Affinity Groups for Veterans and Military Service Members
The Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Veterans in the Workplace study gained insight into practices that improve Veteran retention in the workplace. A critical element to workplace retention advocated by study respondents was employer support and development of Veteran and military affinity groups.
This handout describes what affinity groups are, the benefits to having Veteran and military affinity groups, and the practices that could be implemented to make them more effective.
What is an affinity group?
- A group of people having a common interest or goal or acting together for a specific purpose
- Voluntary, employee-driven group that is organized around a shared interest or dimension
- A group that provides support and networking opportunities such as mentoring, community outreach, career development, and cultural awareness activities
- A forum for employees to gather socially and share ideas outside of their particular business units
- Also referred to as Employee Resource Group (ERG), Employee Network Group (ENG), Business Resource Group, or Associate Resource Group
What is the difference between Veteran and military affinity groups?
- Veteran affinity groups include employees who have prior military service
- Military affinity groups include employees active in the National Guard and Reserve
- Military family members could be included in a Veteran or military affinity group, or they could have their own affinity group as needed or desired
What are the benefits of Veteran and military affinity groups?
- They can improve Veteran recruitment efforts by providing a comfort zone for new Veteran hires
- They can increase camaraderie by offering Veterans opportunities to network with each other and find out what’s going on within the organization
- They can provide a resource of knowledge and experience for product/service development and marketing through workplace discussions
- They can help build the company’s external reputation through community involvement in Veteran organizations
- They can increase morale and retention by engaging Veteran employees and providing support, networking, and career development opportunities
What are some promising practices to consider for a Veteran or military affinity group?
- Have a business plan/strategy that could include by-laws, goals, and chair people (membership, outreach, etc.)
- Hold regular meetings to discuss insights, needs, challenges, and successes of members
- Develop a clear form of communicating to the entire group, such as by email list or social media groups
- Establish a form of communicating information about the group throughout the company
- Enlist a sponsor from senior management to represent and support the group
New employee orientation:
- Provide assistance to the new Veteran employee in transitioning to the civilian culture
- Outline Veteran resources and support available within the organization, including steps for seeking assistance
- Provide opportunities for mentorship with seasoned employees who are also Veterans
Career and leadership training:
- Provide career development training
- Help members move and grow within the organization
- Raise members’ visibility within the organization
- Discuss leadership in the civilian workplace
- Provide assistance with Veteran recruiting
- Members attend job fair and networking events to help the organization connect with Veteran candidates
- Act as an internal focus group for the organization, giving valuable insights into diverse marketplaces
- Give advice to human resources and management on improving policies and programs
Mentoring and coaching:
- Assist in providing mentors with military experience to newly hired Veterans, as desired
- Offer training to volunteer mentors within the group
- Facilitate mentor relationships within the group and offer assistance when needed
- Maintain a list of Veteran services within the organization, and the steps to seeking assistance
- Provide information on Veteran services outside the organization
(e.g., Department of Veterans Affairs resources)
- Include resources for spouses and family members
Networking and social activities:
- Maintain a website or social media sites
- Meet regularly for workplace discussions
- Hold social activities (meet-and-greets, family get-togethers)
- Include family members in the activities
- Celebrate holiday remembrances (Veterans Day)
- Contact members on a regular basis
Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University & Corporate Gray. (2013). Veterans in the workplace final report. Washington, D.C.: Department of Veterans Affairs.
Affinity and Networking Groups, Winning with Diversity, by Jason Forsythe, Advertising Supplement to The New York Times, 2004. http://www.nytimes.com/marketing/jobmarket/diversity/affinity.html
Affinity Networks: Building Organizations Stronger than Their Parts - Best Practices from the Network of Executive Women Consumer Products and Retail Industry http://www.newnewsletter.org/bestpractices/newreport3_affinity_0407.pdf
Note: This material was generated by Corporate Gray and The Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University and is based on research conducted under the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ contract VA101-C17232.