Researchers from Portland State University, Oregon Health and Science University, and the Portland VA Medical Center with expertise in worker health, organizational psychology, workplace intervention research, and epidemiology, recognize the impact, both positive and negative, that the workplace setting has on worker health and well-being. When taking a look at the difficulties that some Veterans and service members face when returning to the civilian workplace, often it was the workplace itself that posed challenges.
Focus groups with Veterans and Servicemembers revealed many frustrations with their civilian work experiences. These frustrations were echoed among those who were returning to the civilian workplace permanently after active duty and those who continue to work after deployment as a reservist. Learning about these experiences provided motivation to develop a training paradigm focused on supervisor attitudes, behaviors and understanding toward employees with a military background to help ease their Servicemember's transition back to work.
Supervisors who took the training gave positive feedback on the tools and knowledge provided as part of the training:
“The Serve training has been very useful in making sure I not only provide the tools and processes necessary to support our team but I also provide emotional support regarding changes at home and at work. The perspective provided in this training is wonderful.”
“As a Veteran, I think this training was a great refresher and a great resource for managers to utilize when communicating with all employees. Understanding one's audience through effective communication, active listening, making the time for employees and role modeling are key techniques for leader development.”
“I have a team of 25 with 5 Veterans who I have hired. I also am a Veteran and have close knowledge of the great work these folks do for my organization. I am also a retired reserve member who deployed from my organization and found a high degree of support from here. This training has hit on all of the key points I have witnessed and provides a great basis for supporting vets. “
The need for this kind of training is readily apparent. By 2018 more than one million National Guard and Reservists and two million other men and women in the prime of their lives will have served overseas on extended tours for the U.S. armed forces (U.S. Dept of VA, 2007/2011). These critical federal missions often separate mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, and employees vital to our economic recovery from their homes, loved ones, and communities for up to a year or more. Thousands of others in the National Guard, Reserves and Coast Guard will have put their lives on the line responding to domestic and international emergencies such as fires, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, piracy and other natural or man-made disasters. These men and women all serve important roles in the safety of our nation. SERVe represents a first-of-a-kind program aimed at improving the civilian workplace success and family integrity of our invaluable Veterans and reservists.
Dr. Leslie Hammer is an Occupational Health and Industrial/Organizational Psychologist working with a research team from Portland State University and Oregon Health & Science University. She has extensive experience in designing, implementing, and evaluating worksite interventions and supervisor training. Her research focuses on ways in which organizations can help reduce work and family stress and improve positive spillover by facilitating both formal and informal workplace supports. See her lab webpage here.