jobs in new locations.
Joining Forces is designed to highlight the workforce potential of veterans and military spouses, expand employment and career development opportunities for veterans and military spouses, and help employers create military-family-friendly workplaces.
SHRM Takes the Lead
SHRM, with over 250,000 members, stands at the forefront of aiding in that directive.
“Many HR professionals have incorporated innovative workplace strategies to hire military spouses and support families,” said SHRM Interim President and CEO Henry G. (Hank) Jackson, who attended the kickoff of the program at the White House.
“We want to make sure that these effective practices are shared so others can emulate them in their own organizations.”
SHRM has pledged to educate HR professionals and others about the skills that military spouses bring to the workplace and the challenges faced by military spouses and families.
SHRM is committed to:
SHRM will create a toolkit that offers guidance on building a workplace focused on hiring and meeting the needs of military spouses. The toolkit will be shared with the Society’s 50 state councils and more than 575 chapters. SHRM will host a webcast about supportive workplace strategies and will incorporate related programming in its six national conferences throughout 2011.
“We’re joining forces with businesses, both large and small, including some of America’s biggest employers, which are making new commitments as we speak today,” Michelle Obama added. She said companies such as “Sears, Kmart and Sam’s Club are telling military spouses who work at their stores that if they move to a new duty station they’ll do their best to have a job waiting for those spouses. Siemens is setting aside 10 percent of their open positions for veterans.”
What’s more, “the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is stepping up, encouraging its millions of members to hire military spouses and veterans, to find mentors for military wives and women veterans,” Michelle Obama said. “And the chamber is going to host more than 100 job fairs across the country for these individuals.”
She added that “technology leaders AOL, Indeed.com and Cisco will help connect military spouses and veterans with employers that are hiring. Companies like Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft will train military spouses in new technologies so they can start their own businesses. And believe me, the list goes on and on, because every business can do something,” the first lady added.
SHRM has a long-standing commitment to employees with military connections. In 2010, the Society announced an initiative to find solutions to address the high unemployment rate among military veterans. It has worked with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment & Training Service to provide SHRM members with tools to recognize the value of hiring veterans and ways to find qualified veteran job candidates. In addition, SHRM and more than 100 of its state councils and chapters have signed statements of support with the organization Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve.
At its 2011 Annual Conference & Exposition in June in Las Vegas, SHRM will host a special education session for HR professionals who want to learn more about hiring military veterans and spouses and about supporting guard and reserve employees.
In addition to its focus on work, Joining Forces hopes to prod businesses and community and charitable groups to connect with military families as an act of public service, without being prompted to do so by federal money or tax incentives, officials said. It will encourage schools to adopt programs to help children adjust to the pressure of having a parent in combat.
In an effort to spark action from all sectors of society: individuals, communities, businesses, nonprofits, faith-based and philanthropic institutions and governments, Michelle Obama and Dr. Biden planned a two-day national tour, April 13-14, 2011, in which they will visit communities, businesses and nonprofits working to support military families.
On the tour, the women will highlight the work of Americans who have answered the call to serve military families and showcase ways all Americans can serve them, including teachers, business leaders, neighbors and volunteers.
The women will visit North Carolina, Texas, Ohio and Colorado.
“I’ve always said we have a lot of obligations as a nation—but only one truly sacred moral obligation: to prepare and protect those we send into harm’s way, and to give them every bit of care they and their families need when they return,” Vice President Biden said.
Aliah D. Wright is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
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