Cultural Transformation - A Roadmap for Success
Identifying Issues and Concerns
Town Hall Meetings
MRP Management Review
Cultural Transformation Training
Business Practice Re-engineering
Measurement of Success
Cultural Transformation - The APHIS Roadmap for Success
Appendix A - MRP Management Review
Appendix B - Employee Viewpoint Survey
Cultural Transformation - A Roadmap for Success
On September 21, 2009, Secretary Vilsack issued a “call to action” to USDA’s senior leadership to culturally transform USDA from a business-oriented perspective. Cultural Transformation at USDA is based upon the premise that how well we serve our customers, their level of satisfaction, and the results produced by our delivery processes is directly related to how well our organization is a representation of those we serve and how well we understand the vast array of cultural differences they represent. To create an environment that is responsive to the demographic and cultural changes occurring in our Nation and in our workforce, we must look at how we perform our tasks, serve our customers, and transform our beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions about differences between employees, customers, and stakeholders.
USDA has defined Cultural Transformation as the process of creating a workplace where all employees and customers are treated with dignity and respect, and provided the opportunity for success. Secretary Vilsack’s commitment to USDA’s Cultural Transformation is unwavering and he has asked each Agency to make it a priority. As such, the Secretary convened a task force of diverse USDA leaders to develop a plan for meeting his goals of improving diversity and inclusion for our customers and employees. As a first step, the task force sponsored a series of six employee listening sessions across the United States and a session with Union representatives. These listening sessions provided a platform for employee feedback in the areas of Leadership, Employee Development, Talent Management, Recruitment and Retention, Customer Focus, and Community Outreach.
The APHIS Management Team (AMT) and Senior Leaders share the Secretary’s commitment to Cultural Transformation and have worked closely with their employees to understand their issues and concerns from not only an operational perspective but from a leadership, employee interaction, and customer service basis.
At the heart of Cultural Transformation is the creation of a highly performing organization that values diversity and inclusion and leverages the unique talents, abilities, and perspectives of its workforce to enhance decision making, increase operational efficiency and effectiveness, boost employee morale and performance, and improve customer service. While our senior leaders are responsible for leading change and achieving cultural transformation, it is each employee’s responsibility to embrace cultural transformation and help lead the charge. Each APHIS employee plays a major role in creating an inclusive and highly performing organization and each can make a significant contribution towards its success.
The APHIS Action Plan builds upon the Department’s guidance and the Cultural Transformation initiatives already undertaken within APHIS and charts a course for the future. It utilizes the information learned from the Administrator’s Town Hall meetings and the MRP Management Review and addresses the issues and concerns raised therein. It establishes initiatives that focus on leadership responsibilities and actions, Cultural Transformation training for all APHIS employees, process improvements to increase productivity, intensified stakeholder engagement to improve customer service, enhanced communication, revitalized employee career management, and a more transparent awards process. While Leadership clearly plays a prominent role in each and every aspect of this plan, we elected to highlight Leadership as a primary initiative because of its importance to the success of all aspects of Cultural Transformation and program delivery.
Identifying Issues and Concerns -
Town Hall Meetings
In an immediate response to the Secretary’s call to action, the APHIS Administrator held a series of Town Hall meetings during the month of October, 2009, during which employees were invited and encouraged to share their ideas, issues, and concerns. The Administrator met personally with employees in Raleigh, North Carolina; Fort Collins, Colorado; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Ames, Iowa; and Riverdale, Maryland. During these meetings, employee concerns focused on two primary issues - the increasing time required for administrative processes and the need for improved communication. More specifically, employees expressed a concern that the amount of time devoted to certain administrative tasks and procedural requirements had substantially increased to the detriment of their primary responsibilities. They also indicated that they often felt that they were without a voice and it was difficult for them to communicate up the chain of command. Due to the often remote locations of some APHIS employees, they do not feel that information filters down as easily as it could or that their thoughts and viewpoints are solicited for resolving problems and issues.
MRP Management Review
In response to the feedback garnered from the Secretary’s listening sessions, the Marketing and Regulatory Programs (MRP) mission area was tasked with conducting a more focused management review. The management review team, led by the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administration, Robin Heard, included Karen Grillo from MRP, Billy Milton from the Office of Human Resources Management, Ron Hicks, Deputy Administrator, International Services; Chris Zakarka, Deputy Administrator, Policy and Program Development; and Sharon Coursey, Director, Human Resources Division. The team analyzed workforce data, held three MRP-wide focus sessions during July and August, conducted an all-employee MRP-wide survey from July 23 through August 10, and developed findings in the areas of Hiring and Employee Development and Organizational Climate and Communication.
The workforce data analysis depicted a significant downward trend in the number of informal and formal complaints which is attributed to a substantial increase in the use of the Alternative Dispute Resolution process. Similarly, the workforce profile data (including hiring and separation data) resulted in no trends that would point to unfair selection processes. Therefore, the team recommended that the APHIS senior leadership focus on improving communication up and down the chain of command, creating a more accessible system for developmental assignments and details, and developing a more transparent awards process.
Transformation Initiatives -
Leadership does and must occur at all levels of an organization. APHIS employees acknowledge that ALL employees - supervisory, non-supervisory, first line supervisors, middle managers, and senior managers - have a role in creating an inclusive and highly performing organization. While employees indicated that their leadership worked well with employees of differing backgrounds and demonstrated support for Work/Life programs, communication, collaboration, and support for career development remained challenges. As communications and career management were recurring themes throughout the Town Hall meetings and Management Review and are intricately entwined in the Cultural Transformation process, each is addressed as an individual transformation initiative in this Action Plan. To further enhance leadership throughout APHIS, will:
Cultural Transformation Training
Inherent in the success of any initiative for chance is the understanding of why change is important and necessary and how it will result in an improved way of operating. It is, therefore, critically important that all APHIS employees understand the relationship between diversity and inclusion and how they are both critical to achieving our mission and improving our performance. To enhance this understanding, APHIS will undertake an initiative to train all employees in fundamentals of Cultural Transformation. In so doing, APHIS will:
Business Practice Re-engineering
A fundamental aspect of the business case for Cultural Transformation is the implementation of far-reaching changes to traditional business practices. In response to the concerns raised by employees during the Administrator’s Town Hall meetings regarding the increased time required to complete certain administrative processes and procedural requirements, the AMT decided to review and improve administrative processes across APHIS. The AMT identified five initial processes to be improved - Travel Approval (MRP-13); Travel Authorization & Vouchering (GovTrip); Time and Attendance (WebTA); APHIS Cost Management System (ACMS); and Unliquidated Obligations Report (ULO). To accomplish this goal, APHIS:
Stakeholder engagement is critically important to the successful delivery of APHIS programs. It is essential that APHIS identifies its stakeholders, both traditional and non-traditional, and learns what is important to them as well as how they will react to our policies and programs. We cannot reserve stakeholder interactions for when we want or need their assistance or for when we have a significant agricultural issue to address. Rather, we must proactively incorporate stakeholder engagement into our daily operations and make it the norm rather than the exception. We must be open and transparent and regularly communicate with and consider the opinions of all interested parties.
As we engage and collaborate with a broader spectrum of stakeholders, APHIS will focus on expanding who we routinely interact with; changing the nature of the relationship we have with existing stakeholders; identifying and building relationships with new stakeholders or those previously unheard; gaining a better understanding of what stakeholders are concerned about and their thoughts on how to better implement programs; equipping and empowering all levels of APHIS employees to engage with stakeholders; being fair, equitable, and inclusive of all segments of the agricultural community as we deliver programs; and garnering more interest in and support for our programs, policies, and regulations. Toward this end, APHIS will:
Information gathering and sharing is critical for employees at all levels to excel, be motivated and innovative, and understand the rationale for decision making. Employees want to understand how their duties and responsibilities fit into their local work unit, fulfill the agency’s mission, and address departmental priorities. They want an understanding of how and why decisions are made and the potential impact external factors may have on their activities. Employees’ top three expectations are often cited as being interesting and fulfilling work, appreciation of the work done, and a feeling of being a part of the organization and its decision making.
APHIS employees responded in much the same manner by raising communications as a fundamental issue. They raised a concern that they do not receive information about Agency activities and priorities nor do they feel a sense of personal accomplishment by seeing where their work fits into the overall APHIS priorities. They feel they lack effective mechanisms that will enable them to provide feedback to management and communicate “up the chain”. They expressed a disdain for receiving too much information via email and a concern that the results of the Employee Viewpoint Survey would not be used to improve the workplace environment.
A more focused internal review revealed that significant time, effort, and resources are currently being devoted to internal communications activities both within the Agency and the individual programs; however, employee feedback suggests these efforts are not providing the desired results. It also revealed that each program defines internal communications differently, based upon the size of the organization, employee needs and locations, and other external factors. A “one size fits all” approach is not appropriate yet there are threads of consistency that would facilitate effective communication. Current internal communications activities have a range of purposes - sharing administrative information; sharing broader information about APHIS priorities, goals, and activities; and providing job- and program-specific information to employees. While this is all valuable information that employees need, the messages need to be evaluated against clearly defined communications goals established by the Agency.
As with every aspect of Cultural Transformation, communications is an ongoing initiative that will constantly evolve as employee issues and concerns are better defined. When considering an approach for addressing communications issues, we must consider using a variety of communication methods that will meet the various needs of and respond the diverse APHIS workforce. Specifically, APHIS will:
Career management is a lifelong process of investing resources to achieve career goals as an employee contributes to the successful achievement of the agency’s mission. Career management is not a singular event but a continuing process that is based upon the concepts of lifelong learning and sound relationship management. While each APHIS employee is at the center of his or her own career, it is an important supervisory and agency responsibility to value and invest in employees’ experiences while serving the agency mission.
Lifelong learning and relationship management form the backdrop of successful career management. A career vision should be broad enough to be flexible, but specific enough to be actionable. It should be built on a profile of unique traits poised to develop a satisfying career that is adaptable to a variety of work environments. To maintain adaptability and employability, establishing annual learning goals and nurturing business relationships are key.
As an employee’s career progresses, the frequency of reconnecting with former professional contacts and co-workers increases. Keeping connected and knowing how to build and maintain good relationships are more important than ever before. The lessons others have gained and share each become a developmental rung on the career ladder. How we interact, respond and connect in all our relationships will impact our present performance and future opportunities. Very little is accomplished in isolation - statistics indicate that networking uncovers more than 70% of current career opportunities.
APHIS employees expressed concerns over career development and advancements opportunities. More specifically, as budgetary constraints increase, promotional and career development opportunities tend to decrease. Workloads become heavier and fewer supervisors promote the APHIS Leadership Roadmap. Too much emphasis is placed on program performance and not enough on employee performance. Employees also expressed concerns about a lack of understanding of selection criteria and the weighting of KSAs in the selection process.
Individual career development and management is the pathway to achieving the agency’s mission and goals. While career ownership and management is each employee’s individual responsibility, at the core of any Cultural Transformation is the supervisor’s and manager’s responsibility to create a work environment where opportunity, feedback, and individual growth are available in a manner that is fair, equitable, consistent, and transparent. To ensure this equality and transparency, APHIS will:
Incentives and Employee Recognition
Incentives and employee recognition are effective resources for hiring and retaining talented individuals and a means for acknowledging their contributions to the agency's mission. Acknowledging contributions and good performance takes many forms, from providing a sincere “Thank You!” for a specific job well done to establishing a formal cash incentive and recognition awards program. APHIS employees expressed a desire for greater acknowledgement of their work and a more transparent awards process. As such, APHIS will:
APHIS’ commitment of resources begins with the Administrator, the AMT, and its Senior Leaders and ends with each APHIS employee. The Administrator appointed the Deputy Administrator of MRP Business Services (BS) as the Executive Sponsor for the APHIS Cultural Transformation process which includes overall responsibility for both the development and implementation of the APHIS Action Plan. The Deputy Administrator MRPBS will work closely with the Deputy Administrators of Legislative and Public Affairs and Program and Policy Development as each will play a valuable leadership role in the Action Plan implementation, most notably in the Communications and Stakeholder Engagement initiatives. The Deputy Administrator MRPBS will also collaborate with each of the APHIS program Deputy Administrators as they implement the Action Plan throughout their headquarters and field staffs.
The Deputy Administrator, MRPBS, with direct input from each program Deputy Administrator, assembled an agency-wide team to assist in this effort. This diverse team of middle and upper management officials developed the Action Plan with input from their programs’ employees at all levels throughout the organization. This team will also assist the Deputy Administrator, MRPBS, in the implementation of the Action Plan to ensure it stays on course and meets scheduled milestones.
The Deputy Administrator, MRPBS, has also assembled a team of talent management and training experts to develop a plan to train all APHIS employees in Cultural Transformation. The team, itself, will be trained through the Wharton Executive Education Program and utilize the knowledge received to design, implement, and lead the APHIS Cultural Transformation training initiative.
While our senior leaders are responsible for leading change and achieving cultural transformation, it is each employee’s responsibility to embrace cultural transformation and help lead the charge. Each APHIS employee plays a major role in creating an inclusive and highly performing organization and each can make a significant contribution towards its success.
Measurements of Success -
Successful Cultural Transformation results in an inclusive workplace environment with equity of opportunity and systems of accountability so that employees can achieve high standards of performance and customer service and an unparalleled commitment to diversity and civil rights. Measurement of that success can and should be based upon the very same precepts that led to the determination of a need for Cultural Transformation. To do otherwise would skew results and potentially lead to less effective efforts in the future.
The APHIS Action Plan was based upon information learned from the Administrator’s Town Hall meetings and the MRP Management Review. The MRP Management Review encompassed the results of employee focus sessions, the Employee Viewpoint Survey, and workforce data analysis. APHIS utilized the information garnered from these inputs to develop its Cultural Transformation Action Plan and will utilized these same inputs as the baseline measures for our success.
Upon completion of the action items contained in the plan, APHIS will again conduct the Administrator’s Town Hall meetings in the same locations as those held in October of 2009 - Raleigh, North Carolina; Fort Collins, Colorado; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Ames, Iowa; and Riverdale, Maryland. Issues and concerns raised by employees will be chronicled and measured against those previously raised. During the 2009 meetings, employee concerns focused on two primary issues - the increasing time required for administrative processes and the need for improved communication. More specifically, employees focused on the administrative processes associated with travel approvals, travel authorizations and vouchering, time and attendance, ACMS, and the ULO report. They also indicated that they often felt that they were without a voice and it was difficult for them to communicate up the chain of command. Therefore, the Town Hall meetings will focus on revisiting these issues as well as any new issues employees want to raise. The new issues will serve as the baseline for future action items.
APHIS will also conduct a new Management Review that will include an analysis of updated workforce data using the same data sets studied in the 2010 review. The resulting information will be compared to the baseline results established during the 2010 review to determine success. The new Management Review will also include an updated Employee Viewpoint Survey that focuses on the same questions utilized to develop the Action Plan - those where APHIS fell below the Federal government average. Increased percentages where APHIS nears or exceeds the government-wide average will be evidence of success.
Cultural Transformation - The APHIS Roadmap for Success
Since the first explorers settled in our country, our culture has been undergoing a continual transformation as new and diverse people make our Nation their home. How well we serve our customers, their level of satisfaction, and the results produced by our delivery processes is directly related to how well our organization is a representation of those we serve and how well we understand the vast array of cultural differences they represent. This Action Plan sets forth how APHIS will create an environment that is responsive to the demographic and cultural changes occurring in our Nation and in our workforce. It is the APHIS Roadmap for Success.