CAMP ZAMA, Japan – U.S. Army Garrison Japan leadership spoke on various workforce issues from a climate survey to a new garrison mission roadmap during a town hall here Wednesday.
Col. Christopher L. Tomlinson, commander of USAG Japan, opened the meeting by highlighting policy updates for employees while also seeking their input to make the garrison stronger.
“This is your town hall. Your opportunity to make sure that your voice is heard,” he told audience members watching both virtually and from inside the Camp Zama Community Club. “And if there are issues or concerns, feedback is key.”
A USAG Japan Installation Support Strategy has recently been created, he said, which garrison staff will soon be able to access online, as well as a Japanese-translated version that will be available later.
“You can also think of it as a roadmap to success that the garrison built through multiple iterations of strategy sessions,” he said, adding that the document will be continually updated.
He described the 14-page document as a framework that allows the garrison to be more responsive to the mission priorities of its higher headquarters.
“The United States Army Pacific has been very clear in defining the importance of this region and we, as the garrison, must be able to provide installation support capabilities to enable regional initiatives,” he said.
Brandon Bergeron, chairman of the Climate Action Team, then discussed results from the latest Defense Organizational Climate Survey, which ran from early October to mid-December and had response rates of 52% and 68% for USAGs Japan and Okinawa, respectively.
“Overall, the survey showed good direct leadership, pride among co-workers and teams, and had many good suggestions and areas of focus,” Bergeron said. “The major concern areas were in communication, transparency and staffing.”
About 35% of the local national workforce participated in a similar survey during the same time period. That survey showed that most employees enjoyed working with their teams and felt they were an important part of their unit, but power harassment and understaffing were a concern, he said.
A training video and slideshow for supervisors and employees have been developed to help stem the issue of power harassment. Mandatory training is expected to be completed by the end of May.
“We must continue to strive for improvement in leadership and supervision, to include focusing on communications, transparency and the real or perceived issue of power harassment,” Bergeron said.
Tomlinson said that understaffing remains an issue. Through a collaborative effort between USAG Japan leadership, directors and the Civilian Personnel Advisory Center, the garrison has been working to cut onboarding times and minimize other delays.
“We are now getting down to the individual level of hiring vacancies to reduce the timeline, so we can get quality talent on the ground,” the colonel said.
Jeff Zentz, chief of Workforce Development, also mentioned that the garrison plans to begin exit interviews to collect feedback from civilian employees leaving Japan.
A questionnaire will be sent to departing employees who must turn it in to either Zentz or Jeff Helminiak, the non-appropriated fund support manager, no later than five days before their last workday.
Departing supervisors will have the opportunity to schedule an out-brief with the garrison commander or deputy commander no later than two weeks prior to their final workday.
“Our goal is to solicit information from you via the questionnaire [or out-brief] to help the command improve and to ensure that U.S. Army Garrison Japan is an organization known as a great place to come,” Zentz said.
Tomlinson also highlighted the brown bag lunch sessions aimed at receiving candid input from supervisors, which is now being expanded to local-national supervisors.
“We’ve already made some significant solutions across the workforce and identified areas that we need to focus on,” the colonel said. “The secret to success for this is the confidentiality that is expressed inside of there, along with immediate feedback from the command team.”
Jenifer L. Peterson, deputy garrison commander, later answered a question from the audience regarding the possibility of flexible work schedules.
The Directorate of Human Resources and Resource Management Office are currently looking at being able to add credit hours to timecards, she said. But the challenge with these schedules, she added, is that many of the garrison’s offices need to provide support to customers during normal duty hours.
“We are looking to be able to utilize [credit hours],” she said of the schedules. “I will not say ‘full-flex schedule,’ but to allow directors, where appropriate, some more ability to use some other tools that are out there.”
In closing, Tomlinson said he appreciated all the questions and feedback during the town hall.
“We’re trending in a positive direction,” he said of the survey results, “but there are definitely areas that have been identified that we all need to address.”
From a command team perspective, for instance, the colonel said they must continue to foster accountability and leader development across the entire workforce.
Communication should be up and down, not just laterally, he said, so that everyone understands the big picture.
“We’re moving in the right direction,” he said, later adding, “I continue to be amazed and proud to be part of such a great organization.”