Friday, May 27, 2011

History of Memorial Day

Memorial Day gives Americans the opportunity to commemorate U.S. soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice while in military service.

Here is a brief history of Memorial Day from the Department of Veterans Affairs:

Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country. The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

The ceremonies centered around the mourning-draped veranda of the Arlington mansion, once the home of Gen. Robert E. Lee. Various Washington officials, including Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, presided over the ceremonies. After speeches, children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home and members of the GAR made their way through the cemetery, strewing flowers on both Union and Confederate graves, reciting prayers and singing hymns.

Local Observances Claim To Be First Local springtime tributes to the Civil War dead already had been held in various places. One of the first occurred in Columbus, Miss., April 25, 1866, when a group of women visited a cemetery to decorate the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen in battle at Shiloh. Nearby were the graves of Union soldiers, neglected because they were the enemy. Disturbed at the sight of the bare graves, the women placed some of their flowers on those graves, as well.

Today, cities in the North and the South claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day in 1866. Both Macon and Columbus, Ga., claim the title, as well as Richmond, Va. The village of Boalsburg, Pa., claims it began there two years earlier. A stone in a Carbondale, Ill., cemetery carries the statement that the first Decoration Day ceremony took place there on April 29, 1866. Carbondale was the wartime home of Gen. Logan. Approximately 25 places have been named in connection with the origin of Memorial Day, many of them in the South where most of the war dead were buried.

Official Birthplace Declared In 1966, Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y., the “birthplace” of Memorial Day. There, a ceremony on May 5, 1866, honored local veterans who had fought in the Civil War. Businesses closed and residents flew flags at half-staff. Supporters of Waterloo’s claim say earlier observances in other places were either informal, not community-wide or one-time events.

By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held on May 30 throughout the nation. State legislatures passed proclamations designating the day, and the Army and Navy adopted regulations for proper observance at their facilities.

It was not until after World War I, however, that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May, as were some other federal holidays.

Some States Have Confederate Observances Many Southern states also have their own days for honoring the Confederate dead. Mississippi celebrates Confederate Memorial Day on the last Monday of April, Alabama on the fourth Monday of April, and Georgia on April 26. North and South Carolina observe it on May 10, Louisiana on June 3 and Tennessee calls that date Confederate Decoration Day. Texas celebrates Confederate Heroes Day January 19 and Virginia calls the last Monday in May Confederate Memorial Day.

Gen. Logan’s order for his posts to decorate graves in 1868 “with the choicest flowers of springtime” urged: “We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. ... Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”

The crowd attending the first Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery was approximately the same size as those that attend today’s observance, about 5,000 people. Then, as now, small American flags were placed on each grave — a tradition followed at many national cemeteries today. In recent years, the custom has grown in many families to decorate the graves of all departed loved ones.

The origins of special services to honor those who die in war can be found in antiquity. The Athenian leader Pericles offered a tribute to the fallen heroes of the Peloponnesian War over 24 centuries ago that could be applied today to the 1.1 million Americans who have died in the nation’s wars: “Not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions, but there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men.”

To ensure the sacrifices of America ’s fallen heroes are never forgotten, in December 2000, the U.S. Congress passed and the president signed into law “The National Moment of Remembrance Act,” P.L. 106-579, creating the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance. The commission’s charter is to “encourage the people of the United States to give something back to their country, which provides them so much freedom and opportunity” by encouraging and coordinating commemorations in the United States of Memorial Day and the National Moment of Remembrance.

The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation. As Moment of Remembrance founder Carmella LaSpada states: “It’s a way we can all help put the memorial back in Memorial Day.”

Hire a Hero would like to encourage all of our readers to pause during The National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to honor those who have died in service to our nation.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Why Junior Military Officers Should be a Part of Your Hiring Plan recently interviewed Brian Henry, Vice President of Officer Recruiting at Orion International, about the current state of the veteran job market. Henry, a former U.S. Marine Corps Major, spent 11 years as an infantry officer before joining Orion as an Account Executive. He then moved through the positions of Recruiter and Operations Manager before being promoted to VP. With upswings in industries such as manufacturing, logistics, energy, and oil and gas, among others, Junior Military Officers (JMOs) are becoming increasingly sought after.

Henry describes the typical JMO with which a recruiting firm like Orion works: “On the officer side, you have a degree, usually a four-year degree, as well as the leadership and management experience that you get out of the military.” This is not to say, however, that these skills are often easily translated to a hiring manager. In fact, Henry says this is one of the biggest challenges transitioning officers face. “A lot of companies are looking at people who have done the exact job before -- with the transitioning military candidate, they may not have done that exact job before, but they'll probably have done something similar, and they'll bring a lot of potential. They already have a lot of well-honed leadership skills, and they'll bring the ability to learn rapidly, assimilate and grow,” explains Henry.

One trend that Henry sees when dealing with hiring managers looking for JMOs as candidates is that a company will ask for specific things in a candidate but end up hiring a veteran who may not fulfill every qualification but rather has a great achievement profile and unlimited potential. Trends like this showcase why JMOs are a hot commodity in the nation’s quickest growing industries and why companies should consider them as a source of talent.

Click here to read the original article.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Seven Factors Affecting Employees Performance

When a supervisor notices a performance problem with an employee, one of the most difficult things to do is to diagnose why the issue is occurring. This is, however, a necessary step in order to effectively communicate with the employee and remedy the problem. There are seven main factors that need to be assessed when analyzing a performance problem.

Any one factor can influence poor performance, as opposed to superior job performance, which requires that a number of circumstances work together in a positive way. The first two of these factors are aptitude and skill. Aptitude refers to a person’s natural ability to perform a task and should not be confused with skill, which is their ability to learn to do a task. If an employee is lacking either aptitude or skill, their performance could suffer.

The next factor is an important one and is the depth of fundamental understanding of the tasks at hand. Effective management means clearly communicating a task, but to do it well, the employee has to understand it. No amount of skill or aptitude can make up for a lack of understanding of the task.

The next three factors have to do with the degree of effort that is expended on the task. First the employee has to choose to expend that energy at all. Then they have to choose how much energy to expend. There are a variety of reasons why someone would not make the effort. Lack or absence of effort is a major cause of poor job performance.

You are not in the clear, however, just because your employee had chosen to expend a lot of effort on a task, as that effort has to be sustainable. The choice to persist with a task is the next factor in job performance. The lack of this factor often leads to incomplete projects and may result from boredom or a lack of skills or aptitude.

The final factor is the most ambiguous and encompasses all outside factors. Job performance can sometimes be beyond the control of the employee and result from the company itself, including managers and co-workers. No matter what the factor, though, these issues should be addressed clearly and quickly in order to avoid a further decline in performance.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Veteran Spotlight: Joel Keels

Orion International is continuing its 20th anniversary celebration this week by featuring another of our very first placements, Joel Keels. Placed with Schneider National Carriers in 1991 by Orion, Keels is a United States Naval Academy graduate who served five years in the Navy Civil Engineer Corps. During his time in the Civil Engineer Corps, he served as the Resident Officer in Charge of Construction (ROICC) at Naval Weapons Station, Yorktown, VA, where he managed over 50 construction contracts with work-in-place totaling over $6.3 million, and as the Engineering Officer for the U.S. Navy Cargo Handling and Port Group (NAVCHAPGRU) in Williamsburg, VA, where he led 45 Construction Battalion (SEABEE) personnel.

When he began preparing for a civilian career in 1991, Keels partnered with Orion and participated in Orion’s interview process in Raleigh, NC. He had multiple interviews with several companies and also participated in an interview-preparation session. Keels accepted an offer from Schneider National Carriers at their Charlotte, NC, Operations Center, a multi-national trucking company, as a result of one of those interviews. Schneider National appealed to Keels because it was a large, successful, and well-respected company that showed a good track record in hiring veterans.

Keels explains that his overall experience in the Navy was great preparation for success in his career. “The leadership training and experience in the Navy is great. The responsibilities that you are given as a Junior Officer in the Navy provide excellent exposure and gives you confidence in future challenges that you encounter in almost any scenario. I wouldn’t trade my experience in the Navy and often recommend it to young people as a way to start their careers,” explains Keels.

Since his initial transition, Keels spent eight years with Schneider, where he advanced to Senior Service Team Leader at their Charlotte, NC, Operations Center. When an opportunity with KCI Technologies Inc., a multi-disciplined engineering firm, arose in 1999 that allowed for more involvement in facilities construction management more closely mirroring his overall experience in the U. S. Navy, Keels made the move.

Twelve years later, Keels is still with KCI Technologies and has progressed through many roles with the company. He started with KCI as a Field Project Manager, in construction management roles, and advanced to Operations Manager in 2003, where he provided oversight of field construction management and inspection personnel. In 2006, Keels was promoted to Vice President and Division Chief of Construction Management/Mid-Atlantic, leading a 50-person division providing construction management services for public, private, military, educational, healthcare, and other clients.

In 2010, KCI executed a corporate re-organization, changing from a regional-based operation to a discipline-based operation, and Keels’ role was adapted to Regional Practice Leader (Mid-Atlantic and Northeast) for Construction Management as part of KCI’s national Construction Management Discipline. “I am very happy working with KCI – we are an employee-owned firm (ESOP), have remained strong in tough economic times (up last year to 83rd largest engineering firm – ‘ENR’ ranking – up from 88th the previous year), and have strong leadership focused on smart strategic growth in the years to come,” says Keels, “My plans are to assist KCI in its continued growth, as part of its consistently-strong Construction Management Discipline and retire from KCI after a rewarding career.”

Keels is now in a position to hire other veterans. He finds that former military personnel that have good experience in construction and contracts administration work well in his company. Keels goes on to explain, “I welcome the opportunity to find good candidates from the Junior Military Officer ranks, and will even admit to having hired a West Pointer! I value the experience and leadership capabilities of JMOs.”

When asked what advice he has for hiring managers interested in hiring veterans, Keels urges them to give it a shot, as they will be pleasantly surprised. “Veterans have gained great discipline, confidence, and experience through their military service. They tend to have strong loyalty to their companies, so they can often be counted on as long-term players in your operation,” says Keels. He also encourages employers to utilize military recruiting services like those offered by Orion.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Improve Your Post Interview Review

One way to avoid making common hiring mistakes is to conduct a post interview meeting with everyone involved in the hiring process. Start by having multiple people interview the job candidates, and then gather everyone together to share their assessment. Here are some steps to take:

1.Share impressions. Allow each interview to share their notes on the candidate. How do everyone’s notes compare? Were they impressed? By sharing, interviewers can verify their reactions.

2.Encourage open and honest commentary. Emphasize that hiring is too important a decision for anyone to hold back honest impressions.

3.Utilize an interview scorecard. Have all interviewers rank the candidates using an interview scorecard. This process forces clear comparisons between candidates.

4.Beware of primacy and recency. As human beings, we have a tendency to remember what comes first and what comes last and forget anything in between. Warn interviewers against this “primacy and recency” dynamic. If an excellent candidate is interviewed somewhere in the middle of the line up, you don’t want their name getting lost in the shuffle.

5.Create a short list. Exclude anyone who doesn’t have the background or qualifications for the position. Then take both those who are highly qualified and those who have the background to do the job, but may not have communicated their accomplishments as effectively. The latter can often become front runners for the position. When you invite candidates for second interviews, keep everyone in the loop, whether they are involved in the second interview or not.

Click here for original article.