Tackling the system that fails hidden talent: A research-to-practice timeline

Challenge Factory helps purpose-driven organizations and communities, like those who support Canada’s military Veterans, small businesses, or ageing population. At the centre of our work is a research-to-practice service model; this is how we contribute to shaping a Future of Work where no one is left behind.

Research to Practice
This timeline charts our 10+ years of work to close the gap between employers and the hidden talent pool of Canada’s military Veterans. You’ll learn how we use the three main components of our research-to-practice service model (research, consulting, and learning) to advance our expertise and grow our impact.


Lisa Taylor founds Challenge Factory to address the career needs of an emerging market: older workers. Canada’s ageing population is going to reshape our society, economy, labour markets, and Future of Work in the coming decades. Older workers go through identity-based career transition challenges. Challenge Factory is one of the first Canadian companies to focus on this market.


Challenge Factory’s president, Lisa Taylor, is invited to meet with General (Ret’d) Walt Natynczyk, Deputy Minister, Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC), to discuss the impact of identity on career change generally and implications for the Department to consider as new approaches to military-to-civilian career transition supports are developed.

Except for the Life After Service Survey (conducted by Statistics Canada in collaboration with VAC and the Department of National Defence), there is very little information about Veterans’ work and career experiences when they transition into post-service civilian life.


Challenge Factory spends a year listening to the experiences, challenges, and wins of transitioning Veterans by attending events and getting involved with organizations that bring Veterans together. We also engage in one-on-one career transition coaching for individuals leaving the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).

We learn that Veterans, like older workers, go through identity-based career transitions and challenges when they leave the military. Listening to their stories, how they talk about their experiences, what topics and patterns are likely to come up in discussions, and what we need to acknowledge as civilians allows us to deepen our language and cultural awareness so that we can become a trusted partner.


Using our research-to-practice service model, we enter a new phase of work focused on program development and community building.

We pilot an experiential program called Leaders Helping Leaders that brings together Veterans and transitioning older workers to test how inclusive learning programs can break down barriers and lead to better outcomes for both cohorts. The program combines the foundation of knowledge we developed in our listening campaign with the identity-focused career transition methodology our consulting group uses in corporate and non-profit organizations.

The Government of Canada asks us to train managers of Military Family Resource Centres across Canada to ensure stronger awareness of career development.


We analyze the psychometric data collected as part of the Leaders Helping Leaders program and conduct market research to determine that:

  1. little is understood about employer biases concerning the Veteran population; and,
  2. few employer-focused tools and resources exist to help small- to medium-sized businesses (SMEs) understand why Veterans make great hires.

With these findings in mind, we build a coalition of partners for a new research program that will begin in 2017.

Challenge Factory president, Lisa Taylor, joins the Board of Directors of the Canadian Special Operations Regiment Association (CSOR-A).


We conduct a first-of-its-kind national study to quantify how Veterans work (their communication styles, motivators, values, and behaviours) and what specific biases employers hold about them. This includes conducting a psychometric survey of 200 employers, Veterans, and active CAF members to build an evidence-based understanding of the working profiles of Veterans, civilian Canadians, and employers’ perceptions of them.

The findings help inform Veteran career transition supports across the country, as well as other important learnings for hiring managers, recruiters, and career development professionals.

The project is funded by national career development leader CERIC, sponsored by CAF, and supported by VAC. A key project partner is TTI Success Insights. It requires ethics approval from the Social Science Research Review Board (SSRRB), CAF’s ethics regulatory body.


Research insights

  • Final project report: “A question of style: How working style impacts Veteran hiring success in Canada”
  • Careering magazine: “Veteran working style and civilian workplace culture: Lessons learned and next steps”
  • Blog: “Overcoming unconscious bias in Veteran hiring”
  • Infographic: Do Veterans have a different working style than civilians?
  • Free webinar: What HR and career professionals need to know about “misunderstood” candidate groups such as Veterans


Our research-to-practice model gets a workout as we combine research, tool design, and publication development.

Most supports, tools, and resources that are meant to close the gap between employers and Veterans focus on helping the Veteran enter the civilian labour market and find employment (e.g., tailoring their resumes, doing interview prep, learning about civilian workplaces, etc.).

Challenge Factory sets out to close the gap between employers and Veterans by creating tools and resources for employers. Our approach will focus on raising employers’ awareness and understanding of Veterans as a skilled, hidden talent pool that can help them fill their labour and skills shortages.

We conduct a second psychometric survey of more than 100 SMEs based in Ontario to advance our evidence base about employers’ perceptions of Veterans. We also conduct interviews with five large enterprises that have mature Veterans hiring programs (CP Rail, The Commissionaires, MNP, RBC, and Scotiabank).

We use this research to create and publish the first Canadian guide that employers can use to find, hire, and retain Veterans—and understand why they should want to.


The Canadian Guide to Hiring Veterans

Free to download as a PDF edition, The Canadian Guide to Hiring Veterans offers:

  • practical, reusable tools for hiring Veterans (including a hiring checklist, interview guide, onboarding framework, and more);
  • myth-busting research about Veterans in the civilian workforce; and,
  • additional resources compiled in one convenient place for connecting with Veterans, job services, and other HR tools.

This resource is designed for organizations with limited human resources and recruitment capacity that are striving to build strong, resilient teams that include Veterans who are skilled and ready to fill labour or skills shortages. Its second important purpose is to help destigmatize Veterans in and outside the workplace, and to clarify exactly why they make such a valuable yet hidden talent pool and recruitment source in Canada.

The Guide draws on Challenge Factory’s ground-breaking national research about employer hiring biases and the unique working style of Veterans. We use qualitative and quantitative methodologies to engage Veterans, SMEs, and large enterprises to explore:

  • perceptions about Veterans in the civilian workforce;
  • why employers in need of talent and Veteran jobseekers are missing each other; and,
  • lessons that can be learned from existing Veteran hiring programs.

During the publication’s launch, we connect with a dozen media outlets and radio shows across the country, reaching 100 minutes of airtime and almost 200,000 impressions. The Guide is disseminated to employers, service providers that support SMEs, service providers that support Veterans, Veterans, government stakeholders, and others.

This project is funded by VAC’s Veteran and Family Well-Being Fund. A key project partner is TTI Success Insights.


In the media


After publishing The Canadian Guide to Hiring Veterans, Challenge Factory knows the tools and research in it can be used to inform more learning. First, we conduct Canadian and international market research to gain a broader understanding of existing employer-focused tools for Veteran recruitment and retention. Then, we create two new employer-focused resources, an online MasterClass and podcast, for hiring Veterans and understanding why they are a valuable hidden talent pool.


MasterClass in Hiring: Tap into the Hidden Talent Pool of Canada’s Veterans

Challenge Factory’s free MasterClass is designed to help employers and hiring managers leverage the power of hidden talent pools, hire their next Veteran employee, and fill their labour and skills shortages.

Powered by the Centre for Career Innovation’s self-directed learning platform, MasterClass users gain access to five hours of interactive content that can be navigated at their own pace and in the order that best suits their needs and interests.

With a focus on shifting culture and capacity, the MasterClass builds on two key Challenge Factory publications: The Canadian Guide to Hiring Veterans and Retain and Gain: Career Management for Small Business. Valued at $599, the program will equip users with bite-sized, proactive steps for building a reusable action plan that leads to skilled, sustainable hires.


Hidden Talent: A Challenge Factory Podcast

The Hidden Talent podcast showcases the voices of small business owners and military Veterans as they discuss their own employment struggles and successes, from both sides of the interview table. It’s not easy to find and keep great talent, especially in tight labour markets. These short, bingeable episodes are designed for anyone currently looking for their next hire.

This podcast is produced by Story Studio Network. It’s available on all major podcast streaming platforms.

These new resources focus on curriculum development and community engagement in our research-to-practice service model. They have widespread and lasting reach; in 2022, for example, the podcast is downloaded 1,600 times during Remembrance Day week.

Not satisfied to only create novel and innovative resources, Challenge Factory sets out to measure the impact that our three hiring resources have on employers.

We recruit business owners, organization leaders, and hiring managers across Canada to explore the resources and complete a series of online surveys over six months. They tell us about how they used the resources, their hiring experiences in 2022, and their perceptions of Veterans.

The project to create the MasterClass and podcast, and to conduct the impact study, is funded by VAC’s Veteran and Family Well-Being Fund.


MasterClass sneak peek

  • Infographic: 4 easy steps to find Veteran jobseekers
  • Interactive: The business case for hiring Veterans
  • Showcase: Veteran Ready Employers across Canada

Research insights


It’s time to use our experience and expertise to create a new program for small business owners and Veterans.

The Veterans and Small Business Community Challenge (VSBCC) is a free experiential training program designed to accelerate the recruitment, onboarding, and hiring of Veterans by small businesses across Canada. Small business owners and Veterans take part in three training sessions each, earning a Veteran Ready Employer certificate or Small Business Acumen micro-credential.

This program also fosters stronger community engagement between small businesses, SME-serving organizations, Veteran-serving organizations, and Veterans. We provide a forum that connects employers in need of labour with people who are looking for work.

This project is funded by Scotiabank’s community investment program, ScotiaRISE. Our key project partner is the Canadian Career Development Foundation.


Challenge Factory is selected by the Roland Gossage Foundation and Lighthouse Labs to be their curriculum development partner. These forward-looking Veteran-focused organizations launch new career-focused certification programs for Veterans interested in IT careers.

We’re tasked to create customized curriculum focused on developing Veteran-related acumen and awareness for the professional team of student support specialists and trainers that will be engaging with Veterans.


On February 13, 2023, Challenge Factory’s president, Lisa Taylor, appears before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs as an expert witness. She provides three recommendations to the Committee:

  1. Use a career development model when designing the National Strategy for Veterans Employment After Service, and adhere to Canada’s national Competency Framework for Career Development Professionals when outlining any service or intervention to be included in the strategy.
  2. Focus on equipping Veterans with career agency rather than identifying specific jobs or career paths for them.
  3. Make it easier for small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the private and non-profit sectors to hire Veterans through employer-focused supports and incentives.

The Committee is conducting a consultation process to inform a National Strategy for Veterans Employment After Service. The final report is published in October 2023.



True Patriot Love and Challenge Factory partner on a multi-tiered project to advance our organizations’ shared vision: A holistic, systems-focused approach to make Canadian provinces and territories more military Veteran Friendly.

First, we map the Veteran transition ecosystem in Ontario and liaise with Veterans Affairs Canada and the Canadian Armed Forces (Transition Group) to integrate strategies and activities across all organizations. This includes developing a dictionary of terms and program catalogue to summarize the various types of available programs and supports.

Second, we bring together more than ten large employers to collaborate and share Veteran hiring and retention best practices. Learnings from these employers inform the development of case studies and tools that can be used not only by large employers, but also by small- to medium-sized businesses (SMEs).

Third, for SMEs and Veterans, we develop the Veteran Friendly Ontario (VFO) Challenge, an experiential five-session training program that improves the hiring competence of small businesses and increases the employment prospects of Veterans.

This work is funded through the Government of Ontario’s Skills Development Fund.