Michael McDermott has helped develop and implement Blackstone’s Veterans Initiative. Earlier this year, the firm announced it had reached its goal of hiring 50,000 veterans, caregivers and spouses across the portfolio – a full year ahead of schedule. Blackstone doubled down with a new goal of 50,000 additional veterans hires in the next five years.
Before we discuss some broader issues facing the veteran community, can you give us the latest update on Blackstone’s work with veterans?
Absolutely. As way of background, in 2013, we launched our Veterans Initiative, anchored by a landmark commitment to hire 50,000 veterans, caregivers and spouses in five years. Just four years later – this past summer – we hit our target, and thought the best way to “celebrate” was to double down with a commitment to hire 50,000 more in the next five years.
But these hiring goals are just one part of the firm’s broader efforts to support our country’s veterans. Blackstone has taken a leadership role in the industry and broader business community in organizing summits, calls and various working groups to facilitate knowledge sharing on best practices to source, hire, train, integrate and retain veterans.
One of those groups is the veteran Employment Task Force with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which was founded earlier this year – tell us a little about it.
Blackstone proudly co-chairs the Employment Task Force with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce “Hiring our Heroes” program and Deloitte. Partnering with the Military Strategic Initiatives program at the George W. Bush Institute and many key national employers, we have helped frame the national dialogue on veteran and spouse employment challenges. In its short time, the group has become an incredible hub for tackling unemployment issues in the veteran community as well as education, health and wellbeing.
What were some of the biggest challenges facing vets today that the Task Force has identified?
We have identified 3 key areas for 2018 where all parties will collaborate in an effort to make significant strides forward for our nations heroes:
- Increasing public private partnership on veterans employment issues
- Continued improvement of the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) for separating service members, which includes an employment workshop
- Efforts to gather the best possible data to better inform key decisions
These individual initiatives aside, a crucial element to moving the needle on veteran employment is looking holistically and considering the full 'employee lifecycle' for veterans and spouses. It is more than just getting people in the door, it is about providing meaningful opportunities that benefit the veterans or spouses and the company. This is best accomplished by getting the right talent, in the right role, with the right support for success.
What are some of the most important takeaways for companies looking to improve their veterans hiring efforts?
Companies that want to get involved should reach out to those of us with well-established efforts and programs. There is so much sharing in this space that it makes no sense to reinvent the wheel by going at it alone. Focus on fit and take the time to be informed on how to translate military and spouse experiences into the roles you have in your organization. Support should come from the top of your organization because anytime you are developing new ‘muscles’ it takes focus and effort. We have benefited greatly from the unwavering support of Steve, and his energy and focus on this issue inspires our portfolio companies to keep pushing the initiative forward.
The Veteran Employment Task Force mentioned earlier is in the process of publishing a white paper which will be a great resource for companies looking to boost efforts in the space. We are proud to be a part of it.