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Naval Sea Systems Command Inclusion & Engagement Council First Field Trip Opens Eyes

By Troy D. Miller | June 11, 2019

NORFOLK NAVAL SHIPYARD, Portsmouth, Va. —

It was October 2018 when 28 Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) employees from around the enterprise met at the Washington Navy Yard, Washington D.C. to form the Inclusion and Engagement Council. Its two-year mission is to advise and assist NAVSEA to recruit, retain, recognize achievement, and professionally develop a diverse and high-performing workforce that enables and promotes excellence and inclusion throughout the organization.
Before the council could be formed, members had to be selected. It was made up of volunteers, yes, but one just didn’t raise a hand to be picked. A unique selection process was used.
“Vice Admiral Moore sent an email across the NAVSEA enterprise looking for people who were interested in becoming a founding member of the Inclusion and Engagement Council,” said Nuclear Production Department (Code 300N) All Hazards Response Manager Michael Taylor. “We had to submit answers to eight questions.”
Vice Admiral Thomas Moore, NAVSEA Commander stated at the group’s first meeting that more than 100 people submitted answers. The submissions went through three separate panels, each narrowing down the list of applicants until the council was created.
“When the panels looked over our answers, all they could see was our answers,” said Taylor. “Our names, commands, gender, age, and any other identifying information was blackened out. The council was selected by our answers and our answers alone.”
Taylor was the only NNSY employee selected to be on the council and immediately started to see challenges. One of the challenges was the fact that the council members come from various commands with different demographics.
“One council member works in a building of 60 employees in Idaho,” said Taylor. “She could not fathom the makeup of the shipyard with its diversity, communication challenges and the use of employee readiness groups, among other things.”
Since the “one size fits all” concept doesn’t work for this initiative, the council members decided to hold their third meeting at Norfolk Naval Shipyard. This was the first time they met outside Washington Navy Yard.
Council members not familiar with an industrial environment like that of a shipyard became educated how a shipyard is a unique entity of its own.
“We gave them a windshield tour of the waterfront and had various employee readiness groups and programs explain their roles at the shipyard,” said Taylor.
Vice Admiral Moore and NAVSEA’s Executive Director Jim Smerchansky attended one session with the council to be briefed on the council’s findings and directions they are going in.
“The council is composed of three primary action groups: Inclusion, Diversity and Engagement,” said Smerchansky. “Based on their objectives and their own self-assessment, they’ve decided that workforce communication is critical to their success, and so we now have a fourth Inclusion and Engagement Council.”
The week after the council meeting, Smerchansky sent out an enterprise wide email explaining the four different groups that make up the council.
Diversity: The team is taking a close look at the internal hiring selections and hiring managers’ accountability and coordinating strategies that include supervisory training and guidance, comparing industry best practices and even a pilot program to implement their recommendations.
Inclusion: The Inclusion team’s approach includes expanding the People development curriculum; increased awareness of training and resources and looking into how and why people feel included or excluded.
Engagement: This group is working to ensure the multitude of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) across the enterprise have the education and resources to lead our workforce toward an environment where each employee has a positive emotional commitment to the NAVSEA mission.
Communication: The primary goal of the communication group is to maximize and sustain the impact of the I&E Council. They’re working with the teams to refine messages, create communication strategies and then facilitate outreach and promotional efforts across the enterprise.
“Inclusion and Engagement, at its core, is about ensuring mission success,” said NNSY’s Commander Captain Kai Torkelson. “We cannot get the important things we are tasked with done unless all of us feel fully accepted and a part of the NAVSEA Family.”
The council will continue to meet quarterly to bring its vision to full fruition. The council will create a culture of ‘One NAVSEA.’ The council will help the enterprise meet new challenges, adapt to change, optimize new opportunities, and draw upon the widest possible set of talents and backgrounds to achieve peak performance.