The Installation Management Command's Service Culture Campaign focuses on caring and engaged leadership, seen as key to developing highly effective teams capable of supporting installation senior commanders and Army readiness requirements.
Lt. Gen. Kenneth R. Dahl, IMCOM Commanding General, launched the Service Culture Campaign in April 2017, with the basic premise that when personnel feel valued and respected for the work they do, are properly trained, and live the Army values, they in turn pass on a positive attitude to their coworkers and customers.
IMCOM's Service Culture emphasizes leader and workforce engagement by providing new command team members with an impactful on-boarding program, employee recognition, communication, establishing a sense of pride in serving within IMCOM, and standardized customer service training implemented garrison wide. These foundations help support Soldiers and their Families in their contributions to the nation.
Alexandra Smith, plans specialist in the plans, analysis and integration office at Fort Huachuca, said, "If you treat your personnel with dignity and respect, making them feel like part of the organization, empowering them, and providing opportunities for training and succession planning, a feeling of job satisfaction most definitely will show in all interactions with internal and external customers."
Training the Trainer
As IMCOM's enterprise approach to standardized customer service training, OPEX, or Service Culture training as it is commonly referred to, develops participants' knowledge, skills and values from experiences, rather than lectures in a traditional academic setting.
From its roots within IMCOM's G9 Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation program, OPEX has expanded to all members of the command's workforce.
To accomplish this, IMCOM's College of Installation Management (CIM) instituted a train-the-trainer program in 2016 to prepare Appropriated Fund (APF) professionals to serve as OPEX facilitators/trainers. The program certifies trainers in OPEX and OPEX for Leaders. The course design helps the entire workforce learn about the Service Culture concepts and principles, and places a special emphasis on leader and supervisor responsibility to engage with their most valuable asset, their employees. To date, the CIM has trained 80 high-performing APF OPEX facilitators from all IMCOM garrisons.
"This class surprised a lot of people," said Debonie Wagener, management Analyst at Rock Island Arsenal. "Participants liked the level of engagement from the activities, working in small groups, role playing and the message itself."
Richard Martinez, chief of the administrative services division at White Sands Missile Range, said opinions about the program changed as soon as it was presented.
"In the beginning, garrison personnel said, 'Not another training!'"
But as the first few OPEX sessions took place, "Employees told their coworkers that OPEX was different, and it wasn't death by PowerPoint," Martinez said. "It was described as a fun, interactive learning experience. From the promotion of OPEX, classes began to have an impact on the garrison leadership and employees."
OPEX facilitators are serving as garrison lead trainers to continue program delivery to all garrison staff members outside FMWR. In the long term, they will facilitate OPEX as part of the garrisons' onboarding programs for new team members and will provide shorter annual refresher training to maintain the program's momentum and keep IMCOM professionals focused on the importance of service excellence.
In its first year, IMCOM's customer service training has brought personal leadership to the forefront. Now integrated into the command, OPEX has reached more than 15,000 installation management professionals in 80 locations worldwide.
"I attribute this success to all the hard work that was done up front, our patience to coordinate with the garrisons and incorporate their feedback, and the excellent instruction of the facilitators," Dahl said.
Next Gen: Sustainment
Garrisons that have delivered OPEX to most of their workforce now are starting OPEX refresher training. To address projected facilitator turnover and to provide opportunities for other members of the team to maintain Service Culture momentum, the CIM will be offering OPEX Train-the-Trainer courses in FY2018 and beyond. In FY2019, IMCOM will conduct a second command-wide customer Service Culture survey to re-evaluate, from team members' perspectives, how IMCOM is doing in establishing the conditions needed for a culture of service excellence.
OPEX is one of the foundations in the larger Service Culture framework. Progress reports show that IMCOM garrisons are embracing all pillars of the Service Culture Campaign because they resonate with leader and employee beliefs, and they reinforce and revitalize existing programs.
"Leadership's buy-in has created an atmosphere that truly supports the employee, and employees are being energized to improve the community," said Michael Noyes, Army substance abuse program manager at USAG Ansbach.
"Onboarding prior to the Service Culture Campaign was left up to each directorate. It was hit or miss for employees," Noyes said. "Now, the in-processing is a very organized process, and all employees receive the time and support that helps them integrate into the workforce and community."
Scottie Thomas, lead management and program analyst at Fort Jackson, said employee recognition "satisfies the thirst for positive feedback. The emphasis on service contributes to a culture of appreciation and is celebrated at all levels of the command."
Vicki Hamblin, chief of the plans, analysis and integration office at Fort Leavenworth, said the garrison has made communication one of its top priorities for its 2018 strategic plan.
Sean Sparks, director of human resources at Fort Rucker, noted, "Garrison leadership signed the charter in front of the entire garrison workforce and commended the team for their ongoing customer-focus efforts."
Matthew Margotta, co-lead/developer of the Service Culture initiative, said persistence is needed to continue the effort in the long term.
"Changing the culture of an organization does not happen overnight. It requires sustained effort, leader engagement at all levels, and the buy-in and support of all within the organization," Margotta said.
"IMCOM's Service Culture represents a long-term campaign to return to the basics through engaged and caring leadership, commitment to service, self-reliance, and adherence to the Army's core values," he said.
"As a supporting command and a service-provider organization which provides a unique and special contribution to Army readiness, service excellence should be at the forefront of all we do. The Service Culture Campaign provides us the tools and a daily reminder of how to get there."
IMCOM has a lasting commitment to providing the best possible customer service to Soldiers, Families and communities. Excellence in customer service is a result of how an organization treats its employees.
Dahl said he envisions IMCOM's Service Culture as a sustained campaign, not a one-time effort. "I want to be sure we continue our focus and sustain our effort to see this through, and make it a routine part of IMCOM operations and culture."