The Avery Dennison Veterans Employee Resource Group (VERG), launched in 2019, is one of our company’s six current ERGs. Established by employees for employees, VERG’s mission is to provide Veterans and active duty and reserve military personnel with a way to connect in the workplace. There are four primary pillars to the group’s mission, including talent acquisition/retention, recognition, education and employee support. The group aims to build relationships and provide volunteer opportunities with veterans organizations in the communities where we operate.
We spoke to Eric Bildstein, R&D director, Label and Graphic Materials North America, and leader of VERG, to understand the value the group brings to the company and our employees.
Why is the Veterans Employee Resource Group (VERG) important to you, personally?
I find that VERG aligns with all of our employee resource groups, with the important goal to create an inclusive environment for our employees. When I think about the various groups Avery Dennison’s ERGs represent, there are many unconscious biases, incorrect perceptions and misinformation that need to be dispelled. For me, this group provides an important way for our employees to understand and surface what Veterans are dealing with so we can collectively correct certain behaviors and to help educate and promote courageous conversations.
What key topics and activities do the members of this employee resource group discuss and advocate for?
If you look at our four key initiatives - talent acquisition/retention, recognition, education and employee support - they all directly tie into what we mainly discuss and advocate. Many times, Veterans have skills that might not translate on paper into industry-specific skills, but if you really understand a military background, there are many attributes that absolutely bring significant benefit into a career at Avery Dennison. This is where we are working as a team to help with a different approach to talent acquisition into our organization.
Common misconceptions about the military community make education a priority focus for VERG. Too many times, we may hear comments or questions in the workplace from folks who are trying to relate with good intentions but misunderstood our experiences. Our goal is to advocate for a more constructive and fresh perspective when we as a community think about Veterans.
Last but not least - recognition. We want to recognize our Veterans respectfully and professionally in a manner that feels genuine and thoughtful. We remember our Veterans from all branches of the United States military and honor the men and women who have served and who continue to serve our country everyday.
How does VERG help further Avery Dennison’s values of diversity and inclusion?
In general, people think about Veterans on Memorial Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day. We certainly appreciate that, but we need to start appreciating what else Veterans bring to the table besides their contributions to the defense of our country. Many organizations struggle to understand how to credit the experience the military brings and how it can improve our organization. We have a great opportunity to improve our concept of diversity and inclusion, thought process, leadership profiles, and the soft behavioral skills our military Veterans bring that we may not fully leverage. In the end, we as Veterans were in many unique situations where we learned to lean on each other no matter background, creed, race or religion. As a group, we can help exemplify what that means to our organization and be a fantastic example of what it means to be diverse and inclusive.
What is the main goal for VERG in 2021?
We are still in the planning phases for 2021, but I do know that one of our main focus areas is how to engage our manufacturing employees and how we can support more employees across the entire organization. We have a pilot we are working on with our Mill Hall, Pennsylvania, site and excited to learn and grow together to better understand how we can support our amazing operations teams and all of the Veterans that work at those sites. As with anything, there are unknowns, but I’m looking forward to diving in together.