REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Last year the Army launched Project Inclusion, a new initiative to improve diversity, equity and inclusion across the force and build cohesive teams.
Now, as 2021 unfolds, the Army remains committed to fostering a culture of trust and to accept the experiences, culture, characteristics and background each Soldier and Civilian brings to the institution.
“Our Army is a representative of the citizens of this nation. Just like our nation is a melting pot of different races and cultures, our Army is a great melting pot of Soldiers and Army Civilians coming from all walks of life and diverse backgrounds,” said Paula Taylor, director of the Army Materiel Command’s Office of Diversity and Leadership.
In 2020, "we all saw what was happening in our society and our leaders made a commitment to make sure it doesn’t happen within our Army. They are committed to ensuring a diverse Army that is inclusive, and where diversity in race, thought and perspective is valued.”
While the commitment has been there for many years and is apparent in the Army’s values, Taylor said it was further solidified in 2020 with a strategic plan to operationalize Diversity, Equity and Inclusion across the entire Army. Her comments were made to more than 100 professionals who attended the virtual SHARP (Sexual Harassment and Assault Response Program) Summit in late December. The DEI theme for implementing Project Inclusion is “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion – The Army’s Way of Life.”
As part of the strategic plan, the Army is calling on its senior leaders to demonstrate its commitment, engagement and support of DEI practices; institutionalize Talent Management policies to acquire, develop and retain employees; establish and resource a governance structure to support Army DEI efforts; implement DEI training and education programs that meet the demands of the Total Force; and create and maintain an equitable and inclusive environment that values diversity.
“The Army is working to make sure its senior leaders understand the importance of valuing diversity in the workplace, and creating a shared understanding of diversity,” Taylor said. “The Army is performing a review of its people processes, policies, programs and procedures to ensure a diverse workforce, and to ensure leaders know how to build cohesive, diverse, inclusive and equitable teams.”
Toward that end, one of the key elements is “Your Voice Matters” listening sessions between leaders and employees, Taylor said. Also important is ensuring senior leader DEI training; reconstituting the use of diversity councils to promote alignment of DEI efforts; developing plans for expanding a diverse talent pool within the workforce; developing and executing DEI training; and reviewing Army policies for biases.
“At AMC, our commander, Gen. (Ed) Daly wants to hear what people are saying. He wants to analyze DEI data and understand where we are and to review any trends that seem to be unfavorable to people of different races. Gen. Daly wants all employees to feel safe and to have a conduit to report anything unfair. He wants every member of the team to feel valued and included,” Taylor said. “AMC leaders are leading the change for the Army. We are setting the pace.”
Project Inclusion joins Suicide Prevention and SHARP Training/Anti-Harassment Training as the three focus areas within AMC’s People focus area, with the lines of effort including leader awareness and commitment, education and training, and communication.
“Project Inclusion is in the people business, as is SHARP, the Chaplain’s Office and Equal Employment Opportunity. With the optempo of the last several years, we have had tremendous challenges in the people business,” Taylor said. “We must be prepared, be postured, to lead the change to an equitable and inclusive environment that empowers all AMC employee to support worldwide missions.”
Ensuring a safe and inclusive work environment leads to a productive workforce focused on ensuring readiness and sustainment of the Army’s Total Force.
“This is about enabling our Soldiers,” Taylor said. “It’s about ensuring we have a healthy and productive workforce to support the Soldiers who protect us and defend our nation. When we don’t encourage DEI, we are not only hurting our people, but also our missions and our Soldiers.”
In leading AMC’s major subordinate commands, its commander is encouraging a diverse and inclusive culture while also standing against any type of racism or extremism. “Gen. Daly has told us to make sure we have transparency at all levels,” Taylor said. “Our employees have to feel comfortable talking to us about issues and providing feedback. Gen. Daly wants every commander to have a DEI action plan that is achievable, empowers employees, and enhances performance and productivity.”
Taylor told the SHARP professionals that their programs are essential to meeting the goal of acquiring, developing, employing and retaining a professional and competent workforce.
“SHARP professionals are among those of us who listen, who show AMC’s commitment to them because we listen and value every employee who comes to us for assistance,” Taylor said. “We help to ensure every employee has a place at the table. Our programs help to improve the command culture and give employees a place to go when they need help.”