3 Lessons We Learned Building a Veteran-Friendly Culture at Nestlé

Nestlé USA’s Chief People Officer takes a look at spotlights across the U.S. and how the right company culture helps veterans thrive

For those who have served in the military, it can be a challenge finding a civilian workplace which respects and builds upon the skills learned in service. At Nestlé in the U.S. we want to overcome this challenge, fostering an inclusive working culture that allows our veteran employees and their families to thrive long term.

This week, I’m joining fellow business community leaders from companies like Starbucks, CVS Health, Amazon, and Hilton for our Project Opportunity Alliance Symposium in Arlington, Virginia, bringing together many companies and organizations who are at the forefront of hiring and retaining veteran talent.


1. Prioritize transferable skills not only in technical areas, but also in leadership.

Michael Downs, a Maintenance Technician at Nestlé Purina in Denver, served in the Army for 12 years before joining the Purina team. While other companies didn’t take his service into account, the team valued the lessons and skills Michael had learned during his military career, and Michael fit perfectly with the Purina mantra that pets and people are better together. Charlie, Michael’s rescue dog, is the one he turns to when he needs to get something off his chest or go out on an adventure

“Nestlé Purina was one of the few places that recognized that the leadership skills and training I gained in the military made me a great fit, not only for their organization, but in a role with a high level of responsibility.”
— Michael, Maintenance Technician, Denver
Michael and his rescue dog, Charlie

Michael noticed he wasn’t the only veteran working at the facility in Denver. One colleague who served in the National Guard felt supported by his colleagues even when he was actively deployed. “Nestlé Purina routinely checked in on him and even sent him care packages, and he could even maintain all his benefits while deployed.”


2. Empower employees to make an impact and pay it forward.

Arlene Anderson-Vincent, a Michigan-based Natural Resource Manager for Ice Mountain Spring Water at Nestlé Waters North America, is very familiar with military life. Her grandfather, father, and father-in-law all served in the military — and being part of this military family inspired Arlene to offer her service and time to other veterans who need assistance.

Arlene with Mid-Michigan Honor Flight Veterans [Photo: James Swoboda, on behalf of MMHF]

Arlene channels her passion into work with The National Honor Flight Network — a non-profit organization which transports veteran heroes to Washington, D.C. to visit and reflect at their memorials — free of charge. When Arlene became involved with the Mid-Michigan Honor Flight, she immediately knew that Ice Mountain might be able to help. The Ice Mountain team was thrilled to jump in and provide water for the flights and related fundraising events for the non-profit.


3. Don’t lose sight of our bigger goals, and collaborate to get them done.

Active Military Reservist Jessica had only been an ingredient specialist with Nestlé USA for three months when she was deployed to assist with Hurricane Harvey relief — on only two days’ notice!

For anyone, going to a manager you’d only worked with for a matter of months and telling them you’re going to have to leave for an unknown period of time is a nerve-wracking thought. But in Jessica’s case, her manager was immediately very supportive of her deployment. Jessica’s team was able to balance her workload while she was away performing her essential duties for the community in Houston, TX.

Jessica recognized this kind of working behavior — because it reflected her military experience, “The sense of teamwork and not being afraid to break down barriers is really important in the military, and it’s something I’ve tried to do here, too.”


The work of building a positive culture is never done, but cases like Michael, Arlene, and Jessica can show us some of what works and how to build on it. Through prioritizing leadership skills, empowering employees, and driving collaboration, we believe the Nestlé culture can drive success and help all employees, including transitioning veterans, to thrive.


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