“When our nation looks at its Navy, it should see itself reflected back,” said Diversity Directorate for the Chief of Naval Personnel Captain Ken Barrett at DiversityInc’s diversity-management learning session in Washington, D.C. “Furthermore, we want an officer corps that’s reflective of the enlisted force that it leads.”
To accomplish its mission, the U.S. Navy, driven by Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead, made a tectonic shift in 2006 in its personnel policy: “to no longer accept the status quo,” said Capt. Barrett, acknowledging that the organization had been behind the national demographics for several years.
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But today, as one of The 2010 DiversityInc Top Federal Agencies for Diversity, the Navy has set benchmarks and is on course to achieving its goals by filling its pipeline with more women, Blacks, Latinos and people from other underrepresented groups. Over the past two years, Capt. Barrett reports that the Navy increased its racial/ethnic and gender representation by 200 percent. And the naval academy class of 2013 has seen a 57 percent increase in racial/ethnic and gender representation over the class of 2012.
How did the Navy make an about-face in such a short time? The organization followed a three-step approach. After an initial 360-degree assessment phase, it followed a decisive action plan that included:
- Holding leadership accountable. “There was a lack of accountability throughout the organization. And it ended up being that most of the demographics of any of the underrepresented models that we had would only be in the HR function,” he admits.
- Doing targeted outreach. This included identifying key recruiting markets (New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston and Atlanta) and building “influencer bases” among underrepresented communities by working with organizations such as the National Society of Black Engineers.
- More mentoring. The Navy’s workforce surveys revealed that “85 percent of our force … wanted more mentoring,” explained Capt. Barrett. Today, the organization is developing a program that includes “early intervention” mentoring to help retain its best and brightest.
- Creating a coherent, compelling, consistent diversity message. “If it ends up being so much gobbledygook that you’ve mixed the messages up, then you might as well forget it because you’ve lost people,” warns Capt. Barrett. “It [also] has to be a message that resonates with folks.”
The final phase of this plan, which is occurring now, is sustainment and accountability. From providing key assignments to underrepresented groups to instilling a sense of diversity ownership within each of its forces (surface, aviation and submarine), these and other initiatives have helped move the U.S. Navy onto this year’s DiversityInc Top Federal Agencies list.
To determine the federal agencies’ commitment to diversity, DiversityInc surveyed them for the same four areas as The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity: CEO (agency head) Commitment, Human Capital, Corporate and Organizational Communications, and Supplier Diversity.
If your agency would like to participate in next year’s competition, please contact benchmarking@DiversityInc.com.