NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. – Mentoring young employees is key to fostering an inclusive environment, especially in today’s era of engaged citizenship in which individuals are increasingly asserting their role in government and taking direct action on social issues, said Dr. Tuajuanda Jordan, president of St. Mary’s College of Maryland, at a Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers (COMFRC) all-hands meeting April 20.

Rear Adm. Mike Zarkowski of COMFRC invited Jordan to address the command after hearing her speak about diversity at NAVAIR’s 2017 Martin Luther King Jr. Day luncheon Jan. 12. “I’ve reflected upon what she said that day, and it made me think about how to reach millennials,” he said. “We have three or four generations of leaders here in the command, and I wanted to give you the opportunity to hear her words and better our team.”

In her presentation, entitled “Speaking Louder Than Before,” Jordan said she’s seen a renewed sense of urgency among U.S. citizens to become involved in the country’s governance. After the recent presidential campaign and election, there have been more protests and an increased interest in political and social organizations, she said.

“No place is completely immune to challenges in managing differences. As leaders, employers, employees and citizens, we need to manage partisanship to prevent it from having a negative impact on our organization’s productivity, morale and retention,” she explained.

Jordan listed four themes to creating an inclusive environment that respects different views.

Everyone in the workforce must work toward diversity and inclusion. “It is a central, enduring and distinctive organizational attribute that cannot solely be the responsibility of the chief diversity officer,” Jordan said.
Accommodation should be the rule, not the exception. This produces an efficacy for change.
Respecting differences is a necessity, not a nicety. Show openness to others and use the most effective type of communication for each circumstance.
Continuous learning is required of everyone.
“The challenge is: How do we get to the openness?” she asked. “How do we, as managers and team players, promote mutual respect for others and the desire for continuous learning so that we all can be better citizens? The quick answer is we must lead by example.”

Part of being a leader is creating an environment where all voices can be heard and where listeners will respect and consider differing points of view.  “Effective leaders are adept at allowing all voices to be heard within the proper forum,” Jordan said.  “This type of approach channels emotions and feelings into something constructive that can serve as a learning experience and an opportunity to grow.”

Jordan cited a recent gathering at St. Mary’s College as an example: “We held a campuswide open session right after the election where students, faculty and staff could voice their feelings candidly without fear of censure,” she said. “As long as the participants were respectful of others, it did not matter which candidate they had supported or which side they were on. Just listening and allowing people to be heard breaks down barriers, allows the healing process to begin and strengthens community.”

In this era of increased engagement and mobilization, Jordan asked baby boomers and members of Generation X, in particular, to guide millennials in the workforce.  As of October 2016, approximately 85 percent of NAVAIR’s workforce is either a baby boomer or a member of Generation X; millennials make up almost 15 percent of the workforce—a number that is projected to increase to 30 percent by the year 2022.

“Each generation has different values, morals, dreams and desires but must understand each other to be able to work together toward a common cause. Each of us in our personal and professional lives has the responsibility to seek out opportunities in our communities. The millennials will be the ones who will continue to carry the torch,” Jordan said.

As an organization, Jordan said COMFRC can support this multigenerational exchange and knowledge transfer by:

Making workspaces more flexible and multipurpose
Fostering collaboration by acknowledging the office is a space for both professional and social engagement
Taking advantage of technology to deliver maximum efficiencies
Adapting the organization’s structure and culture by ensuring policies are balanced between instruction and inspiration
Understanding more guidance and less control leads to creativity and greater output
Deputy Commander for Fleet Readiness Centers and Director of Industrial Operations for Logistics and Industrial Operations, Naval Air Systems Command, Martin Ahmad, said Jordan’s message of unity and cooperation was timely.

“The [Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson] touched on this in his address to senior flag officers and civilians during the [Navy Flag Officers and Senior Executive Service] Symposium this year,” he said. “He emphasized that we are one Navy and one team and that we must galvanize around the mission.”

Educating younger employees about how the world and systems work, Jordan said, is part of building that team and guiding the burgeoning interest in government.

“Let’s do our part,” she said, “and join the movement.”