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When Drew Ellefson, M.D., interviewed for a neonatology fellowship at ChristianaCare, a three-hospital healthcare system in Delaware, in 2012, he wore his military uniform. “I’m probably one of the only interviewees in the country to show up to a civilian fellowship interview in military gear, but I did it because I was an active duty major and that’s how I presented myself,” says Dr. Ellefson, who served as a brigade surgeon and a pediatrician during his seven years in the United States Army. To his surprise, his interview attire was “not only accepted, but it was applauded,” he says, “so I felt really at home right away starting from that first interview.”
Natalie Torres, ChristianaCare’s director of inclusion and diversity, says the organization is intentional about recruiting and welcoming veterans, who bring “a long list” of skills and talents to the workplace, including exceptional work ethics, adaptability, leadership, a sense of teamwork and an ability to work well under pressure. To support military employees and their families, the organization offers such programs as: a customized concierge service that helps veterans (and their loved ones) navigate medical benefits, housing needs and legal services; an employee resource group (ERG) called Salutes! that brings together military employees and their allies; and celebrations and ceremonies throughout the year—not just on Veterans Day or Memorial Day.
And this year, ChristianaCare’s efforts have helped the organization land the No. 6 spot on Forbes’ list of America’s Best Employers for Veterans.
To create our fourth annual ranking, Forbes partnered with market research firm Statista and surveyed 8,500 veterans (those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, the Reserves or the National Guard) working for companies with more than 1,000 employees. Survey participants were asked if they would recommend their company or organization to friends and family, and to rate their employer on criteria ranging from work atmosphere and salary to veteran-specific training programs and career advancement opportunities. Participants were also asked to evaluate other companies within their respective industries. The responses were then tallied and put into a scoring system—and the 150 companies with the highest scores made our list.
What these employers have in common, though, is a deep commitment to hiring and valuing members of the military. Ricoh, for one, seeks out military talent through career fairs such as Hiring Our Heroes, Recruit Military and Student Veterans of America, says Donna Venable, executive vice president of human resources for Ricoh North America. The company also supports military-related leaves of absence and donates to such organizations as Wounded Warriors, Military Makeover and Wreaths Across America. What’s more, Ricoh prioritizes partnerships with veteran-owned businesses, and, according to Venable, the company grew its spending with veteran suppliers by 30% in 2022.
Such commitment is far from the norm. Historically, interest in and support for U.S. veterans in the workplace has not been a constant—and it’s still not a given. “We do face a lot of obstacles,” says Omari Faulkner, a U.S. Navy reservist, veterans employment champion and president and CEO of Blue Fire Fed, a strategic communications firm. Some of the biggest roadblocks, he explains, are the stereotypes that people believe about veterans, “such as, all military members have PTSD or people who serve in the military are drill sergeants who don’t know how to assimilate into a civilian environment. But these are antiquated misconceptions that cause a serious gap in understanding the skill sets that military service members bring to the table.”
Aaron Kay, Ph.D., a social psychologist and professor of management at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, says such stereotypes do a disservice to both the military members and employers. In one 2019 study Kay co-authored, he and his colleagues found that veterans are often typecast into jobs that are more action-oriented and less focused on feeling emotions—which can pigeonhole them into career paths that may not interest them or make the best use of their talents.
Even when the stereotypes are flattering, they can be detrimental. “Veterans are one of the most uniformly beloved groups in the country,” says Kay, but “people make a lot of assumptions about them—about what’s internal to them, what they care about the most, what they want, how resilient they are and what they can handle—that actually aren’t very helpful.”
Case in point: Kay’s latest research focuses on how the heroization of veterans often causes employers to funnel veterans into a limited set of lower-paying jobs that are associated with selflessness—and may not be the right career fit. One result: veterans are approximately 15% more likely to be underemployed, “meaning veterans with the same qualifications are paid less or are lower rank than people who aren’t veterans within those professions,” says Kay. The irony, he adds, is that “veterans are a very diverse group and their experience in the military ranges tremendously, so to be thought of as having one particular overwhelming interest or skill really reduces them.”
Faulkner notes that many people don’t realize how expansive careers in the military can be. “There are dentists, nurse practitioners, construction engineers, nuclear scientists, culinary specialists and financial management specialists—so while their resumes might look different, veterans can be right for employers of any industry.”
The key for employers is to learn about what military experience can entail. When evaluating a resume, “some employers may not understand what service members do and how their training equates to their professional certifications,” says Falkner. He notes that veterans, in turn, can increase their chances of landing in the right job by learning how to translate their military skills into terms a civilian employer may understand. That way, recruiters don’t have to wonder what it means to lead a battalion or guess about what airmen technicians do.
There are programs for both employers and veterans to bridge these gaps—such as the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) Skillbridge program, which connects service members in their last six months of duty to on-the-job training experiences within companies. Those employers get to work with highly motivated potential employees at no cost while the military pays for their compensation and benefits.
Additionally, the approximately 200,000 people who leave the military each year also have access to the federal Transition Assistance Program (TAP), the Employment Navigator & Partnership Pilot and Off-Base Transition Training workshops. “Some of the training we do is teaching veterans to articulate what they bring to the workforce,” says Eric Asmussen, a U.S. Air Force veteran and national veterans employment manager with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment & Training Service. “Culturally, in the military, it’s all about the team and what the team brings, so it’s a paradigm shift for veterans to turn around and start saying, ‘I.’” But when they do, the employers on our list are working hard to hear them.
To create the list of America’s Best Employers for Veterans 2023, Forbes partnered with market research firm Statista and surveyed 8,500 veterans (those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, the Reserves or the National Guard) working for companies with more than 1,000 employees. Survey participants were asked if they would recommend their company or institution to friends and family, and to rate their employer on criteria ranging from work responsibilities and salary to company image and the presence of support systems for military families. Respondents were also asked to evaluate other companies within their respective industries. The survey’s data points were then tallied and put into a scoring system—and the 150 companies with the highest scores made our list.
As with all Forbes lists, companies pay no fee to participate. For questions about this list, please contact listdesk (at) forbes.com.