Kevin Preston, Colonel (Ret.) U.S. Army
Director of Veterans Programs
The Walt Disney Company
Kevin Preston is a retired U.S. Army Colonel with 28 years in the United States Military currently serving as director of veterans initiatives, The Walt Disney Company (No. 38 on the DiversityInc 2016 Top 50 Companies for Diversity list). In this role, he coordinates all veteran activities for all of Disney’s businesses, including the company’s Heroes Work Here initiative, and emphasizes staffing, philanthropy, volunteerism and learning and development.
Q. Why is your company focused on recruiting veterans? Describe your veterans recruitment/outreach initiatives.
A. We are proud of Disney’s heritage as a company that has always supported service men and women. Heroes Work Here is a part of our ongoing commitment to veterans and their families. Through our Heroes Work Here initiative, we have successfully recruited and hired more than 8,000 veterans since the program’s inception in 2012.
The values, directly transferable skills and leadership that veterans learned in the military also can be assets to our teams. For instance, the values of honor, integrity and selfless service fit perfectly into Disney culture. And we know that veterans, regardless of age or rank, have received at least six to nine months of leadership training that makes them great additions to our teams.
Q. Are veterans recruited for leadership positions, if so, have you had success in this area? Describe please.
A. Disney recruits and hires veterans for all levels within the company. We have been very successful in matching a veteran’s experience and leadership to our business needs. Our recruitment teams and hiring leaders have spent time gaining a better understanding of military leadership education and the skills veterans can bring to management positions and, as part of Heroes Work Here, they can now identify and leverage military leadership skills and experiences and match them to business objectives across Disney.
Q. Once veterans are hired, do you have programs in place to retain and develop them? Please describe in detail.
A. Building an inclusive environment for veterans starts long before their first day as an employee at Disney. Leaders at our company have access to courses that help them prepare to lead veterans as employees. As a result, leaders at Disney have an understanding of veterans and their experiences.
All new Disney employees complete an onboarding process that includes an introduction to the history and culture of the company and their business. In addition, veterans have access to development resources that include classes, online courses and diversity resource groups. The company’s resource groups, including groups for veterans, help them build a network with peers and identify mentors and opportunities for professional growth.
Q. What challenge(s) has the company faced in recruiting or retaining veterans and how has it overcome those challenges?
A. We’ve been able to recruit and hire thousands of veterans in the past five years and work with other companies to help them develop their veterans hiring initiatives.
One thing we have learned is that veterans, once hired, often still benefit from additional career development and support. Through our learning and development programs and diversity resource groups, we’ve been able to connect employees who are veterans with the support they need to grow as civilian professionals.
Q. Do you have a veterans resource group? If yes, can you describe how it has helped the company address or meet business objectives?
A. Yes. There is a veterans’ employee resource group that serves three primary locations: Southern California; Orlando, Florida; and Bristol, Connecticut.
Our resource groups, including the ones serving veterans, help bring employees together for support and networking. The groups also serve to connect employees as volunteers with external organizations and provide insights to the company that help us continue to tell relevant and authentic stories.