A veteran advantage: At Geisinger, offering paid leave to reservists is raising morale and boosting recruiting

Dawn Ouellette Nixon//December 10, 2019

A veteran advantage: At Geisinger, offering paid leave to reservists is raising morale and boosting recruiting

Dawn Ouellette Nixon//December 10, 2019

“One weekend a month. Two weeks a year.”

Chances are you’ve heard that phrase, either in an advertisement for the military reserves, or from an army recruiter in your youth.

That’s the average amount of time a military reservist must serve in active duty each year. And while it may not seem like much, fitting in those weeks and weekends while working a full time job can be stressful.

For the men and women who in the reserves, meeting the demanding needs of both military and civilian jobs is often a tough balancing act.  Concerns over using up paid vacation time in order to serve, or keeping up at work while away, can weigh heavy.

Vincent McKlosky, 33, understands those concerns well. He is a second lieutenant in the Army Reserves and works full time as a systems operations manager in surgery for Geisinger, the central Pennsylvania-based health care network.

Vincent McKlosky, second lieutenant in the army reserves and systems operations manager at Geisinger. – submitted

In recent years, McKlosky and his reservist peers at Geisinger lobbied for a paid military leave benefit, to restore a much-needed work/life balance to their lives. Geisinger, understanding that happy employees are productive employees, listened.

Early this fall, the company implemented a policy that grants 80 hours of paid military leave. No longer will Geisinger’s reservists have to use up vacation time, or take unpaid time off to fulfill their service requirements.

In addition, Geisinger will pay the difference of up to $10,000 dollars a year in salary if employees must take time away from work for active duty military service. The health and life insurance of the employee will also be maintained.

“As conflict is increasing, military training has become more labor intensive,” McKlosky said. “Before the benefit, there was lots of stress and anxiety around having to use your paid time off. Now there is a sense of relief, knowing our employer has our back.”

Christopher Grill, 32, is a former army captain, and the program manager for military and veteran affairs at Geisinger.  He says that as of Sept. 15, 32 Geisinger employees used the paid military benefit.

“It was our employees that brought this up,” Grill said. “They said, ‘Here is a challenge we are facing,’ and we listened to them. But we didn’t just listen. We took action.”

Reaction to the new paid military time benefit has been overwhelmingly positive, he said.

McKlosky said the benefit has restored his work/life balance.

“It’s nice to be able to book family vacations to Ocean City and actually use PTO for its intended purpose,” he said.  “I’m a better employee and a better serviceman for it.”

McKlosky and Grill are strong advocates for veterans in the workplace. Each champion the values that military service can bring to the civilian workforce.

From a young age, both had a desire to be a part of something bigger than themselves.

“I really wanted to give back and serve my community,” said Grill, who graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 2010.

McKlosky felt the same calling. He is the latest in a proud military family to serve. “My father, uncle, brother- all were military,” he said.

Christopher Grill, former army captain, and program manager for military and veteran affairs at Geisinger, says 32 employees have used the paid-leave benefit since mid September. – submitted

McKlosky enlisted in the Navy in 2005. The GI Bill, which provides educational assistance to veterans, paid for his education at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre. Now, he uses his military skills at work.

“We have learned the ability to lead through difficult times,” McKosky said. “Veterans make good employees because they embody the qualities of integrity, a sense of duty and honor in your work. There is also the learned resiliency and every day initiative.”

It is those qualities that Geisinger wants in its employees, leading the company to actively recruit veterans, Grill said.

“Many veterans in the community ask me about Geisinger,” hel said. “Our paid military leave benefit absolutely helps with veteran recruitment.”

The company recently signed a partnership with the Army to guarantee an interview to all veterans who apply for employment.

“The technical skills that they bring with them are of enormous value, as are the soft skills, like leadership, problem solving and the ability to work under pressure,” Grill said. “Reservists come to work after using them all weekend and are able to implement those skills here, in the workplace.”

As an added source of support for veterans, Geisinger created an employee resource group to give veterans and reservists with a way to connect with one another.

For McKlosky, this supportive environment has inspired a high level of company loyalty. The ability to effect change in the workplace isn’t something he takes lightly.

“I was a big advocate for the paid leave policy and the company heard me,” he said. “They have shown a commitment to us, to their veteran employees. Because of that, Geisinger has my commitment for life.”