Ernst & Young has been making a greater effort this Veterans Day and in recent years to increase its outreach to veterans and hire more members of the military to bring their leadership skills to the firm.

While the hiring has been at different service lines at the firm, much of it has been happening in the Advisory practice, which is the fastest-growing area at the firm. EY is a member of the 100,000 Jobs Mission, an effort spearheaded by JP Morgan Chase committing businesses to hiring more veterans, and EY has hired close to 215 veterans since joining the Mission last year. The firm believes that hiring veterans provides a competitive advantage because of the skills they bring to the table in logistics, operations, performance improvement, security, IT and more, as well as the fact that they are incredibly adaptable.

“The only commonality is they all deliver extremely high performance wherever you put them,” said Monte Babington, a U.S. Army veteran who served in the Afghan War who now works as an advisory manager in EY’s Financial Services Office, and is communications chair of the firm’s Veterans Network. “I benefited early on from this shift in view that a veteran with the leadership qualities that you get through the military process is as valuable as someone with the technical expertise. I came in with nonspecific technical expertise. I wasn’t an accountant or a finance guy per se, but I had this leadership background and the firm took a chance on me. We’ve seen that when we do that, just about everybody is willing to put in the extra time to gain the expertise. When you think about the process in the military, for junior officers, you’re regularly moving from one job to the next or one unit to the next, and everything’s a little bit new. You always have to bring yourself up to speed. So we just found a tremendous adaptability and a desire to succeed in contributing to the success of the firm as a whole. As a result, you can take veterans from all backgrounds, and they will make themselves the best at whatever you ask them to be the best at. That’s been of tremendous value for us.”

EY set up a Veterans Network about three years ago that helps identify veterans in the organization and mentor them. Since Veterans Day 2010, all new hires now fill out a self-identification form where they are asked if they are veterans. The Veterans Network started with about 2,000 veterans who had been identified by the firm, and since the self-identification form was introduced, about 60 to 80 more have been identified.

“Our Veterans Network is probably the most diverse across the firm,” said Joe McHugh, a U.S. Navy veteran and an executive director at EY who is co-leader of the Veterans Network. “As our Veterans Network grew, we were actively recruiting veterans for our different service lines. We have a culture within Ernst & Young where we actively coach and mentor our resources. For the last two years, as we identify and are informed that there is a new veteran hire coming into the firm, we then pair that individual off with a recent veteran hire over the last three to six months to be a veteran peer. They could be matched up by branch of service or their particular service line within the firm. That individual has that additional coaching and mentoring from an individual who has walked in their shoes three, six or nine months ago as that individual transitions into the firm. We’re giving our new veteran hires that additional mentoring and coaching and advisorship so that they integrate well and also see they are not alone in this transition.”

The firm has also established a fellowship program to support the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University, which develops education and employment programs in collaboration with industry, government, nongovernmental organizations and the veteran community, to address the economic and public policy concerns of servicemen and women, and their families. EY is sending some of its professionals to work for IVMF pro bono for multiple months throughout the year to advance work supporting veterans and their families.

Ernst & Young makes an effort to help disabled veterans, including those who are suffering from post-traumatic stress from what they saw on the battlefield. “We are an all-inclusive firm,” said McHugh. “We do not put up boundaries on any special needs that an individual has. All individuals are welcome to join our firm and we make the appropriate accommodations for someone has an injury or post-traumatic stress disorder. We have a number of mechanisms in place to help our employees regardless of their background.”

EY’s Veteran Network gets involved in various philanthropic and community service causes tied to veterans, such as the Travis Manion Run, the Jericho Project and Wreaths Across America, which also provide the firm with opportunities to connect with veterans.

Ernst & Young also encourages the companies it services to hire more vets, demonstrating its positive experiences from its own recruitment of veterans. “It becomes an educational process and we do work with our client colleagues who hire veterans as well,” said McHugh. “We are actively sharing lessons learned with other companies. Veterans don’t want special treatment. They want to feel included in the workforce.”

For more information on EY’s programs for veterans, visit www.EY.com/US/veterans.

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