When Starbucks and the Schultz Family Foundation hosted a day-long Muster last fall in Seattle, the mission was to create a blueprint to begin to bridge the divide between the military and civilians. The second Muster, being held today (April 14) in Washington, D.C., moves from laying the groundwork to taking action. Muster is an English military term meaning to prepare for inspection before going into battle.
The Muster in the U.S. capital includes some 300 attendees, double the size of the earlier event. Around 100 companies are represented, according to Daniel Pitasky, executive director of the Schultz Family Foundation.
“Last time, we had about 150 people in attendance and one of the suggestions that we heard that resonated was that we need to broaden the conversation,” Pitasky said. “The idea was that each person who came to the last Muster would bring someone new to the conversation.”
“One percent of the American population goes into the military,” Pitasky said. “Only 10 percent of those feel their service is understood. In fact, only a third of the country under 30 knows somebody in the military. That speaks volumes to the challenge we’re up against.”
John Kelly, Starbucks senior vice president, Global Responsibility, Community & Public Policy, said the Muster, which marks the halfway mark in a five-year initiative to hire and honor 10,000 veterans and military spouses by 2018, reflects company chairman and ceo Howard Schultz’s call to reclaim the American Dream with possibility, unity and inclusion.
“We’ve learned that this initiative is more than a pipeline to an incredible talent pool, but an opportunity to build on Starbucks legacy of community service and civic engagement,” Kelly said. “We believe that together, as citizens, we have a higher calling to close the military/civilian cultural divide by joining in service to our communities.”
Three Areas of Emphasis
The three main pillars to the Washington, D.C., muster are fostering job retention for veterans and military families, changing the dialogue around them and harnessing veterans’ strong service ethos.
“We’ve moved beyond just employing veterans and military spouses to figuring out how we can create career paths for them,” said Matt Kress, manager of Veterans and Military Affairs for Starbucks and Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq. “Spending time on active duty, whether it’s four years or 30 years, is a different world than what most people experience. We realized that we had to understand their perspective, their training, their attitudes and the tremendous skill sets they bring to Starbucks. That all goes into successfully retaining a veteran or military spouse.”
Elizabeth Willett, senior program manager for the Schultz Family Foundation and an Iraq War veteran, said an important step in bringing military veterans and the civilian populations closer is creating a campaign that moves beyond popular narratives that lean heavily on the heroism and trauma experienced by post-9/11 veterans.
“If we can make veterans seem more real, then we can have a conversation that moves the dialog,” she said. “That would be a huge win in my book.”
“At this point, recognition for veterans consists of parades and thank-yous,” said Kress. “We’ve been very clear that’s not enough. After everything veterans and military spouses have done for our country, we need to do more. They’re fantastic partners. We want to keep them in the company and we’re finding ways to do that.
Those who’ve served are also uniquely qualified to give back, Kress emphasized.
“Veterans and military spouses have a predisposition to serve, whether they’re still in active duty or they’ve transitioned into the civilian world,” he said. “There’s a two-part benefit for the veteran and military spouse. It allows them to continue serving and have that continued sense of purpose, comradery and mission that they had in the service. There’s a tremendous benefit in harnessing all that training, skill and dedication.”
Less than one-third of Americans know someone serving in the military. The Muster brings together companies with the public, philanthropic and nonprofit sectors to begin to close the military/civilian divide.
The veteran community brings competency, pride, leadership and more to workplaces. Good corporate citizenship means supporting America’s all-volunteer force as it transitions to civilian life.
Service is part of the DNA of military veterans. Team Rubicon brings the skills of military veterans to bear during emergencies at home and abroad.
The Veterans Jobs Mission, which consists of over 200 companies including JP Morgan Chase & Co., is dedicated to connecting transitioning service members with jobs that match their skills. The Mission, which targeted hiring 100,000 veterans by 2020 when it was formed in 2011, has already passed the 300,000 mark and upped its goal to one million jobs.
Starbucks has hired more than 6,500 veterans and military spouses over the past two years toward its goal of employing at least 10,000 by 2018.
About the Schultz Family Foundation
The Schultz Family Foundation, established in 1996 by Howard and Sheri Schultz, creates pathways of opportunity for populations facing barriers to success. The foundation invests in innovative solutions and partnerships that unlock people’s potential, and strengthen our businesses, our communities and our nation. In March 2014, the Schultz Family Foundation launched Onward Veterans, a national initiative that empowers Post-9/11 veterans and their families to successfully transition to civilian life. For more information about the foundation and its work, please visit schultzfamilyfoundation.org.