CRANE, Ind. –
Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane) hosted a team from the Department of the Navy (DoN) Human Capital Strategy (HCS) Program Management Office (PMO) for their first visit on a Navy-wide Distributed Workforce (DW) study. The DoN HCS team visited Crane from June 28 through 30 and aim to share study results later this fall.
Jim Hardin, the DoN Civilian HCS PMO in the Assistant Secretary of the Navy Manpower and Reserve Affairs, and an accompanying team met with several different groups at NSWC Crane for a three-day visit to gather information for Phase II Initiative of the DW study. Hardin and the team are made up of Human Resources (HR) professionals and other related subject matter experts (SME’s) from the Distributed Workforce Initiative at HCS headquarters in Washington, D.C. The DW study is being conducted with four different Navy or Marine Corps commands.
Hardin, who previously served as the HR Director at NSWC Crane, says the team is gathering data from NSWC Crane to learn and develop DW guidance for the future.
“Through these studies of various commands, including NSWC Crane, we will develop Navy-wide guidance, tools, and templates for commands,” says Hardin. “We will use the details and information from this study to develop criteria to define what level of telework different roles can use. We will focus on positions and not the person.”
The DW Initiative is a HCS effort aimed at understanding the unique HR, facilities, and information technology (IT) challenges and solutions to create a mission-focused DW model that is adoptable DON-wide.
Garry Wieneke, the Corporate Operations Deputy Department Director at NSWC Crane, says it was exciting to be the first site that the DW Initiative team chose to visit.
“As we emerge successfully from health conditions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, their time at NSWC Crane will help the DoN understand how to implement a distributed workforce long-term,” says Wieneke. “Work is different now—and this is a good opportunity to highlight best practices regarding Distributed Workforce. Every person who works for the Navy could be impacted by the efforts taking place with this initiative.”
Hardin says this visit launched Phase II of the overall study, which is more in-depth than information gathered previously in Phase I. Phase I focused on defining work and skills needed to understand what needed to be onsite and what could be remote.
“NSWC Crane was the first command we visited and was selected because they do a good job in the way they select the work they do,” says Hardin. “Phase I of the study consisted of assessing the workforce post-COVID-19, people’s thoughts about telework, and in what situations jobs can be done off-site. There is a need for guidance for commands to have objective criteria to make determinations about distributed workforce. What we are doing is the Navy’s medium and long-term approach to help commands make decisions wisely.”
The three-day visit consisted of an analysis of remote work, telework, and distributed workforce study, and a workshop to develop an organizational model. The analysis covered broad subject areas at Crane, including technical, HR, and IT teams.
Since March of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many federal employees—along with many other roles in industry—have worked remotely. Hardin says the team is facilitating a broader movement.
“There is a huge cultural shift that is taking place—post-COVID, it’s not the same,” says Hardin. “Since 2021, the Navy has been looking at these efforts. Fifteen-thousand military and civilian supervisors were surveyed and more than 80 percent said telework had either no impact or a positive impact on productivity and culture. The cultural shift and DoN goals make this DW Initiative critical and essential.”
Goals of the DW Initiative include attracting and retaining DoN talent, modernizing virtual collaboration infrastructure, optimizing the use of facility space, reducing carbon footprint, driving improvements in employee engagement and satisfaction, and informing Workforce Task Analysis and Position Management. Other federal agencies are also working toward DW initiatives.
The study and follow-on efforts, Hardin says, will help commands make informed decisions as the Navy encounters DW decisions.
“People are wondering what unintended consequences might be if remote work remains,” says Hardin. “But, there are also fears of attrition. We can use this study to better understand and mitigate associated risk. For instance, managers fear losing ‘water cooler’ collaboration and innovation opportunities in the office—but there are ways to replicate those virtually. This is a joint military and civilian effort; we’re all sharing what we’re doing.”
Hardin says there are significant examples of human ingenuity with innovative teams collaborating from different locations.
“If you think of Apollo-13, there were astronauts in space and scientists and engineers in various cities in the United States that worked together to bring them home,” says Hardin. “Collaboration can be done virtually, and with the technology we have today there’s no reason why we can’t.”
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