Saint-Gobain’s Veteran Employee Resource Group Taps Talent

Saint-Gobain’s Veteran Employee Resource Group Taps Talent

Jan. 3, 2019
The goal of the program is to "understand the specific needs of veterans, whether they are current or potential Saint-Gobain employees, to create a better workplace for them and in turn, leverage their unmatched skill-set,” said Terry Farrell of Saint-Gobain.

Today, if you ask anyone in manufacturing what is keeping them up at night, it's their workforce challenge. And it’s not just acquiring talent, but figuring out how to keep their current talent growing.

Taking a page from the operation side of the company which routinely scours processes to find areas to improve productivity, and other metrics, the human resources side of the house is beginning to do the same.

Companies are delving more deeply internally to discover untapped resources of talent. Saint- Gobain, manufacturers of construction and high-performance materials, has found some hidden talent.

Their journey started as they expanded their view of human capital from a strategic perspective. They knew that a diverse workforce including different nationalities and education can offer new ideas and solutions. And to tap into a variety of talent that might be underutilized, they formed Employee Resources Groups. One of those groups is the veterans’ group.

“The Veterans ERG works to understand the specific needs of veterans, whether they are current or potential Saint-Gobain employees, to create a better workplace for them and in turn, leverage their unmatched skill-set,” said Terry Farrell, Saint-Gobain’s NA IP telephony voice services project manager and the chairman of the veterans’ group. “We prioritize everything from developing forms of communication for those without computers to creating better recruiting practices for veterans specifically. Saint-Gobain not only works to honor veterans but also create a space for them to excel in the workplace.”

Creating a Program

The first step was to work through the human resources department to identify who in the company was in a fact a veteran.  Around 350 employees let the company know they were veterans and when asked if they would like to become members of the group 175 responded. But given the company has over 15,000 employees in North American, Farrell decided to expand their search to Canada as well.

One practice the company employed to attract more veterans to the program was to issue “challenge coins”. In the military challenge coins are normally presented by unit commanders in recognition of special achievement by a member of the unit.  It’s a valued identifier and people like to carry them around. This brought in even more members to the group.

The next step was to formalize this group so regions and hubs were created across the company.  Leaders volunteered to create quarterly communication programs to turn the group into an active community.

Once identified and organized one of the goals was to let managers know that they had veterans on their team. “Veterans are known to be excellence problem solvers based on their training,” explained Farrell. “They aren’t afraid to take chances and to improvise solutions when necessary which is a great asset to any company. They also are known for being adaptable to any situation, especially ones that are stressful and therefore make great leaders.”

Recruitment Program

As former military personnel make great leaders, in addition to identifying current employees as veterans, the company also wanted to recruit more to the company. Over the next ten to fifteen, half of the leadership of the company is expected to retire. So, bringing in a group of employees who are natural leaders is essential.

Saint-Gobain recently started sending their talent acquisition team to military hiring fairs and has plans to do more this year. To ensure that they are properly evaluating the talent, they send veterans from the company to sit in on the interviews conducted at the fairs. “A lot of veterans speak military very well but not civilian as well so we help translate their skills sets on resumes,” says Farrell.

Community Outreach

Veterans are also a group that the company supports in its charitable activities. Through the company’s subsidiary CertainTeed’s, there is a national partnership with Homes for Our Troops. Saint -Gobain, contributes building material donations and employee volunteerism to help create specially adapted homes to allow veterans to live a life without limitation.

“Giving back to those who have served is a priority for Saint-Gobain, in and out of the workplace,” says Farrell.  

The relationship between Saint Gobain and veterans is intertwined in many ways, almost circular. The company, which produces bulletproof glass and vests to protect soldiers, actively recruits veterans and also does charitable work to assist veterans in the communities that they operate. At the risk of sound cliché, it’s a win, win, win situation.

About the Author

Adrienne Selko | Senior Editor

Focus: Workforce, Talent 

Follow Me on Twitter: @ASelkoIW

Bio: Adrienne Selko has written about many topics over the 17 years she has been with the publication and currently focuses on workforce development strategies. Previously Adrienne was in corporate communications at a medical manufacturing company as well as a large regional bank. She is the author of Do I Have to Wear Garlic Around My Neck? which made the Cleveland Plain Dealer's best sellers list. She is also a senior editor at Material Handling & Logistics and EHS Today

Editorial mission statement: Manufacturing is the enviable position of creating products, processes and policies that solve the world’s problems. When the industry stepped up to manufacture what was necessary to combat the pandemic, it revealed its true nature. My goal is to showcase the sector’s ability to address a broad range of workforce issues including technology, training, diversity & inclusion, with a goal of enticing future generations to join this amazing sector.

Why I find manufacturing interesting: On my first day working for a company that made medical equipment such as MRIs, I toured the plant floor. On every wall was a photo of a person, mostly children. I asked my supervisor why this was the case and he said that the work we do at this company has saved these people’s lives. “We never forget how important our work is and everyone’s contribution to that.” From that moment on I was hooked on manufacturing.

I have talked with many people in this field who have transformed their own career development to assist others. For example, companies are hiring those with disabilities, those previously incarcerated and other talent pools that have been underutilized. I have talked with leaders who have brought out the best in their workforce, as well as employees doing their best work while doing good for the world. 

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