Entry-level employees at the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support assembled to exchange ideas and concerns with their commander Army Gen. Mark Simerly Feb. 13.
The meeting’s purpose was to encourage two-way dialogue between the commander and the employees, who are six months into the 24-month Pathways to Career Excellence program.
The PaCE program provides formal training, on-the-job training and rotational assignments to prepare entry-level personnel for advancement into professional, administrative and technical career fields.
Simerly said he wants to continue to refine the PaCE program so that participants are postured for success upon reaching the 24-month mark.
“The bottom line is that we want to prepare you for the development and leadership opportunities that you are going to need to continue to grow in this organization beyond your graduation,” he said.
The commander and the PaCE employees discussed multiple topics, including information technology, telework and rotational assignments.
He addressed concerns over information technology issues by explaining how Defense Department networks must maintain extra security compared to typical private sector networks. The extra security impacts performance.
One PaCE employee said he appreciated Troop Support’s telework options for regular employees, but that it often resulted in one or two days per week in which the on-site staff was very limited.
Simerly acknowledged that telework has its pros and cons for workforce productivity, and that DLA headquarters is commissioning a study to look into its impact throughout the organization.
“We know that telework is a retention tool. We know that it is a morale builder,” he said. “We do know it’s not one size fits all.”
As the telework study commences, Simerly said he would look to ensure the perspectives of the PaCE employees were represented.
Rotational assignments, which allow entry-level workers to experience multiple aspects of Troop Support, were also discussed. Simerly said some supervisors are hesitant to rotate PaCE employees assigned to them because they don’t want to lose a trained employee.
He said he understands the reasoning and that it makes sense in the short term to develop an employee that can hit the ground running within one particular team. But in the long term, Simerly said he supports rotational assignments during the 24-month program.
“We owe you a little bit broader sampling, rather than staying in one place, in one cubicle, working on a certain task,” he said.
The general said that it’s also important for supervisors to continuously communicate with their entry-level employees about short- and long-term career opportunities and career paths.
“We should be having a robust, open, face-to-face dialogue on what are the opportunities for you within DLA and help you develop a career path, a road map, to help you see where you would go beyond the 24-month mark,” Simerly said.
The general said engaging with employees in the PaCE program is important because the program is a foundational piece of Troop Support’s succession planning.
“Ultimately, this is the feeder program that brings in our future leaders,” he said. “You are the future.”