Out of the shadow of war comes sincere dedication

When Stephanie Workman was young, she became fascinated with a picture of her father in his dress blues.

That one picture, proudly displayed in her grandmother’s home, helped spur Workman’s idealistic impression of her father’s time in the United States Air Force. Dashing in those blues, Steve Hammer became a hero to her. Even though he wouldn’t share many details from the time he served, she knew of his bravery and devotion to country.

After her grandmother passed away years later, the first thing Workman asked for was the picture. But by then she held a more realistic view of the experience her father encountered.

She knew he was a Vietnam War veteran. She also knew he flew over Khe Sanh, considered one of the longest and toughest battles of the war. And she knew he struggled with transition back home after the war ended.

That photo still meant a lot to her, just in a different way.

It no longer represented an idealistic view of her father’s time in the service. Rather it served as inspiration to change veterans’ lives for the better through advocacy.

And it is the primary reason she took a new job at Carle as a Talent Development specialist. She focuses on military and veteran employees.

“Throughout my life, Dad struggled to find sense in some of the problems he experienced,” Workman said. “But I believe if veterans can find stability, many of the qualities they exhibit are exactly what we want an employee to be.

“I never served, but I’ve definitely lived it by extension. Because of that, I know Carle can help.”

Workman sought out Carle President and CEO Dr. Jim Leonard after he spoke to employees in March 2015. While working toward better communications with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, he asked if anyone could help.

“Stephanie stood out on this topic, because after she approached me she also followed through,” Dr. Leonard said. “She took accountability for that idea and actively pursued it. By doing so, she proved that this effort meant something special to her.”

He saw that job qualities emphasized at Carle naturally connected with abilities many veterans pick up while in service.

Dr. Leonard, Workman and Carle Human Resources decided to focus on better veteran recruitment, retention and outreach.

“I researched many of the top companies across the country on how they engage with veterans,” Workman said.

Much of her initial recruiting research focused on companies like Boeing. Its use of skill translators helps convert military occupational codes to pair veterans with the best job match in the civilian world.

Workman then developed Carle’s own skills translator.

Meanwhile, the difficulty with retention, Workman said, starts right away. Research showed most veterans leave their first position within one year after returning from active duty.

But companies like Disney and Amazon formed military programs to support veterans transitioning into new jobs. Workman then took lessons from that and thought about how to apply it at Carle.

She concluded there isn't enough support locally for veterans. To better meet their needs, Carle could help veterans communicate with the VA and other resources to address problems they encounter.

“I believe this can serve as a basis for recruiting veterans into longstanding careers at Carle,” Workman said. “We’re a good fit, because at the root of what veterans want is to serve others, and that is what Carle focuses on, too.”

Dr. Leonard and Carle leaders, some veterans themselves, strongly believe in helping members of the military and they have committed Carle to that task. Dr. Leonard signed the Employers Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) statement on Veterans Day.

While Workman didn’t serve in the military, it’s clear she found a way to serve.

Now Workman's efforts connect her with her father. Recently, Steve Hammer told her he is proud of the strides she makes daily for veterans.

“I just want to honor the veterans in my life, and every veteran, by pouring my attention and effort into helping,” Workman said.