For veterans with disabilities, these challenges have been exacerbated with trying to navigate the process of securing assistance needed in finding and applying for jobs and reasonable accommodations in the workplace.
Recognizing the potential of tapping wounded warriors' skills for business productivity, Northrop Grumman developed Operation IMPACT. Standing for Injured Military Pursuing Assisted Career Transition, the program seeks to make the transition into the civilian workplace a smooth experience for veterans with disabilities.
In addition to Northrup Grumman, the initiative partners with more than 100 other companies involved in a Network of Champions.
In a recent webinar, Northrop Grumman's Karen Stang detailed the steps of Operation IMPACT that can be utilized by other employers to make hiring veterans with disabilities a more successful experience.
Focus on their skills. Stang said that at Northrop Grumman, once individuals indicate that they meet the eligibility criteria of Operation IMPACT, they receive an orientation of the program, which details what is expected of participants.
After that, the focus shifts to getting them a job, with little concern for the nature of the individuals' disabilities.
"I can tell that 99 percent of the time with the candidates I'm working with, I do not know what their disability is," said Stang, Operation IMPACT's Recruiting & Placement manager. "My job is really to focus on their skill and how I can help them gain employment."
From there, candidates are marketed through several channels.
"I publish a candidate list that goes to all of hiring managers and recruiters," Stang explained. "And our hiring managers and recruiters really do look at these resumes to find matches for job opportunities."
Additionally, Stang follows up by calling hiring managers and recruiters to let them know when an Operation IMPACT candidate applies for their job.
Stang said that this step is especially important given the number of candidates that apply for jobs.
"Our applicant pool now is running close to 200 for every position," she explained. "So, we want to make sure that our Operation IMPACT candidates are looked at for positions that they are well-qualified for."
Finding, hiring candidates. Northrop Grumman uses Operation IMPACT as a recruiting tool, and to make sure that it brings in solid candidates, Stang said the company works to find wounded warriors.
"We do a lot of outreach to the federal government and other veteran services organizations," she explained.
Stang also said that attending career fairs, going on bases, and hosting employment events have been "very, very successful for us."
After the recruiting process is done and the candidate has been hired, the goal becomes making sure that the new employee transitions into the workplace smoothly.
Stang said that this requires matching skills with business needs, something that takes careful work.
"This is probably one of the biggest questions that employers have," she explained, "especially if you aren't familiar with the military and different military occupational skills."
Recognizing that many managers don't have military experience, Northrop Grumman works "really closely with vocational rehab and employment counselors at the VA," Stang said.
From here, Northrop Grumman turns to the reasonable accommodations process, which starts by encouraging employees to self-identify and work with a nurse case manager to identify what will work best.
And because many veterans are likely to say they don't need accommodations when asked, Northrop Grumman's case managers are proactive in making suggestions and trying different options so that employees don't go without needed accommodations.
"The intent is to have everything ready for them on their first day or within their first two weeks of employment," Stang said.
Cultural transition. A new aspect of Operation IMPACT is a focus on the culture shift that is required for an individual making the transition from active combat to the civilian workplace.
Stang reported that Northrop Grumman conducted focus groups last year on this issue and learned that the assimilation into private sector life wasn't always smooth.
"I can honestly say that I probably had more 'ah-ha' moments in these focus groups than I have had in a long time," she said. "By far the assimilation into the corporate culture was the number one issue among all of the veterans that we hired through Operation IMPACT."
By Frank Ferreri
Frank Ferreri, J.D., is the legal editor of
Disability Compliance Bulletin, published by LRP Publications. For more information, visit www.lrp.com.
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January 18, 2013
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