Richmond, Va. –
Where they once might have been a solitary 9-to-5 with the occasional coffee or smoke break, today’s jobs are more often collaborative and innovative. The resources provided by the Aviation Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity Office allows DLA Aviation employees and managers to make the most of their collaborations with one another and with outside teams while maintaining a safe and welcoming workplace culture.
Laurie Darrisaw, an EEOD specialist and training coordinator for DLA Aviation, says the rise in teleworking during the pandemic has shifted focus to educating employees on the effects of inappropriate behavior in the workplace, including nonsexual harassment and hostile work environments.
“We have been conducting more specialized training including Civil Treatment, where the focus is recognizing problematic behaviors and how these behaviors negatively affect the workplace and team interactions,” Darrisaw said.
Civil Treatment exercises include role playing and videos that show actual workplace scenarios such as a manager singling out one employee to treat differently or employees participating in inappropriate conversations.
“Civil Treatment training includes specific modules for both managers and employees,” said Darrisaw.
Darrisaw said EEOD also facilitates sensing sessions, which brings together managers and employees to speak freely about issues or areas of concern. EEOD personnel are on site to help lead conversations and to narrow down concerns to a short list of high priority topics.
Managers and employees work separately, then together, over several days, to come up with strategies and resolutions.
The Aviation Café initiative is another easy-to-use method for creating a network of collaborative dialogue around questions that matter to the real-life situations of an organization. Charlotte Bell, an American Sign Language interpreter within DLA Aviation’s EEOD Office, often coordinates the cafés.
“Cafes are especially useful for generating input, sharing knowledge, stimulating innovative thinking, and exploring actionable possibilities around real-workplace issues and questions,” Darrisaw said. “The Aviation Café process has demonstrated a remarkable capacity to foster authentic conversation and knowledge sharing among people of varied backgrounds.”
In addition to assigning routine EEOD training, EEOD provides specialize training upon request by a manager, director, or other group leadership. Deborah Winston, Director Aviation EEOD shares it is her goal to provide proactive support to the directorates be it in the training arena or as a sounding board before a problem actually occurs related to People and Culture concerns.
Darrisaw said over 900 employees within DLA Aviation have received training since May 2020, and survey responses have been overwhelmingly positive.
Engineering Directorate Director Floyd Moore said he reached out to EEOD in June 2022 and was able to secure face-to-face diversity, equity and inclusion training at the Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania facility. After the training, he had conversations with some of the staff and they indicated the training was beneficial and needed.
“One employee told me that after the training he realized that some of the things he was doing probably did not make his co-worker feel included and now he was going to change the way he conducted himself,” said Moore. “To me that was a win.”
“Folks are glad about the training; they are working together better as a team, talking things out instead of letting things fester, and communicating more effectively. We’re seeing positive changes,” Darrisaw said.
“EEOD staff assigned to DLA Aviation are trained and certified in their respective capabilities. Of the 16 employees, seven are certified facilitators for civil treatment training and one; Latarche Singh, is a certified Diversity, Equity and Inclusion facilitator.” Darrisaw said.
DLA Aviation at Jacksonville, Florida, DLA at Ogden, Utah and DLA at San Diego each have one certified facilitator, and the remainder are on-site at Richmond.
“Before COVID, [facilitation] was mostly in-person training. Since COVID, we are accommodating the needs of the organization in more of a hybrid fashion.” Darrisaw said.
Floyd said when it comes to EEOD support, it is not always about the training.
“Sometimes it is about going the extra mile to make themselves available.” Moore said.
In August 2022, the Engineering Directorate held a townhall with employees including a panel discussion in which EEOD participated in the panel, giving the workforce an opportunity to ask questions.
“EEOD being part of the panel was a big win. People had a chance to ask questions and even some of my leadership now realize that EEOD is our partner and not our adversary,” Moore said. “It is our goal to make Aviation Engineering the directorate where leaders are developed, and everyone wants to be a part of. Our partnership with EEOD and their willingness to provide training when needed will help Engineering with achieving our goal.”
Kent Ennis, director of Planning Programs Directorate, requested the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Understanding and Recognizing How Implicit Biases Impact the Workplace.
“There were two primary reasons we requested this training from EEOD,” said Ennis. “First and foremost, it was a required deliverable from a recently reached settlement agreement whereby it was requested we provide training to the entire directorate associated with unconscious bias in the workplace. Secondly, upon my arrival as the new director of Planning, I had an awareness the culture/climate of the organization required improvement and knew as the as the new leader of this organization, I had to set new expectation moving forward with the hope of improving its climate.”
Comments from employees who received the training said the content was relevant to today’s current events dealing with gender, race and stereotypes, and especially enjoyed the presentation from EEOD.
“I believe Latarche Singh did a phenomenal job preparing and delivering the message to the workforce and gave all those in attendance something to think about as they go about their daily business.” Ennis said.
“Engaging the EEOD Office for assistance is perhaps the best decision that I have ever made as a supervisory manager. The impact on all participants was amazing. It may have been the first time both employees and supervisors could openly discuss issues and concerns in a non-attribution environment. The result was all goodness. There is more work to be done but it was a huge first step in building a more cohesive work unit and better culture.”
-Stephen M. Mason
Audit Process Compliance and Risk Management Directorate
“We participated in the EEOD Supervisor Training. It was set up for my leadership team based on the number of new supervisors and managers we have. It was also a great refresher for those that have been in supervision for a while. The training was absolutely beneficial. Laurie Darrisaw was our instructor and she made the class interesting and interactive. She provided real cases to put things into context and encouraged questions and open dialog. She additionally provided the training material and other materials to the group post-class for future reference. Everyone who attended felt that they benefited from the training and seemed to think they were able to take something from the class. It seemed to be very eye opening for some of the newer supervisors, which was the intention. The overall objective was to make them more aware and more self-aware, so we can effectively lead the team.”