By Lisa Ferdinando, ARNEWSFebruary 21, 2014
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Feb. 21, 2014) -- For many great reasons, the Army Audit Agency has again been rated one of the best places to work in the federal government, said an agency leader.
Joe Bentz, the principal deputy auditor general, is the second-highest ranking civilian at the Army Audit Agency. He has spent nearly three decades at the organization, working his way to the top from an entry-level auditor position.
He said employees find great satisfaction in their work in serving Army leaders, helping Soldiers and their families, and safeguarding American tax dollars. The agency identifies the potential for about $2 billion annually in cost avoidance and savings, he said.
"What we do every day is extremely important," Bentz said.
Bentz noted that any efficiencies or savings that can be identified will have a great impact on the Army.
"Those are funds that can be brought back to the Soldiers, put into their programs, or be used to give them the best equipment, training, or whatever they need on the battlefield to be successful in their jobs," Bentz said.
In addition to the important mission, the agency promotes a culture of professional growth and development, and keeps employees challenged with new auditing projects every six to nine months, he said.
Leaders and managers place trust in the employees and have an "open door" communication policy. Bentz said open and transparent communications from top to bottom and across the geographically-spread organization are a hallmark of the agency's culture.
Included in the incentives for retention and increasing employee satisfaction are work-life balance perks such as telecommuting, and flexible and compressed schedules, as well as support for educational opportunities when budgets and mission requirements allow, he said.
Bentz said most employees say it is the "family" atmosphere and relationships they have built with their coworkers and peers that keep them motivated to stay. Many employees start in junior positions and stay their entire careers at the agency.
The Army Audit Agency, with a total of about 520 employees, is headquartered at Fort Belvoir, Va., with field offices throughout the United States and abroad.
However, during challenging fiscal times, like other federal organizations, the agency is looking at a possible reduction in size, he said.
Despite the challenges, agency leadership is keeping the workforce fully informed on what is going on, and staying equally focused on both the mission and the needs of the workforce, Bentz said.
Employee satisfaction surveys reflect what Bentz says about the work climate.
In the non-profit Partnership for Public Service's "Best Places to Work" in the federal government survey, the Army Audit Agency has ranked in the top three of sub-component organizations in the four consecutive years it has competed.
It ranked first place in 2012; second place in 2010 and 2011; and third place in 2013.
"I am delighted to see your organization consistently receives such distinctive recognition year after year," Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh wrote to employees at the agency after the 2013 rankings were announced in December.
The head of the agency, Auditor General Randy Exley, said the organization is setting an example for the rest of the Army.
"Each of you earned a piece of this recognition and I am honored to serve with you all," he wrote, in a message to agency employees.
As part of his open communication policy, Exley uses a variety of methods to find out what is working and what can be improved. In addition to using an Auditor General leadership blog and an agency-wide blog, leaders with the organization make frequent field office visits, conduct an annual workforce survey they use to identify concerns and take corrective actions, and Exley himself calls three or four randomly selected individuals each week from the agency's 20 field office to hear what they have to say.
Suzanne Pierce, an audit manager and field office manager in an annex building off of Fort Belvoir, has worked at the agency for nearly 14 years. She began fresh out of college and hasn't looked back.
She, too, sings the praises of the high morale, opportunities for professional development, trust in employees, and challenging assignments at the Army Audit Agency.
"One of the things that definitely leads to the high employee satisfaction is the empowerment that we get from our management and the empowerment that we give our staff members," she said.
There is a great level of trust in employees, allowing them to independently talk to Army clients and make their own assessments without management micromanaging or second guessing them, she said.
The employees thrive in the environment where they are trusted, respected and have a stake in their assignments, she said.
"We can see that the work that we're doing is making a difference for the Soldiers on the ground," she said.
(For more ARNEWS stories, visit www.army.mil/ARNEWS, or Facebook at www.facebook.com/ArmyNewsService)