‘We Need More Companies’: Hiring Our Heroes Encourages More Employers to Build Career Pathways for Military Spouses

Business leaders talking at a networking reception
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Hiring Our Heroes

While the national unemployment rate sits at a 50-year low, Hiring Our Heroes leaders want employers to know military spouse unemployment remains at 21%, which is alarmingly high for a talent pool of highly motivated and highly educated individuals.

To address the causes to military spouse employment inequities, Hiring Our Heroes hosted the 7th Annual Military Spouse Employment Summit. Under the summit’s theme of “Communities, Partners, and Progress,” employers and stakeholders demonstrated the progressive impact communities around the country can have on the professional advancement of military spouses.

They also encouraged employers who aren’t currently involved in military spouse recruitment and retention programs to join the collective mission to support America’s military families.  

“The truth is we need more companies to come alongside us,” said Hiring Our Heroes Executive Director Elizabeth O’Brien. “Our success depends on the collective efforts of everybody.”

Elizabeth O'Brien speaks at summit
Hiring Our Heroes Executive Director Elizabeth O’Brien speaks to audience members at the 7th Annual Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse Employment Summit. (Photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick / © U.S. Chamber of Commerce)

In addition to sharing best practices, summit panelists outlined:

We Want Military Spouses to Work for Us

USAA Chief Diversity and Sustainability Officer Tara Leweling explained the connection between national security and military spouse employment.

“We know the financial health of military families is deeply connected to national security, and we know military spouse unemployment and underemployment deeply affect the financial condition of military families,” she said. “As we think about how we can best serve our country – no matter where we sit – military spouse employment must be top of mind every day.”

“As we think about how we can best serve our country – no matter where we sit – military spouse employment must be top of mind every day.”

Tara Leweling, Chief Diversity and Sustainability Officer, USAA

“Corporate culture is an important component for employers working to create a recruitment pipeline of highly qualified military spouses,” said Jamie Gayton, Executive Vice President of Member Relations & Global Fixed Assets at PenFed Credit Union.

“We know there are deployments. We know there are PCS moves. To be fully supportive [of the military spouse community], you need to bring folks in to stay with you for the long term,” Gayton said. “It starts with culture. [PenFed] created a culture that says, ‘We want military spouses to come work for us.’”

To help employers of all sizes take steps toward creating a workplace culture for hiring military spouses, Hiring Our Heroes created the following discussion questions. These questions may help your company’s veteran and military employee resource groups (ERG) and HR department discuss opportunities to strengthen national security by creating career pathways for military spouse employment at your organization.  

10 Discussion Questions for Military Spouse Hiring, Retention, and Community Support at Your Organization

  1. Which programs or events have led to the successful hiring of military spouses at our company? 
  2. What programs provide career pathways for military spouses at our company?
  3. Which of our company’s veteran initiatives should be expanded to meet the unique needs of military spouses?
  4. How do military spouses fit into our company’s diversified hiring effort?
  5. Employer branding is vital, especially in the military spouse community. How does our company ensure its brand is inclusive to military spouses? 
  6. How can we create a welcoming environment for military spouses at our organization?
  7. Which internal strategies create and support career progression for military spouses? What is our process for retaining a military spouse employee, if they are required to relocate to a new location with the military?
  8. How does our organization collaborate with nonprofits like Hiring Our Heroes to scale our military spouse hiring efforts?
  9. How can our company leverage MSCAP?
  10. What strategic partnerships may benefit our military spouse hiring program?

As Hiring Our Heroes reflects on the 2023 summit, we look forward to working on solutions with industry leaders, corporate America, and government agencies.

“By expanding our ecosystem and ensuring the contributions of military spouses are recognized and valued, we can drive real progress,” O’Brien said.

Watch the Military Spouse Employment Summit for more ideas on how your organization can help to lower the national military spouse unemployment rate.

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