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News | July 26, 2021

Initiatives foster a positive work culture at DLA in Jacksonville

By Leon Moore DLA Aviation Public Affairs Office

For roughly the past four years, senior military and civilian leadership at Defense Logistics Agency Aviation at Jacksonville, Florida, have been  developing an all-inclusive, purpose-driven team that aligns with the “Warfighter Always” readiness line of effort within the DLA Strategic Plan 2021 - 2026. That LOE states DLA’s support to the warfighter is job one. It’s our core strategic priority. We must provide the right support in the right places at the right times.

They also wanted to align People and Culture, one of the three critical capabilities that intersect and support the five LOEs with specific underlying objectives, initiatives and metrics. One of the stated objectives is to achieve a shared vision with the agency’s strategic plan, all DLA organizations, employees and leaders must work together to fortify the culture, reward high performance, build connections and prioritize safety of the workforce.

Deputy Director of DLA Aviation at Jacksonville David Scalf said achieving the goal of an all-inclusive and purpose-driven team meant changing behaviors, resetting expectations, leading by example, and gaining the respect and confidence of the workforce.

“There was never any doubt in the talent and commitment of the DLA Aviation Jacksonville team. The challenge became, how do we turn the lofty goal into reality? Understanding that changing behavior takes time, as well as a targeted strategic approach, we developed a series of building blocks,” Scalf said. “The building blocks became the tangible tools upon which our culture incrementally changed over time.”

Scalf said those building blocks included standardizing the planning codes and directly linking them back to each of our customers’ production work centers. This simple change allowed for ownership and linkage by each employee to a specific production line that is measurable, and places ownership accountability into the basic equation of our supportability efforts.

He said they also developed a set of Department of Defense Performance Management and Appraisal Program performance elements applied to the deputy’s position, all the way down to lowest-graded position.

Next, they looked at the feedback from the 2018 Denison Survey, which revealed the need for improvement across the Denison spectrum. As a result, Scalf said they combined a series of recognition programs tactically aligned with communication campaigns, along with the performance initiatives, including Employee of the Month, Employee of the Quarter, annual award inputs and leader development programs.  

Navy Cmdr. Curtis Ceaser, who took over as DLA Aviation at Jacksonville commander in April 2020, said along with these DLA enterprisewide performance initiatives, they put several additional employee-based and personal recognition programs in place.

“The premise was to recognize the unsung efforts of individuals on a peer-to-peer basis. It is a point of pride for our organization, something that has significantly contributed to enhanced morale and better unit cohesion. I am so proud that we are able to keep it going,” he said.

Staci Clark-Allen, a management assistant, is one of the more than 320 recognized through the Peer Pats initiative since its inception. She said it’s an absolutely amazing feeling to know that her peers appreciate the work she does, and it doesn’t go unnoticed.

“It’s more of an incentive for me to stop and take notice of the work that goes on around me that may go unnoticed so that I can acknowledge my teammates,” she said.

To continue the spirit of recognition and communication, Ceaser and the leadership team added three additional initiatives to foster a positive work environment: a quarterly newsletter, DLA Aviation JAX Center Stage and the town hall inspired Team Talks.

The quarterly newsletter is a chance for Ceaser to update the organization on news, metrics and actions impacting them.

DLA Aviation JAX Center Stage highlights team members within the DLA Aviation at Jacksonville family and is an opportunity for people to get to know each other outside the work environment. It’s delivered via the quarterly newsletter or monthly updates.

And finally, they have Team Talks, a meeting similar to town hall meetings, but in smaller groups, which Ceaser says allows for engaging dialog on issues that matter most to them.

“These Team Talks not only provide an opportunity to share important information, but also allow for open feedback from all levels on what is working well within the organization and what is not. This insight is essential in the formulation of organizational initiatives, customer support efforts and team building opportunities,” he said. 

“All of these tangible tools have helped in perpetuating and developing a positive work culture but the glue that makes it stick is and always has been, the intangible elements of leadership. They set in motion sustainable earmark events and programs that have withstood the operational pressures of day-to-day work, work environment challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Scalf.