By Tim Flack, USAG JapanNovember 5, 2018
CAMP ZAMA, JAPAN (Nov. 5, 2018) - Newly hired employee Ron Aldridge said he was amazed by his transition to U.S. Army Garrison Japan, starting with a welcome letter from the garrison commander to a sponsor who helped him through every step of the move from the States.
"It was obvious that the leadership team here is engaged and cares about the employees," said Aldridge. "They demonstrated that to me through their actions ... they didn't 'talk the talk, they walked the walk.'"
It was Aldridge's first taste of the Installation Management Command's Service Culture Campaign, launched as an initiative in 2017 to drive a culture of service excellence. Faced with reduced resources - to include funding and personnel - IMCOM officials created a plan to ensure they could mitigate the impact of the challenges.
It's a simple formula: when leaders are engaged, when they train and empower a professional workforce and promote fair and appropriate recognition and accountability, the employees enjoy working for the organization and, in turn, help make a difference in the lives of those who they support.
Now, Aldridge is working to formalize that philosophy as part of his daily duties as a supervisory workforce development specialist with the USAG Japan Directorate of Human Resources. He has been selected as the garrison's Service Culture Campaign program coordinator.
"I have the benefit of having just gone through this myself," Aldridge explained. "I had a sponsor, Cedric Davis, who was attached at the hip. He picked me up at the airport, got me to my hotel, drove me to work, and walked me through my in-processing."
Aldridge explained that he immediately felt a sense of belonging, and a connection to the organization.
"Since I wasn't worried about the unknown, and I felt like my family and I were being taken care of, I was able to hit the ground running," Aldridge said.
He explained that the new norm for employee on-boarding - just launched on Oct. 1 - is a year-long, five-phased approach. It provides the new employees with the tools, resources and knowledge they need, and allows them to connect with the unique culture and values of both IMCOM and the garrison.
Those phases will take an employee from the beginning when they have a thousand questions on life in Japan, to the day their sponsor meets them at the airport, to their first day, month and year at work.
Understanding the garrison and IMCOM mission, vision, values and principles is also crucially important, he said. He pointed toward the "IMCOM Leadership Pledge" and "IMCOM Pledge to Our Customers," as visual reminders on display throughout the garrison. Signed by Garrison Commander Col. Phillip K. Gage, Garrison Deputy Commander J.S. Niederriter, and Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Billy Norman, the pledges spell out leadership's commitment to the workforce and the customers they support.
Gage said the campaign is important to his command.
"I have a group of dedicated professionals - both in and out of uniform - who are committed to serving our nation," Gage said. "We use this program to emphasize our service to others, our commitment to each other, and the overall well-being of our community."
One major part of the Service Culture push was the implementation of Operation Excellence (OPEX) Customer Service Training. The training was developed to ensure all IMCOM professionals could hone their customer service skills.
Aldridge said the training was well-received, and helped spell out clearly that "we are committed to delivering programs and services with a sense of pride, professionalism."
He also said USAG Japan plans to expand the training to include the Japanese teammates. His team working to translate the four-hour training session and ensure they have facilitators who can deliver the material.
Another important element of the campaign is the need to have a robust, varied and fair program for leaders to be able to recognize and reward team members for the performance that supports the organization's mission and goals.
"The end result is that we want our employees to feel a sense of belonging," he said.