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Designed to increase support and retention of Veteran employees in the civilian workplace.

The Study for Employment Retention of Veterans (SERVe) was funded by the Department of Defense to develop and evaluate the effects of the Veteran Supportive Supervisor Training (VSST). The research project ran from 2013 to 2018 was designed to make a positive difference in the lives of Oregon Veterans and current service members by improving their experiences in their civilian workplaces.

This study was a product of the joint efforts of researchers at Portland State University, Oregon Health & Science University, and the Portland VA Medical Center. As such, we have combined decades of experience and insight into effective training programs. For this specific population of interest, the training we developed focuses on ways in which supervisors at work can positively impact the lives of the Veterans and service members they employ.

Supervisors in 42 organizations across the state were trained to understand the inherent strengths that employees with military experience possess, recognize some of the unique challenges that Veterans and service members face when transitioning to the civilian sector, and to adopt practices that support Veterans' and service members' family lives and performance at work, employment retention, health and well-being.


Focus groups with Veterans and service members 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 service member's transition back to work. 

SERVe Project

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.


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.



“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.”

Study participant

“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. “

Study participant

“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.”

Study participant

"I think [the training] is great...I would like to provide this to our supervisors to take. I think it benefits all employees, but of course, in particular our Veteran employees"

Julie Caron,

Associate Vice President, Global Diversity & Inclusion, Portland State University

Principal Investigator 

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. 

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