December 21, 2012
By David Vergun
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Dec. 16, 2012) — The Army Audit Agency, located at Fort Belvoir, Va., took first place in the federal government’s 2012 small subcomponent category for the best places to work. In both 2010 and 2011, the agency came in second place.
The agency’s satisfaction score was 85.7 out of a possible 100 points, an increase of 5.3 percent from 2011. Government-wide aggregate scores fell from 64 in 2011 to 60.8 this year.
Rankings for best places to work come from employee satisfaction surveys taken by some 700,000 workers in 362 federal agencies and sub-components. The surveys are generated by the Office of Personnel Management, in partnership with the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization Partnership for Public Service.
Survey responses are graded on such things as effective leadership, employee skills, mission accomplishments, pay, teamwork and quality of life factors.
The keys to having the best workplace are simple, according to Bobbie Holliday-Gordon, the agency’s Strategic Plans and Special Studies Coordinator: “‘Mission first, people always,’ that’s one of our slogans,” she said.
“Our focus is always on helping the Soldier. That’s our mission,” said Holliday-Gordon.
The agency puts the highest priority on collaboration with Army leaders to be more responsive to the needs of all Army organizations, she said. These include things like risk-assessment measures; prevention of waste, fraud and abuse; and reviewing acquisition of weapons and materiel in an accurate and timely manner.
“Some of our auditors have volunteered for service in combat areas of Afghanistan and previously in Iraq,” she said, adding that hundreds have deployed there in the past.
“Our leaders emphasize the need for good communications,” Holliday-Gordon said. “That includes any ideas and suggestions from even the most junior workers.”
She said town hall meetings are conducted agency-wide on a regular basis by the agency’s director, Auditor General Randall L. Exley. Questions and responses to those questions are then posted on the agency’s intranet.
The agency has had its share of adversity.
“Over the years, we’ve downsized and shut down field offices,” Holliday-Gordon said. “Just this year we went from 607 to 577 personnel.”
The drawdowns were done in the “most kindly way possible, including downsizing through attrition and retirements and less hiring” as opposed to forced layoffs, she said.
Holliday-Gordon herself has been with the agency about 24 years, working out of field offices at Fort Riley, Kan., then Fort Hood, Texas, then Fort Lee, Va., and now for the last four years at the Operations Center, currently at Fort Belvoir.
“My husband was in the Army and the agency went to great lengths to accommodate me with each [permanent change-of-station] move,” she said.
While the agency’s employees now are almost entirely made up of Army civilians, she said at one time there were Soldiers working there. She observed them working very hard to accomplish the mission. Her interactions with them indicated they thought it was a great place to work as well.
The agency allows employees to telework as long as the needs and requirements of the mission are met. She said workers who telework do high-quality work from home and that telework “motivates employees.”
The agency “has always been in the forefront of helping its employees,” she concluded.