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New online training helps veterans reintegrate into workforce

OHSU program teaches supervisors specific behaviors to support, retain returning veterans
two men in fatigues, seen from the back, with leslie hammer facing the camera and smiling up at the men
Leslie Hammer, Ph.D., oversaw the development of a training program teaching supervisors specific behaviors to help retain workers who are veterans or serve in the reserves. (OHSU)

The 200,000 post-9/11 veterans who join the workforce every year bring unique skills and needs. Government incentives encourage employers to hire these veterans, but there are few programs that support veterans once they are on the job.

OHSU researchers have developed a new online training program that teaches supervisors specific behaviors to help them retain their workers who are veterans or serve as military reservists.

Leslie Hammer Ph.D. (2018)
Leslie Hammer, Ph.D.

“Veterans are often told they need to adapt when they join the civilian working world, and their new employers don’t always fully take advantage of the unique skills they gained while serving in the military,” said Leslie Hammer, Ph.D., a professor in the OHSU Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences who oversaw the training’s development. “This training takes a different approach by helping civilian employers embrace and support their veteran workers.”

The free, online Veteran Supportive Supervisor Training takes about 1.5 hours to complete. It includes demographic and cultural information about how the military has changed in the last 20 years, and explains federal laws that protect veterans. Among the behaviors taught in training are:

  • A willingness to listen to challenges juggling work and military service
  • Taking time to learn about an employee’s military service
  • Providing flexibility in the workplace so service members can attend medical appointments or fulfill their National Guard or Reserve duty

Previous research by Hammer, who is an occupational health psychologist and has studied supportive supervision of workers for two decades, has shown such behaviors can improve employee health and well-being. They are linked to higher job satisfaction, less turnover and reduced conflict between work and family duties.

“It’s critical for employers to understand the unique expectations and challenges these veterans face, especially those who still serve in the National Guard or Reserves. These men and women report for duty at least one weekend a month, and they have to balance this service with their job and family lives,” said Charles “Buddy” Byrd, M.P.A., a retired Air Force Reserve chief master sergeant who now works for the U.S. Forest Service in Portland and also serves on the training project’s advisory board.

Over 500 supervisors from a wide range of industries at 42 Oregon companies and agencies completed the training. Nearly 90 percent said they would recommend it to co-workers.

The training can be added to an employer’s training offerings and onboarding process for new supervisors. It also offers behavior tracking exercises that help supervisors practice what they’ve learned.

This training was developed in collaboration with Portland State University and the VA Portland Health Care System as part of the Study for Employment Retention of Veterans, which was funded by the U.S. Department of Defense through grant W81XWH-13-2-0020.

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