“Military spouses serve this nation too,” said Bryan K. Stephens, President and CEO of the Hampton Roads Chamber. Stephens delivered the keynote address at the Hiring our Heroes event sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and held at Tidewater Community College, Virginia Beach on Wednesday, February 07, 2018. The program which featured various panels centered on the theme of, “A Call to Action: Successfully Navigating the Military Spouse Employment Landscape,” was attended by employers, business leaders and members of the community.
Stephens served in the Army himself, but was also the son of a service member and raised by a military spouse. He shared firsthand stories of his upbringing in a military family and referred to the military spouses as “combat multipliers. They directly enhance the probability of successful mission accomplishment.” So why are they overlooked by employers? Stephens has worked to change that.
Drawing on his post military experience as President and CEO of Kalmar, LLC in San Antonio, TX he discussed his philosophy on talent acquisition. He asked the human resource manager for statistics what percentage of the staff was military affiliated and the answer was not readily available. After company analysis, it was found that only 6% of the staff were veterans. To Stephens, this posed a problem, especially in an area with a military concentration. Over the course of the next 18 months he more than doubled that number which contributed to more than doubling the company revenue and increasing efficiency and effectiveness. Toward the end of his tenure there, he thought about military spouses upholding the same core values and skill set as their military affiliated counterparts.
In his time at the helm of the Hampton Roads Chamber he has emphasized the value and contributions of hiring military spouses to the business leaders of this region. Stephens presented an unarguable case for hiring a military spouse, made up of 20 points that any hiring manager would be thrilled to see on a resume. He highlighted just a few of the attributes. “I can make a definitive business case for what makes a military spouse an asset. Military spouses are the unsung heroes that keep families together, are experts in logistics, multitasking, managing finances and making budgets work, they possess diverse talents and are extremely loyal,” Stephens said.
He already had an argument to counter anyone who may believe military spouses might hinder an organization due to frequent change in duty station assignments. Again, in his experience at Kalmar, when hiring military spouses he asked two things of them beyond working hard and making the organization the best that it could be. He asked them to be upfront if the family had orders to move and to “go find your replacement in the military spouse network.” What better resource could one have, than a community built on the traits that make the military spouse an ideal candidate?
Stephens noted a common thread amongst his conversations with Hampton Roads business leaders. They were all facing the challenge of talent acquisition. In a region as wealthy in military spouses, transitioning service members, and veterans as Hampton Roads, there must be a solution. These ideas began to be fleshed out when he partnered with Shawn Avery of Opportunity, Inc.’s Workforce Development Board and Fleet and Family Support Centers Mid-Atlantic, amongst others to provide a conduit for our area transitioning military and military spouses. Stephens introduced Shawn Avery to the audience. “I am proud to announce Shawn got the ball rolling for a one-stop shop for all military spouses in the Hampton Roads Veterans Employment Center,” Stephens said.
As Avery took the floor he indicated the center is now open. “We want to connect you to the valuable workforce in the area,” Avery said. Stephens closed the address by reiterating the business values a military spouse has. “They handle stress with poise and dignity, grace, determination and compassion. Hiring the veteran and the military spouse is the right thing to do for the right reasons.”
The Veterans Employment Center is located at 861 Glenrock Rd. Ste. 220 in Norfolk. Fittingly located in the military circle area of our region.