Are You Recruiting Military Spouses Yet?
March 17, 2021 | Webinar
In this installment of the Wednesdays with Woodward® series, the Travelers Institute convened speakers from leading military support organizations to explore why employers should consider expanding their recruitment efforts to include military spouses. Joining the conversation was Col. Matthew F. Amidon, USMCR, Director of the Military Service Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute; Colleen Deere, Executive Director of American Corporate Partners and Jim McMahon, Lead for Military & Veteran Outreach at Travelers.
Watch the Replay
Good afternoon, everyone and thank you for joining us today.
Text, Wednesdays with Woodward (registered trademark), A Webinar Series, Are You Recruiting Military Spouses Yet? At the bottom are logos for the ACP, Syracuse University Institute for Veterans & Military Families, JPMorgan Chase & Co Founding Partner, Travelers Institute, Travelers, George W. Bush Institute. There is a video box on the top right of Joan Woodward speaking.
I'm Joan Woodward, and I'm honored to lead the Travelers Institute, which is the public policy educational and informational arm of Traveler's Insurance. Today's program focuses on recruitment strategies for hiring military spouses as part of our Wednesdays with Woodward webinar series. We started this last year to explore issues impacting both our personal and professional lives in these difficult and really uncertain times.
Join our mailing list, firstname.lastname@example.org. The LinkedIn logo, text, Connect Joan Kois Woodward, Watch Replays, travelersinstitute.org, #Wednesdays with Woodward
We're pleased you're here today, and we hope you'll stay engaged with us. So you can join our mailing list by emailing email@example.com, connect with me directly on LinkedIn or watch past replays of our webinars at travelersinstitute.org. Before we get started, I'd like to quickly share our disclaimer about today's program.
About Travelers Institute Webinars. Wednesdays with Woodward is an educational webinar series presented by the Travelers Institute, the public policy division of Travelers. This program is offered for informational and educational purposes only. You should consult with your financial, legal, insurance or other advisors about any practices suggested by this program. Please note that this session is being recorded and may be used as Travelers deems appropriate.
Whether you're part of the military family or your impact hiring decisions within your organizations, we hope today's session will have something for everyone.
Our topic, understanding the value of military spouses and what they can bring to your organization in the workplace and how to incorporate them into your recruitment plans. At Travelers, we have a long-standing commitment to active duty military members, veterans, their spouses, and their families. We're proud that our company is consistently named on the Military-Friendly Employer List, including the Military Times and others.
The first slide, Text, Wednesdays with Woodward, A Webinar Series, Are You Recruiting Military Spouses Yet? At the bottom are logos for the ACP, Syracuse University Institute for Veterans & Military Families, JPMorgan Chase & Co Founding Partner, Travelers Institute, Travelers, George W. Bush Institute.
Let me start by thanking our partners today, a fantastic organizations that are helping military and veterans families transition to and thrive in civilian life. So first, a special thanks to the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University. We're thrilled to have you join us today. Also, to the George W. Bush Institute, the nonpartisan public policy arm of the Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, Texas. We're honored to have Colonel Matthew Amidon, director of the Military Service Initiative joining us as a speaker today.
Four photos of the speakers, from left to right, text, Joan Woodward, Executive Vice President, Public Policy, President, Travelers Institute, Moderator, Colonel Matthew Amidon, USMCR, Director, Military Service Initiative George W. Bush Institute, Speaker, Colleen Deere, Executive Director American Corporate Partners, Speaker, Jim McMahon, Lead, Military & Veteran Outreach Travelers, Speaker.
Colonel Amidon has served both in active duty and reserve capacities, deployed in the support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Thank you for your service, Matt. We're also pleased to welcome American Corporate Partners and their executive director, Colleen Deere. Colleen has tremendous experience in the nonprofit leadership world and she's also an army veteran spouse. Finally, a warm welcome to my colleague, Jim McMahon, who leads the Travelers Military and Veterans Outreach programs. Jim brings deep expertise in HR and recruitment and is a master at helping our employees transfer their military skills into the insurance industry.
So with that introduction, I'm going to start our program off and turn to Colonel Matt to kick us off, and then, he will be followed by Colleen and Jim for some short opening remarks. And then, we're going to have a moderated discussion. Please, if you're interested in asking questions, don't wait to submit those. Go down to the Q&A function while we're having these opening remarks and go ahead and ask your question for any one of our speakers. So again, I'll turn it over to Colonel Matt to get us started.
A video box appears at the top right with speaker Colonel Matthew Amidon. A picture of a building with a fountain in front, text, George W. Bush Presidential Center, George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum. Wednesdays with Woodward, Military Spouses, Opportunities and Challenges March 17, 2021
Well, thank you so much Joan. I'm truly honored to join you all and I look forward again, as we chatted about, to the return of better days when we can all at some point be together in person. Moving on, I've had the great honor for the last eight years.
Pictures of George W. Bush and Laura Bush interacting with young people. Text, Mission, The George W. Bush Presidential Center engages communities in the United States and around the world by developing leaders, advancing policy, and taking action to solve today's most pressing challenges.
I've been part of the team, the great team in Dallas at that George W Bush Institute, where we carry on the work that President and Mrs. Bush started while in office and take on the new work that's so near and dear to their and all of our hearts.
But it's always driven by four values of freedom, opportunity, accountability, and compassion. And as you can see, the core mission is to engage in the US and around the world to develop leaders, advance policy, but I think it's so relevant here today to take action to address some of our more pressing challenges and certainly a right time to discuss this enduring opportunity here today. As an aside and as we all know, democracy is not a spectator sport. So by taking the time out of your busy lives, just thank you to all of you for living the example of what it means to not only be a grateful and committed nation but to act as a grateful and committed nation as we today make public and functional our willingness and intent.
So moving forward, and with that, the work we do at the military service initiative as you will see, is focused on outcomes for our warriors and their families. And although you see the post-9-11 veteran and their families, this is under the context of the life cycle of our all-volunteer force, which is inextricably linked to those still serving as they will someday become veteran families and carry with them many of the same issues they faced while on active duty. This is certainly the right time and the right topic as this can't only be a debt of gratitude but an investment in opportunity.
So we focus largely on the post-9-11 generation, our first multi-generation generation, and your milspouses of today carry that torch.
Military Service Initiative, Ensuring post-9/11 veterans and their families make successful transitions to civilian life. A picture of two veterans arm in arm, text, Veteran Health and well-being, Spotlighting the invisible wounds and connecting veterans with quality care providers through the Veteran Wellness Alliance. A picture of George W. Bush and other men, text, Economic Opportunity, Advancing educational opportunities for veterans while connecting them with best in class resources for meaningful careers. A picture of George W. Bush talking to veterans, text, Veteran Leadership, Our Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program increases the impact and develops the skills of those who serve our Nation's veterans. A picture of a man playing golf, text, Team 43, Our Warrior Open golf tournament and Warrior 100K mountain bike ride highlight the resilience and continued leadership of our wounded warriors and their families.
To level set, this post-9-11 era represents the first time our nation has fought an extended conflict with an all-volunteer force and thus are all volunteer families because it is the family who serves, bears the hardship of deployment and faces someday the challenge of transition together, the old axiom being we recruit the service member but we retain the family.
So since that day in 2001, more than three, almost 4 million service members have deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, or other theaters of conflict. These almost 20 years reveal our post-9-11 families have truly answered the call, and I believe volunteering to serve and to serve during the time of great danger. So what are the imperatives I think that drive all of our work and then specific to our milspouses? Three imperatives, I believe. The moral and social, as we all know, this is just simply the right thing to do. But it is a national security issue and the imperative to preserve our all-volunteer force.
But finally, and again, relevant today, this is about global competitiveness and civic leadership. We need our all-volunteer families to lead in business and in our communities. And we here today can help them along by focusing on that interaction of optimizing health and well-being and leveraging meaningful career and educational opportunities because they are always linked to one another. I don't exactly remember who said it, I believe it may have been a man named Josh Bersin an HR industry analyst who said recently on Axios perhaps, that employee well-being has crawled out of the corner of the benefits department and has crashed straight onto the CEO's desk.
So as we move on today, this is not just about employment, this is about leveraging an opportunity from a population of well-educated and committed professionals who you will hear more about from Colleen and how to act on it from Jim.
Military Families, The Challenge and the Opportunity, This is not just about employment, How to best leverage the tremendous skills and leadership of our military spouses, who will become veteran spouses. 32% unemployment, over 3 times the national average, with a large range reporting underemployment, 35-70%, revealing the enduring need for support and data clarity. Because of spouse career opportunities, almost 50%of our military families discuss leaving service. Barriers, Biases, Policies, Resume gaps and career trajectories, Frequent Moves, Childcare responsibilities, licensing barriers at the state level, need for portability. Asterisk, Data Source, The US Chamber of Commerce Hiring Our Heroes Foundation.
But the truth is here in front of us today, and on this slide and enduring unemployment rate for decades of over 20% more recently, reported by our friends at the US Chamber of Commerce at 32% as we enter ostensibly the concluding chapters of the pandemic.
So in summary, COVID has taken a bad situation and made it worse as our friends also from NMFA, the National Military Family Association polled 4,000 military spouses of whom 34% lost their jobs and 25% still had them but with significant cuts in hours paid. And this is important as we all contemplate this thing called underemployment, which we can dig into a little bit later. But the point is this, like many Americans, military families often rely on two incomes. As unemployment rates further affect milspouses, this toll can hit military families hard, especially our younger enlisted families.
In this, some of you have seen the recent reports of food insecurity concerns. So at the bottom here, what are the barriers they face, the biases we may have, and the policies that inhibit non-traditional resumes with gaps in coverage and a unique career trajectories alongside the ultimate truth of frequent moves nested within the family responsibility of child care, places milspouses sometimes at a competitive disadvantage. And as they seek to overcome these, it can place some of them even further at risk from entities like predatory MLM, multi-level marketing corporations where data does show 99% of employees lose money by even joining them.
And as many of you know, frequent moves often travel with complications and expenses ranging from the seemingly minor to the critical issue of the new school, day care for the family's children. Their preponderance of this falls to the non-active duty spouse. At the systemic policy level, how do we enhance economic mobility by smoothing the state-to-state transition, where licensing barriers can significantly impact earnings and career trajectories? This reveals the role for national guideposts enacted by state legislatures. Alongside the truth that COVID; however, has revealed opportunity in the preponderance of remote work which before the pandemic, I think 2 out of 10 spouses worked remote. Now, that of course, is much higher.
How can it and should it continue and what are the barriers to doing so? Then, what if any are the regulatory incentives and how are they positioned in such a way to be more effective in reaching this very specific population? And so with that, Joan, thanks to the Travelers team for everything you all do in support of the families who have worn the cloth and those still serving. I look forward to diving in a little bit later and I'm eager to hear now from Colleen and Jim. And again, thanks so much for having me here today.
A picture of the George W. Bush Presidential Library, text, Thank you. Next slide, text, ACP Mentoring and Positioning Military Spouses for the Job Market, A video box appears at the top right with speaker Colleen Deere.
Well, thank you, Matt. And thanks Joan and the Travelers team for having me. It's really an honor to be here for this discussion. As Joan mentioned, I am the spouse of an army veteran so it's something that's close to me personally, this topic.
What is ACP? ACP's Mission, to combat underemployment, one veteran and spouse at a time. ACP was founded in 2008 and is a national nonprofit organization based in New York City. How does ACP assist? By engaging the American people to provide career advice, mentoring, and networking opportunities to veterans and military spouses nationwide. More than 20,000 veterans have completed our one year ACP Veteran Mentoring Program. Nearly 1,000 spouses are currently enrolled or have completed our Active Duty Spouse Mentoring Program. 98% of veterans, spouses and mentors would recommend ACP.
So I think Matt what you described is really a great way to segue into some of the work that ACP is doing. You outlined some of the barriers that spouses are facing and it's a challenging topic. But really, what ACP is doing is trying to bring together two worlds that might not normally intersect.
The world of civilian business leaders and Fortune 500 companies, we're bringing that together with this world of military veterans and spouses to try to bring, really bring that together to try to meet some of these challenges. So I'll talk a little bit about what ACP does specifically and then, some of my observations from over the years of how companies and individuals can do more to help spouses get hired, and then, on the flip side, some things that spouses might consider keeping in mind as well.
Since ACP was founded in 2008, we've helped more than 20,000 veterans make the transition from service to civilian careers. And we're not doing that alone, the way we're doing it is by engaging the American people. So we have a network of volunteers who are all providing one-on-one year-long mentorship to both veterans and now, military spouses. We broadened our program in 2018 to be able to, to Matt's point, engage especially with the Army as this is a national security issue. Spouses that are having fulfilling careers are certainly more likely to be encouraging their serving spouse to stay in the military and that, of course, impacts retention.
So ACP's mission is simple. We're bringing together these two worlds. Folks who sign up as mentors, they are paired up with either a veteran or military spouse to really be able to have conversations about what careers are out there and to try to help them get their foot in the door in industry. It can be really challenging coming off active duty or being an active duty military spouse and just not knowing the lay of the land and not knowing what companies might be military and spouse-friendly. So that's really the way we see ourselves positioned here is to try to be a conduit between those two parties.
I should mention that Travelers is one of our premier partners. We've actually been working with Travelers for over 10 years now with over 200 employees who have all served as mentors to either veterans or military spouses in our program. ACP has more than 100 Fortune 500 companies who are part of our effort. Each one of those companies provides both funding and mentors to our program, so we'll pair a veteran or a military spouse with a leader from a company like Travelers or Deloitte or Nike or Johnson & Johnson. And during the course of that year-long mentorship, the spouse is able to get real-time advice, coaching and feedback just about different industries, career paths that might be available to them, job search strategies, resume and interview, feedback and more.
So there may be some of you on this webinar today who are working at a big company, who want to learn more about how to identify military spouses. So please reach out to me, we can definitely help with that. On the flip side, if you are a military spouse looking to get some career advice, we can certainly help with that too. So moving on, who are our nation's military spouses?
Who are America's Military Spouses, More than 600,000 spouses of active duty service members. Typically more educated than their civilian counterparts. 92% female. Average age is about 33. 74% have children under 18 at home. Move 10 times more frequently than their civilian counterparts.
So there's more than 600,000 spouses of active duty service members. If we include guard and reserve component, that gets us to over a million military spouses. So it's a very large population of potentially untapped hires.
Of course, there's many companies out there like Travelers who have raised their hands saying, we'd love to recruit military spouses but I think there's certainly more work that can be done to try to tap into this very large pipeline of willing and eager workers here. About 92% of military spouses are women. On average, they're more educated than their civilian counterparts and more diverse than the rest of the civilian population.
More than 80% have some college education as well. So for any company looking to increase its hiring of women, increasing its diversity, really, I would say look no further than hiring a military spouse. Not to mention, some really incredible aspects that I personally have observed in the military spouse community. You're thinking about a real group of entrepreneurial people, people who are driven, they've faced adversity so they're resilient, they're resourceful. So they're really an asset to any company.
Military spouses do face high rates of on and underemployment, often because there could be a mismatch between their industry and maybe the local job market. A lot of military installations are located potentially in a more remote area of the company, which might not line up with headquarters of Fortune 500 companies. So that could be a challenge. There's also, as Matt mentioned, child care issues. About 75%, 74% of military spouses have children under the age of 18 at home so that's an added stressor.
So there's certainly a whole host of potential barriers to milspouse employment but an organization like ACP, that's really what we're here to try to do, is to at minimum raise, just the national awareness of what these challenges are and then, also, propose some potential solutions for us all to be considering. So moving on, in my role here at ACP I'm lucky enough to see both sides of the table. I'm talking to employers every day to get their perspective on hiring military spouses. What are the challenges? How can they find spouses? How can they attract them and retain them?
And then, on the flip side, I'm also talking with spouses every day about some of their issues and challenges, whether it's deciding if they should self-identify as a military spouse, thinking about how they should account for gaps on their resume, maybe they've been taken care of three young children at home while also volunteering and managing their household during their husband's deployment. So the more you talk to military spouses, I think the more appreciation you'll have just for what some of these issues are. Military spouses are not ones to complain so sometimes can take a little digging to get to the heart of what some of those challenges might be.
So I think the business case is pretty clear. Hiring military spouses is not just the right thing to do but it's also smart.
Positioning Milspouses for Employment, The Business Case for Hiring, Training, and Mentoring Military Spouses, Preparing military spouses to find meaningful employment, Connecting military spouses with the right employers, Creating pipelines and connections.
Military spouses are incredibly loyal, they're hardworking, they're adaptable, they learn quickly, they may need a little extra flexibility. But I think that if we just thinking about this group here on the webinar today, if we as hiring managers, as HR professionals, and as corporate leaders can invest a little bit of extra time into understanding the population, the payoff can really be tremendous.
So at ACP, we're working hard to prepare spouses every day for meaningful employment. So I think that that's an important piece of the puzzle is what can we as civilians be doing to help prepare military spouses to match up with the jobs that might be available at these companies. So that's really where our mentorship program comes in, in terms of being prepared for interviews, getting spouses comfortable talking about their volunteer experience. Maybe they have a lot of unpaid work experience that they're not sure how to talk about in an interview. So that's really what we're trying to do to help with that preparation piece.
We also do a great deal to try to connect spouses with the employers who are looking to hire them. So a great place for spouses to look if you're looking for meaningful employment is think about the partners on ACP's website. Maybe take a look at those companies that'll give you a leg up in terms of companies who have already raised their hand and said, we're looking for veterans and military spouses. There's also the Department of Defense's MSEP program, which has hundreds of spouse-friendly employers. Everyone from Travelers to Hilton to MetLife. So these companies have all signed a pledge stating that milspouse hiring is a priority, and they post open positions on their website. So that's a great place for spouses to start.
We always recommend to companies looking to hire military spouses just to be sure to create those pipelines. So think about nonprofits that you can partner with to try to get that pipeline established. So for example, with Travelers, if Travelers has mentors who are already mentoring military spouses, well, that's a great way to create those relationships and it's kind of a win-win.
Those spouses are getting career advice from Travelers employees who are already in the private sector and can give them the lay of the land, but then on the other side of it, Travelers is really getting a free look in a sense at some potential hires for them. So it's a win-win for all involved. So with that, Jim, I will turn it over to you.
Travelers' Commitment to Military Members and Veterans, Below are the logos for Military Spouse Employment Partnership, Committed to Hiring Spouses, Employers Best For Vets , 2020 Military Times, Military Friendly Employer 2021 Silver, ACP, American Corporate Partners, Syracuse University Institute for Veterans & Military Families, JP Morgan Chase & Co, Founding Partner, Onward to Opportunity, A video box appears at the top right with speaker Jim McMahon.
Wonderful. Thanks Colleen. I appreciate the opportunity to share some ideas today. So let me start a little bit outlining some of our history with hiring veterans. And Joan mentioned earlier, we've been recognized, Military Times, military-friendly. Sometimes, that surprises some people. How can an insurance company be military-friendly? Sometimes, the people that are surprised are transitioning military and veterans and military spouses because quite honestly, we as an industry are not necessarily a career destination for a lot of folks coming out of the military. But however, Travelers has over 1,000 self-identified veterans within our ranks, and it's not an accident.
I always tell people, when I'm speaking to a military audience, don't think of us as an insurance company, think of us as a risk management company. And I know we've got agents and brokers on today's call so as an industry, we're essentially a risk management industry. And that's where the connection comes in. In the military, everyone is trained at risk. Recognize it, avoid it, mitigate it, it's just a natural connection. With recognition though, it comes from some efforts. I'll just mention a few things.
ACP and Colleen, she mentioned that we've been partnering with ACP for almost 10 years now. In fact, our current efforts at being a little more assertive on military spouses comes from some of their efforts. Over the last year and a half or so, ACP hosted a series of meetings with their partner companies. The first one was identifying the issue of military spouse unemployment, the second was talking about ideas, and then, the third was what are we doing about it?
And one of the things that Travelers did was as mentioned, we joined the Military Spouse Employment Partnership and its 500 like-minded companies. We're looking to really broaden the opportunities for military spouses. Syracuse University Institute for Veterans and Military Families, their Onward Opportunity Program. So the Institute has a number of data analytics and research but onward to opportunity is a skills bridge program. It's offered at a number of bases around the country.
Transitioning military, military spouses, part of it is classroom, part of it is certificate program. We have been participating on a number of bases, employer panels offering some advice, we do an hour session on how to transition skills, how to communicate out with an audience. So moving on the why are we here today?
Text, Myths about Military Spouses. Myth, Military spouses are not educated. Fact, 85% have some college coursework, 25% have bachelors degrees. Myth, Military spouses do not want or need to work. Fact, 66% are either working or looking for work. Myth, Military spouses do not have job experience. Fact, Military spouses may have extensive job experience, but their experiences may not be consecutive or linear. Myth, Military spouses move frequently. Fact, Many military families move ever 3 to 4 years. Paradoxically, the employment challenges military spouses face may, in fact, engender loyalty to the employer, which may encourage spouses to remain with a company if a job transfer or remote employment are allowed. Myth, Military spouses have employment gaps in their resumes because they lack commitment and skills. Fact, Employers should not automatically misperceive resume gaps to be skill or experience deficiencies when in actuality spouses may be actively seeking additional training, credentialing, certifications, or volunteer work that enhance their skills.
What is the issue? And Colleen mentioned this, Matthew mentions this but some of the myths and some of the facts. So when I, from a recruiting perspective, and I hope with our Military Veteran Outreach, which includes recruiting, there's myths, there's facts. So what are some of the myths?
Military spouses are not educated. Colleen mentioned this but 85% have some college coursework, 25% have bachelor's degrees. There's a myth that we hear military spouses, they don't want to work, they don't need to work. Well, guess what? 65% are either working or looking for work. And both Matthew and Colleen have commented on the unemployment, there's also the underemployment aspect. So total myth that they don't want to work. Military spouses, they move frequently. Yeah, they do. But as indicated here, they move maybe every three or four years, not as often as everyone thinks they potentially move.
And military spouses, they have employment gaps in their resumes because they lack commitment, they lack skills. Yes, I'll admit they have gaps but it's not because they lack skills, it's not because they lack commitment, it's the lifestyle that they're a part of. And I want to take a moment and just recognize our partners at Syracuse University, the Institute for Veterans and Military Families. This came from a 2016 study on the force behind the force. So we really appreciate them allowing us to utilize their information.
And moving on, this is also taken from some of their work, Colleen mentioned a lot of these adjectives. So let me give you a little bit of a backdrop on this. In August of this year, we partnered with a couple of our businesses, and we're looking at how do we change some of our employment practices? COVID, while it is a negative, also opened up some opportunities for us. So we were looking at carving out a couple of positions, we were going to do this from a pilot's perspective.
And a couple of weeks in, we gathered a group of recruitment team from our Richardson, Texas office and from Tennessee, from New York.
Why Hire Military Spouses? Resilient, Adaptable, Diverse, Resourceful, Team-Oriented, Civically Engaged, Educated, Socially Aware, Multi-taskers, Entrepreneurial
We had some of our partners on, we had a couple of advocates but we thought we would have to convince the hiring team on the benefit of hiring military spouses. We're about five minutes into the conversation and one our hiring managers said, "You know what? I had a great conversation with a military spouse last week, she gave me the best example of problem-solving that I've ever heard."
And that really quickly got into other comments from other people that I've been interviewing. And all of these adjectives, resilient, adaptable, diverse, resourceful, team-oriented, civically engaged, educated, socially aware, they were all being commented on as examples, problem solvers. It was really great to hear that we didn't have to convince our hiring team. You know, military spouses have been knocking on the door of employment. What a small group of us had done was try to open up that door, and it was really great to hear our business partners embracing some of this.
So the roles that we looked at, and we were more assertive with are they're interacting with our customer, they're customer-facing. In our insurance, service reps role in personal insurance, they deal with agents, they deal with brokers, they deal with customers on policy questions and claim it's notice the first loss. They're dealing with customers when they want to report a claim. In these cases, we want somebody that communicates well, excellent situational awareness, they're able to make decisions. And this is absolutely what we get from our military spouse hires.
The Spouses Perspective, Portability reduces stress. There is a quote which he reads verbatim from Caitlin C, Military Spouse Hire. Text, Flexibility increases applicant pool. There is another quote which he reads verbatim from Heather G, Military Spouse Hire.
Moving on to the next slide, I don't want to just say that this is my perspective. A couple of quotes here. So from Caitlin, "I started the application process in Fort Drum. My husband received PCS orders three weeks later." So PCS is Permanent Change of Station. It was a move, and it was a surprise move. "When I received the job offer, I told my recruiter that though I was very interested, I'd be moving to Arizona. And far from saying I wouldn't be eligible for the job anymore, she reached out to the Texas-based team, had me virtually transferred there so I could still work." So I mean, what does that do for the military spouse population? For Caitlin, it reduces stress, if you're working with an employer who's going to be supportive.
The second example. I love this one. Flexibility increases our applicant pool. So, "I'm really excited to be in the Travelers family. I received notification of this position through the Army Community Services while I was in South Korea with my husband." OK, if you're a hiring manager, if you're a business leader and you have to hire a position, I would suggest that if you put a pin-point in the map at your location, you could probably go 20 miles out, maybe 45 minutes for a commute and that's your applicant pool.
Heather saw our position while in South Korea, which is 14 time zones away from the East Coast. So it just absolutely increases the applicant pool, it increases your ability to recruit, and I would absolutely say it's giving us a competitive advantage by opening up our doors to military spouses. So I'm looking forward to our discussion, Joan. Love for you to facilitate and let's take the conversation in different directions.
All right. Well, listen, thank you so much, Matt, Colleen, and Jim. It was really fantastic, just hearing your perspectives and we're all in this together to try to get military spouses employed. They're very employable as we just heard.
Four video boxes with Jim McMahon on the top left, Joan Woodward on the top right, Colleen Deere at the bottom left and Colonel Matthew Amidon on the bottom right.
And so, folks on the line, we have several of you out there. If you have a question for one of our panelists, please do submit it using that Q&A function at the bottom middle section there of your screen. Just click on that and type in your question, and I'd be happy to get it to one of them.
So in the meantime, I want to get back to a couple of things here. Matt, you have extraordinary experience being in the military. But Colleen, first, tell us, I'd like to hear more about your experience of being a military spouse and how has it kind of shaped your life professionally and personally?
Sure. Thanks, Joan. Yeah, so for me, I grew up in a suburb of New York City. So it kind of goes without saying that there weren't many military installations nearby so candidly, I was relatively unfamiliar with military life and really didn't have as great an appreciation as I do now for the sacrifices that our military families are making, and I had never even thought about military spouse unemployment as an issue. Of course, now, 10 years later, I'm seeing it firsthand.
For me, it was a bit of a culture shock moving from New York. I was working in publishing and a couple of days after we got married, my husband and I, I quit my job, I packed up the car and moved out to Fort Riley, Kansas, where I didn't know a single person and kind of had to try to reinvent myself. And I think to some of the earlier points here, underemployment was certainly my biggest issue. So I was working three different part time jobs making $7 an hour and I had a master's degree. So definitely, a mismatch between my kind of industry and career goals versus what was available in that local area.
I think the good news now is that there's a lot more comfort with remote work, there's also a lot more resources out there for milspouses. So something like a mentorship program or MSEP, I had no idea that things like that could have been out there. So I would also just say to spouses, don't make the mistakes that I did, which was not really thinking about building a professional network. I really didn't reach out to anyone on LinkedIn to ask for help. And I think a lot of times, milspouses are hesitant about asking for help. It's not really in their nature. But I think when it comes to your career, you do need to ask for help, you do need to get advice from people who walked in those shoes previously.
OK, well, thank you so much. Wow, what a story. So Matt, I'm going to go to you. What do we know about the underemployment of this group? And first of all, explain the difference between unemployment and underemployment. What's that difference? And then, define that opportunity for a lot of our business owners and recruiters kind of on the line today too.
Thanks, I appreciate that. And Colleen to your point, I think that reveals ultimately the value of it's not the size of your network, it's what do you do with it, and don't be afraid to take that first step. And we have now long-standing trajectories of that mentor-mentee relationship. So again, just a shout out to what you guys are doing at ACP amongst other programs. So Joan to your question precisely, the unemployment is that of having a wage earning position and/or not and underemployment, then that mismatch of skills vis-a-vis position, compensation, the hours worked and things of the like.
But can I start for a second with, milspouses alongside this 20-year incredible national effort to address veteran unemployment, which at times is better than that of the national average. So as we sort of pre-pandemic have seen some incredible successes in the unemployment rates of veterans, I think and Colleen to hear from you, milspouses still deal perpetually with both un and underemployment. And I want to just start really quickly with-- again, a shout out to IVMF who's been a friend and partner of ours since, gosh, I think 2013 and even earlier.
It's the enduring challenge of the accuracy of data capture. And so, quick aside, Joan, if I could, the inelegant way that we as a nation number one, measure unemployment. It's largely via a weekly census survey that asks you the recipient, "Did you work for money last week?" And ostensibly, you could have mowed your neighbor's lawn for $10 and according to that capture been codified as employed. And so, I think given that the inelegant way we capture unemployment, we now look at the previous slide and then, Colleen, you alluded to it, a range of underemployment of 35 to 77% reveals a great need for data clarity.
And again, a shout out to our friends. I think it was IVMF and some others, the chamber perhaps and MFA, who are part of the team that found and is finding greater precision and gets us to that approximate 50% number. And again, as Colleen alluded to the opportunity here is to consider the scope of underemployment and the subcomponents of I think Colleen to use your words, the skill misalignment. And then, earnings via position and/or number of hours worked.
But I wanted to hit again the impacts of underemployment is not just that, it also most assuredly impacts self-esteem, self-worth, and health and well-being. So as we contemplate that of the underemployment, Joan, we must contemplate the interactions of the overall health and well-being of our milspouses as well. Thanks for that.
Yeah. No, thank you for that clarification. I mean, I'm struck Colleen, when you said you were working for a $7 an hour and yet you had a master's degree and you were in publishing before you got married. So clearly, there is a huge mismatch there. So let's go to you, Jim. So you've been doing this a long time at Travelers very successfully. Tell us what it takes within an organization, a large organization or even small to open people's minds and kind of rally that support to embrace those untraditional career paths that a military spouse has potentially had. And what are some of those obstacles that managers face in overcoming to hire that person?
Sure. So the first thing is don't believe the stereotypes, don't believe the disinformation, don't listen to the myths. So for every myth, we could counter that with a very positive aspect. Find a few open-minded people and then, let's look at it from solving a business problem, and what's a business problem? Well, employment could potentially be a business problem, and employment within a pandemic could also be potentially a business problem.
So I asked a couple of my business partners to share with me some of their thoughts. And I want to just kind of, I guess rely on their perspective. So Joan, one person that we both know really well, Casey Neff. Casey was the chair of our internal military and veteran network. We've got an internal network that supports our military and veterans, it's about 3,200 strong. It includes military spouses and family members and various just friends and supporters of the military effort. But Casey is the leader of the training organization and personal insurance. And he helped lobby with his businesses.
So here's his quote. "We moved 13 times over 25 years, and she had to reinvent herself at every new post. She developed a tremendously varied skill set, found ways to be successful, but most recruiters would not look twice at her resume." So there's one hurdle, it's that gaps in the resume. So we gathered some of our recruiting team and kind of coached them on resumes, what to look for. And don't worry about the gaps, go talk to the individual, find out what they did in the gaps.
We had an HR partner, Christine Carreiro, who presented this to her business partners as let's solve the business problem, let's expand on our applicant pool, and Chris said, this is just a win-win for us. And then, we've got a number of individuals throughout the organization that have just said, OK, let's try this. Now, we're not opening up this that every position we're going to hire is going to be a military spouse, but we're doing it in a very pragmatic manner.
So from the personal insurance, Ian Zimmerman, who's an operations lead there, we're looking at location flexibility, significant number of talent available for positions from a military spouse perspective. We've gained a number of learnings and we'll continue working to determine how to optimize our approach. But we're optimistic that long-term, this will be a win-win situation for Travelers. So again, it's pragmatic. We like to analyze, we like to get feedback. So the preliminary indication is that we've really been successful with this. And we're looking at ways to expand it.
Great. And so, let's just talk a minute about those industries or those specific job codes or job descriptions that fit nicely and line up nicely. Like we saw with our veterans hiring, a lot of our veterans hiring, they have done terrific job potentially in claim, in our claim department because there's an emergency that happens, there's disaster that strikes a particular area, and that situational awareness, that quick thinking of our veteran populations, they do very well kind of in the claim department among other departments at the company.
But let me ask Matt this question. What industries are already kind of actively hiring military spouses or what job descriptions, job codes are you seeing out there? And not just in insurance but broadly through the whole economy. What areas are military spouses, where's the sweet spot? Let's put it that way.
No, and thank you so much, Joan. I think as we're keeping track of the chat here, I think Jim Beam, staffer from Prudential had that exact question. So Jim, hopefully we meet standard with this answer. And Colleen, I think that matches nicely with the mentor-mentee, great work you do at ACP is after that happens, where do they go and what sort of the directional vector into function within industry? So to your point Joan, I think there's many industries out there that successfully recruit, hire, and retain. Jim to your point in calling the playbooks are out there, let's go find them for you.
But if we want to effectively match the supply of talent with the aligned opportunity, I just took a little bit of information from the Milspouse Fellowship Program, which is one of the few but again, one I rely on for sort of that it's an aggregate or broker enabling the sort of professional development and direct connection to local employers. And it I think provides that directional steer towards whether they essentially land. And I think there's six of them to your point John, about sort of risk management and Jim, what you mentioned, it's sort of a skill set that's so applicable across function.
But project and program management, some interest in HR, which, as we know, has some challenges with the remote tomorrow. Program analyst, the association of comms, digital and marketing, administrative and IT and cyber. And so, those seem to be, and Colleen, I know we'd love to hear from you guys, I don't want to get in the way here but those seem to be kind of the focus sort of functions within industries where milspouses seem to land more frequently. These then feel to me like the important roles to contemplate within your enterprise regardless of sector or industry. So thanks.
Yeah, absolutely. And I do agree with what you said. I think another important thing to keep in mind is that spouses might not know what career options are even out there, so they may be flexible toward a role that they hadn't even previously considered. So I think it's really important for spouses to take stock of skills that they have. So maybe sales isn't something they had considered but they have fundraising experience so maybe that can directly translate. Or they were in charge of coordinating the logistics during their husband's deployment and getting in touch with all the folks in that unit, so they're a really strong organizer and project manager, maybe that translates into something.
So I think it's a little bit of both. At ACP, we try to take the time to align the mentor and protege interest, but we also have a fair amount of spouses who are open minded and flexible, and I think that's a great way for companies to leverage that is it's almost like, I hate to say a blank slate, but you have people who have marketable skills, but they're going to need potentially a little direction on how that can fit into the company.
Right, got it. OK, this question is for all three of you. So maybe Colleen you can go first, and then, we'll hear from Matt. To what extent has COVID and the remote work opportunity has been a game changer for military spouses? Because as we just heard, they move a lot, concerned about stability if there's a change in work site. But has this whole COVID remote work really changed the game for how military spouses can get recruited and retained? Retention is really important for military spouses as well.
Yeah. I think it definitely has, I think every company was really forced into this work from home maybe without giving it as much thought as they wished that they had had time for. But yes, I think it's also helped to level the playing field and now, you don't have a situation where you have some employees in person and maybe, some remote. I think the remote employees now can feel a little bit more valued by the organization because a lot more meetings are happening virtually so it's just more kind of acceptable internally.
And we're hearing from spouses a lot that it's helped them retain a job that they would have expected to have to give up. But because of this unique situation, they've been now given the opportunity to retain that job. So I think that is the bright spot of COVID, is that we are seeing a real trend toward offering this flexibility, and it's something that I hope continues absolutely.
Matt, what are your thoughts on COVID?
I agree, and I think the systemic risk and we can all apply our policy megaphones to that end is to your point Colleen, that milspouse, one of their very important variables is portability of employee. And remote seems to be the mechanism of that portability and independent of sector. Due to the pandemic, they've had to embrace the remoteness purely for existential reasons to the enterprise. But so I think as enterprise envisions its workplace of tomorrow, what of the virtual remote will remain?
And to your point, Colleen, the challenge I think will be whether a return, not to normal, because normal is in our tomorrow but to what was inhibits that key variable of portability. And so, how can we then establish the business proposition that remote matters in alignment with the portability requirements of milspouses broadly speaking. And I think that is twofold, that is a cultural hiring issue, and that's also broadly speaking, a systemic issue, and as we've chatted about, Joan, perhaps at the state level as well.
OK. Jim, do you have a thought on this topic?
Yeah, absolutely. COVID impacted a lot of things, including I think disproportionately a lot of women leaving the workforce. So from our perspective, a year ago, exactly a year ago, we as an organization of 30,000 employees had to figure out how to become remote. And I know from a couple of comments from our training organization, we had over the course of a weekend transition from an in-classroom live training to remote.
So after about four months of that, it was the commentary on well, if we're training remotely, we're working remotely, and if we're having difficulty in some areas recruiting, because again, some folks have left the workforce, how do we solve the business problem? And the suggestion was let's look at military spouses. And whatever our number is, 600,000 active duty, a million plus when you add the guard and reserve, if you've got a million people and 50% of them are either unemployed or underemployed, you're solving a business problem by opening up to the ranks of military spouses. So it's absolutely impacted us, but I think from a very positive with this audience.
Great. So Matt, you mentioned states or the federal government, what are those public policy solutions out there? Have you seen any in states? Are they doing anything innovative that can be applied to other states?
Yeah, I appreciate that. I think that's that intersection of incentive and policy and systemic barriers. And if I could take a moment and sort of cascade from the federal/DOD to the state level, I think there's an incentive on the table that we need to discuss. Incentives matter certainly to big enterprise but as well to the economic engine, I know we have some insurance agents on the call today, and you know the economic engine of our small and mid-cap mom and pops.
And so, one of the policy levers I think, Joan, we can pull is looking into and acting on the work opportunity tax credit, which as many of you know is that federal tax credit available to hiring individuals from certain targeted groups who have consistently faced challenges to employment. Milspouses are not a targeted group. That's an opportunity at the federal level. Moving into DOD, I think, again, very quickly, one of the really crucial needs that coexist alongside that of the careers, of course, childcare.
The military by definition is working to middle class. And in doing so, I just would offer something for us to contemplate as a policy enabler is making childcare more affordable by using pretax dollars, using the dependent care FSA-type structures. And I don't know if NMFA on this call but as of my last look in February of this year, the only federal employees who do not have access to pretax dollars for a dependent care FSA or active duty service members, which certainly impacts their family. That seems like a federal lever we can pull.
But to your point about states, I think there's a good quote from an Atlantic article, which is something about, no matter their gender, nearly 35% of milspouses who work, Colleen, we would love to hear your thoughts, require professional licenses to maintain their status. Lawyers, teachers, doctors, they don't often transfer across state lines, and when they do, it can be very clunky. And so, to answer your question at the state level, one that always comes to mind, Joan, is as we have national guideposts that have to be enacted by states, I think it was 2018, Utah passed Senate Bill 227, which is again, a state solution to a national problem.
It removed licensing requirements, essentially meaning a milspouse who worked in health care, specifically, I think registered nurses and I know, Jim, you mentioned you have about 600 within the Travelers enterprise I believe, they were immediately employable upon entry into the state. And so, to me, how do we scope and scale that to at least nationally or at the very least, to some of the states which skew higher in our mil populations. And that to me feels like small bites of the big opportunity.
Great, OK. Lots of questions coming in from the audience. So thank you for those, we're going to go right to them now. So this comes in from Betsy Ingram, and we have several like this, several same questions. And maybe this is for you Colleen. What is the best way to reach those spouses to talk about hiring? Are there organizations that many spouses sign up for in these job searches?
Like does the Pentagon have or any of the military installations, do they have some database out there where military spouses can go and sign up and say, I'm a nurse or I'm a accountant, and I'm looking for a job? Are there websites that you can suggest? Or, of course, your organization, Colleen, does do this as well, right?
Absolutely. So yes, I think ACP is happy to help to try to be that connecting piece, but I think more broadly, and Jim mentioned this and I did earlier too, but the Military Spouse Employment Partnership is run by the DOD so it's called MSEP typically, and that to me would be the best bet here because you have on that website milspouses posting their resumes, who are looking for employment, you have a consortium of hundreds of partner companies. So there is a little bit of legwork required by the company just to show its commitment that they have a demonstrated commitment to trying to hire military spouses.
So a little bit of an onboarding process but that's a good thing because it shows that the companies are taking this seriously. So that's a great way to be able to identify milspouses to potentially hire. I think reaching out to installations directly. Let's say you have a headquarters or in a site near an installation even within 30 miles or so, there's going to be spouses there who are really looking to make those connections. So I think to the extent that the employers can try to connect with installations directly to make this process easier, that can always be helpful to the process too.
All right, Jim, did you have a thought on this one? You're on mute though, Jim.
Yeah, we're coming, thank you. Yeah, MSEP is fabulous.
Can you tell us what MSEP is?
It's Military Spouse Employment Partnership as Colleen had mentioned. So here's a practical example. We post our positions, we get our positions amplified. I reach out every Friday to all of our new military spouses. I welcome them, I identify who I am, I let them know that they're a part of a broader initiative and just to try to create some networking opportunities for them. And I always ask them, how did you find out about us? So my example from South Korea was through Military Spouse Employment Partnership.
But then, there's also the base Facebook groups, and it is an incredibly tight knit organization and had one example of one of our spouses say, well, I got an email from, who got an email from, who got it from this Facebook group, who got it from Fort Bragg, and you start backtracking. So it is just an incredibly supportive group and connect with your base reps. If you're already recruiting military and recruiting veterans, every base has a unit or a group that's working with military spouses. So they're out there.
The supply isn't the problem. The supply is just almost unlimited. It's the demand. What we have to do is look at as from an employer's perspective, where can we be more flexible? Where can we look for reasons to say, yes, rather than reasons to say no? When we interview, we typically look for reasons to say no. And what I would suggest is get beyond the myths, get beyond the reasons to say no, and just figure out why to say yes to military spouses, and you were going to be pleasantly surprised.
OK, great. Another question coming in here, several actually on the same topic. These folks are military spouses and their spouses are getting ready to be transferred to another location, and they're concerned about losing their careers and their jobs. How do they approach that? I assume most organizations know that they're military spouses but suppose they don't know that, how do they approach their organization to say, hey, I want to stay with you, I want to work remotely.
And then, the second question here we got on the same topic is taxes, right? So as all of us started working remotely, the question of working across state lines and where you're sitting doing the job versus where the company headquarters potentially is. So I don't know who wants to take that question but how do you approach the HR Department to say I love my job, but I really need to move with my husband or my wife? And how to give them advice.
Hey, from my perspective, just be honest, tell your employer. And if they're supportive, they're going to say, yes, they're going to figure out a solution for you. If not, I think it's very telling.
OK. Matt, do you have a thought there?
I was just going to offer a comment on sort of the if you're working remote now, the proof is there and confirm that if you're working remote now, what changes with your change of your PCS move anyway? The clarity of your employment has already been realized during COVID. And so, using that as a justification for onward employment I think would be important. I wanted to share one, I think there was a comment on some of the barriers at the state level, and I think there was the comment on paying taxes as a remote employee where the corporate flagpole wasn't.
I was just going to offer as Colleen, as you mentioned, sort of how do we move on within this virtual tomorrow, perhaps this remote tomorrow? There are compelling pieces of evidence and compelling examples about how states in conjunction as collaborative have broken down those both regulatory financial tax and operational barriers to delivering services across state lines. I would just ask people to point themselves to something called psypact, p-s-y-p-a-c-t, which forced psychologists, anybody licensed as a psychologist in one of those 15 states allows you to deliver care via telemental health across state lines.
And I just wanted to make sure I mention that before we concluded today because there are very compelling examples of collaborators at the state level that can break down some of those barriers that were alluded to in these questions. Thanks.
Great. And we had another question here from Jim Vicenter for has Travelers created a military spouse or affinity group programs for veterans? We certainly have a military and veterans and allies diversity network at Travelers. I think we have more than 3,000 people here. I had the privilege of serving as the executive sponsor over the last couple of years. So if you're on this call and you don't know about the Travelers Affinity Group, please do reach out and join us. There's a lot of activity going around. And with Jim as the leader of our recruitment efforts, there's a lot of opportunities here for both military spouses and for veterans.
So I'm going to turn back just for maybe the last closing comments here, we're at the top of the hour soon. And I have one more closer for all of you to talk about our upcoming programs. But in that, any final thoughts from the Bush Center in Texas?
Text, Wednesdays with Woodward, A Webinar Series, Learn more about today's partners, George W. Bush Institute, www.bushcenter.org, American Corporate Partners, www.acp.usa.org, Institute for Veterans & Military Families, www.ivfm.syracuse.edu, Travelers, www.careers.travelers.com/military, travelersinstitute.org.
Again, truly honored to be here and as so much attention, focus, and resources been devoted to military veteran and the service members. I'm just glad that so much attention and focus is being paid on this. As you mentioned, Jim, unlimited talent pool of milspouses. So happy to be a part of it and honored to be here, Joan, Thanks for having us.
Great. And Colleen.
Sure. Thanks again for having me. I think an event like this is really important because it shows that Travelers is not just talking the talk, so to speak, you're walking the walk. And that's what companies who are wanting to hire military spouses really need to do is to try to make it a priority and get themselves out there so that spouses can find you. So this is great, and I really appreciate being here.
All right, and Jim. Thank you, Colleen.
Yeah, this is a joint maneuver. So as demonstrated today, we've got the Bush Museum, we've got ACP, we've got IVMF. Jim from Prudential - Prudential is incredibly supportive. If you start spidering out ACP with 95 partner corporations, let's expand the joint maneuver here and let's just try to tackle the problem.
Terrific. Well, again, thank you all. I want to share some information on our upcoming webinars and some of our fantastic speakers. Just like today's program, we have additional speakers coming up over the next few months. But again, thank you to Colleen and Matt and Jim, for your tremendous work in this area, helping to recruit military spouses. I know we're making a difference out there.
OK, folks. So next up, we're going to have a webinar on March 31st. The Art and Science Behind Behavioral Change, and this is kicking off our Distracted Driving awareness Month all of April. We're going to bring you amazing speakers to talk about how we're going to change behavior around distracted driving. April 14th, we have Dr. Ashish Jha from Brown University. You may have seen him on a number of cable and television engagements talking about vaccines and what to expect for hopeful spring.
Upcoming Webinars, March 31, The Art and Science of Behavior Change, April 14, A Hopeful Spring, Vaccine Successes and Outlook, April 28, Future Ready, Trends in Personal Insurance Distribution, May 5, Behind the Scenes at the Travelers Championship, May 12, Small Business, Big Opportunity, May 19, The Data-Driven Enterprise, Transforming Business in the Digital Age, June 9, A Bright Future, Tackling a Global Pandemic, travelersinstitute.org
And then, we're going to have Lori Tiedemann from Travelers on April 28th to talk about trends in personal lines insurance distribution. Fascinating discussion with her about Future Ready. May 5th, we have the tournament director of the Travelers Championship (registered trademark) golf event. Nathan Grube will be with us alongside Andy Bessette of Travelers, who runs our golf tournament and the Travelers Championship. They're going to give us a sneak peek behind all the pros coming into Cromwell, Connecticut, end of June.
May 12th, we have a small business, big opportunity. Lots of strategies to run your small business, to get adequate support in the insurance marketplace if you're a small business owner, how to help sell insurance to small businesses, understanding their needs during COVID, et cetera. So any of those webinars, please go ahead to our registration site at travelersinstitute.org and sign up. Our registration is available now. It's free and open to the public. We encourage you to share any of our invitations for any of our webinars with your networks as well.
Thank you all for joining us today. It was a terrific program, amazing speakers, and everyone has their heart and their minds in the right place with military spouses. So go out there and hire one, let your man know if you're interested in being hired at Travelers if you're a military spouse listening to us today. So be safe my friends, wear your masks, and we're all going to get through this together. Thank you again for joining us.
Military Spouses and the Workplace
Speakers shared a wealth of information about military spouses as potential hires. McMahon, who leads military outreach and hiring at Travelers, cited Syracuse University’s Institute for Veteran and Military Families on the business case for hiring military spouses, which says military spouses are:
- Resilient – They manage challenges including family separations and frequent relocation.
- Entrepreneurial – Many have been self-employed or have operated their own businesses.
- Resourceful – They use the resources available to them to create innovative solutions.
- Diverse – They represent a larger proportion of ethnic/racial minorities than civilian populations.
- Adaptable – They live with constant uncertainty.
- Educated – Many have some college education or higher.
- Team Oriented – They often rely on each other for social support.
- Civically Engaged – They have high levels of volunteerism.
- Socially Aware – They often interact with people from different cultures and backgrounds.
Colonel Amidon of the Bush Institute revealed that despite these positive qualities, the unemployment rate for military spouses is typically three times that of the standard national average. This dynamic is driven by a range of barriers, such as frequent relocations, cross-state licensing hurdles and limited job portability, all of which can result in employment gaps or untraditional career paths. Almost 50% of active duty military members have discussed leaving service altogether because of limited career opportunities for their spouses, he said.
Deere, who leads American Corporate Partners (ACP) and works to help ease the transition from military to civilian life, described her own experience with underemployment as a military spouse. After getting married and leaving her publishing job in New York City, she moved with her husband to Fort Riley, Kansas.
“I didn’t know a single person, and I had to reinvent myself,” she said, sharing that she started out working three part-time jobs and making $7 an hour, even though she had a master’s degree. “There was definitely a mismatch between my career goals and what was available in that local area.”
Colonel Amidon underscored how important it is for the nation to prioritize and support military spouse employment. “It is the family that serves, bears the hardship of deployment and faces the challenge of transition together,” he said. “The old axiom being, ‘We recruit the service member, but we retain the family.’”
The panel offered practical advice for employers hiring military spouses and for spouses seeking employment:
- Join the U.S. Department of Defense’s Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP). Deere recommended that employers and military spouses use the DoD’s MSEP program, which connects military spouses with hundreds of employers committed to recruiting, hiring, promoting and retaining military spouses. “We always recommend that companies and job seekers start here,” she said.
- Reach out to local military installations. Deere encouraged employers to reach out to military installations within 30 miles of their headquarters. “There will be spouses there who are looking to make those connections,” she said. McMahon also suggested posting opportunities in local military family Facebook groups, noting recent hires who discovered opportunities this way.
- Offer job portability. The panel agreed that the increase in remote work during the pandemic has helped level the playing field for military spouses. “We're hearing from spouses that remote work has helped them retain jobs they otherwise would have lost,” said Deere. McMahon shared that Travelers recently hired a military spouse in South Korea. “Remote positions absolutely increase the applicant pool and give us a competitive advantage,” he said.
- Become a mentor or mentee. ACP provides yearlong programs for veterans and military spouses and matches them with mentors from more than 100 Fortune 500 companies. Mentors provide real-time advice and insights about industries and career paths.
- View ACP’s list of member companies. Deere encouraged military spouses who are seeking employment to check ACP’s member companies, listed on their website. These are organizations “that have already raised their hand and said, ‘We're looking for veterans and military spouses,’” she added.
- Consider a career in insurance. McMahon noted that a career in insurance might not be something military families have considered before. “I always tell people, ‘Don't think of us as an insurance company; think of us as a risk management company,’” he said. “In the military, everyone is trained to recognize, avoid and mitigate risk – it's just a natural connection.”
- Be open-minded. Panelists discussed how easy it is for hiring managers to see untraditional career paths and quickly dismiss a resume. McMahon advised employers to keep an open mind when evaluating candidates: “Get beyond the myths, figure out why to say yes to military spouses and you are going to be pleasantly surprised.”
To learn more about military hiring at Travelers, visit Careers.Travelers.com/Military/.
Presented by the Travelers Institute, American Corporate Partners, the George W. Bush Institute and the Institute for Veterans & Military Families