WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio --
The Air Force Materiel Command continues to emphasize diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility across the enterprise as it implements commander-driven expectations to drive cultural change in the organization.
“We cannot be the AFMC our Nation needs unless we have an environment that provides all of our uniformed and non-uniformed Airmen the opportunity to succeed. We’ve come a long way over the past year in implementing change across the organization, however we still have a ways to go,” said Gen. Arnold W. Bunch, Jr., AFMC Commander. “Our diversity is our strength. We need to maintain momentum to drive sustained change.”
In October 2020, Bunch released a series of expectations to AFMC commanders primarily focused in the areas of hiring, talent retention and leadership. His directive underscored the importance of recruiting from a diverse hiring pool, ensuring equivalent opportunities for training and promotion, and the need for greater leadership training, trust and transparency.
Following initial climate sensing sessions with Airmen across the command, early DEIA efforts focused on standardizing the program construct across the command. This included the establishment of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility Councils; standardized DEIA training for all AFMC employees, including newcomers and supervisor/leadership course attendees; and a revamp of Installation Affirmative Action Programs, to include staffing with DEIA and Equal Opportunity officers at all locations.
Civilian Status of Discipline boards were introduced across AFMC, providing an opportunity for review of civilian disciplinary actions and to track demographics. Through greater transparency, the boards help ensure fairness and equity in disciplinary actions and can raise awareness of any activities that disproportionately impact individuals of a particular demographic.
Recent activity has focused more on diversity in personnel program actions, to include recruitment and talent retention across all areas.
“Change is incremental, and we’ve made progress. I believe that we’re leading the Air Force in this area. However, we need to continue to maintain focus on creating a better, more inclusive culture for our Airmen,” said Bunch.
To address diversity disparity in leadership and supervisory positions, AFMC has implemented diverse panels to conduct interviews and selection for all hiring actions at upper levels. Feedback is required to be provided to all individuals who are not selected for positions based on the mandate. To date, the command has conducted more than 500 hiring panels across all centers for leadership and supervisory positions.
“Diverse interview panels help us to avoid potential bias when making selections and also allow us to assess candidates more thoroughly through demographic and cognitive diversity,” said Keith Tickle, AFMC Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility Program Lead.
To complement diversity actions happening at the leadership level, a centralized hiring process is sourcing talent for entry-level positions. The process leverages Centralized Selection Cells within each AFMC Center to manage recruitment efforts for developmental as well as critical, hard-to-fill positions.
“Centralized hiring helps to reduce unconscious bias and ensures local hiring processes promote diversity. Supervisors provide the requirements of the position, and the responsibility for recruitment falls to trained human resources specialists and functional experts that understand the demands of the position and can fill them quickly with the right talent we need,” said Tammy Lyons, Chief, AFMC Personnel Support Division.
AFMC is also working to increase recruitment efforts in underserved communities, to include providing more on-the-spot job offers to better compete with industry while acquiring the diverse talent needed to fill positions across the mission. Attendance at events such as the Black Engineer of the Year Award, Great Minds in STEM, and Hispanic, Asian and women-focused engineering conferences aims to position AFMC as the employer-of-choice for many in these demographic groupings. On the spot interviews and direct engagement with potential new talent is helping to better position the command as a top choice.
“We are competing with industry every day to acquire the best, most diverse talent out there. We’ve amped up our presence at hiring events across the spectrum,” said Lyons.
A number of DEIA actions are also addressing talent retention.
An AFMC Supervisor Training Course was implemented in early 2021 to provide new leaders with the skills needed to effectively lead diverse teams across the organization. Through a new coaching initiative, AFMC Airmen can apply to acquire a professional work coach to assess career goals and create an action plan for continued growth.
In addition, the command has focused its 2022 mentorship program on diverse, cross-cultural mentoring, ensuring that all demographic groups are provided with opportunities to participate.
“Our goal is to help individuals better understand the perspectives of those who come from different backgrounds as well as their own so they can better together leverage the skills and abilities of all to drive mission success,” said Tickle.
The command is also solidifying its succession planning effort, which calls for the rotation of individuals in select team lead or supervisory positions every five years, thereby providing greater depth and breadth of leadership exposure to diverse teams and missions across AFMC. The goal is for individuals to grow in leadership competencies as they gain new experiences across different mission areas.
“We have world-class talent at AFMC, and we want to provide our Airmen with the opportunities to continue to grow those high-level skills to be successful. The more you know about the different missions at AFMC and how they operate together, the better we can deliver as an organization,” said Bunch.
Initiatives will continue to evolve and expand in 2022, with program leads working to incorporate Air Force and Department of Defense policy into all activities while striving to be a model organization for DEIA across the services. The end goal is to create an enduring AFMC culture that successfully integrates the skills and abilities of all members of the team in support of the warfighter.
“Our efforts in this area are critical to our success as a command and as a service. We are discovering, learning and improving as we go. We need to ensure we create and maintain a diverse workforce where everyone has the opportunity to achieve and succeed,” said Bunch.
To learn more about Air Force Materiel Command Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility efforts, visit https://www.afmc.af.mil/About-Us/Featured-Topics/Diversity/ .