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A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line (2013)

Chapter:3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security

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Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
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3

Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security

The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people.
 —Woodrow Wilson

The art of communication is the language of leadership.
 —James Humes

The single greatest barrier to business success is the one erected by culture.
 —Edward T. Hall and Mildred Reed Hall

As discussed in Chapter 2, effective leadership, strong communication, and a common core culture—that includes to some extent a shared organizational identity and assumptions about mission, strategy, and goals—are the building blocks of a successful organization and are necessary if programs in the organization are to be implemented successfully. Without those elements, programmatic efforts in any organization— including workforce resilience programs—will not succeed (Beer et al., 1990; Kotter, 2007). Leadership, communication, and culture are intimately intertwined and, as described in this chapter, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has deficits in all three. The combination of effective organizational leadership and appropriate communication with the workforce leads to a core culture that allows diversity but at the same time fosters a common set of key assumptions, norms, and values around which component subcultures can align (O’Reilly, 1989; Schein, 2010; Sutcliffe, 2013). Leaders enable culture through their actions (what they

Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
×

say and do); what they regularly attend to, measure, and control; how they react to critical events and organizational crises; how they allocate resources, rewards, and status; how they recruit, select, promote, and sanction employees; and the extent to which they deliberately act as role models, teachers, and coaches (Schein, 2010; Sutcliffe, 2013). Culture is also enabled by secondary mechanisms, such as an organization’s design and structure, systems and procedures, rites and rituals, physical space, buildings, myths and stories, and such formal statements of organizational philosophy as mission statements, creeds, and charters (Schein, 2010; Sutcliffe, 2013). Culture supports workforce resilience by encouraging norms, values, and expectations that are consistent with and advance it and by establishing structures and practices that enable it. As Everly and Lating (2013, p. 150) explain, “resilient leaders can create the ‘tipping point’ that changes an entire culture.” The effects of leadership and culture on workforce resilience will be discussed further later in this chapter. The chapter reviews the state of these important constructs in DHS and provides recommendations for guiding them forward.

LEADERSHIP

Leadership is not status or position. Leadership is all about achievement of the right results. Leaders are doers, who take responsibility and make a difference.
 —Peter Drucker

The success of any organization and the execution of its programs depend on effective leadership. That is true of a successful resilience program. In this challenging time for the federal government—with their severe budget cuts, furloughs, pay freezes, and reduced resources— leadership is especially important, not only for absorbing and managing employees’ uncertainty about the future but for engaging employees, deepening their organizational commitment, and increasing general job satisfaction.

In recent years, leadership, as evaluated by the workforce, has been an issue of concern throughout the federal government, especially in DHS (OPM, 2012a; Partnership for Public Service, 2013). In its evaluation of the 2012 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) results, the

Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
×

Partnership for Public Service1 (Partnership for Public Service, 2013) noted that although for many years federal employees generally have not given their leaders high marks, scores on leadership dropped markedly for the first time since 2003. Six of the 19 large federal agencies (the grouping that includes DHS) showed improvement in their overall leadership score in 2012, but effective leadership in the federal government ranked 9th out of the 10 workplace categories measured (Partnership for Public Service, 2013). Top-rated agencies include the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Intelligence Community, and the Department of State; DHS ranked at the bottom. DHS employees have consistently expressed low confidence in organizational leadership and expressed concerns about communication and trust (see the following sections for relevant FEVS results for DHS).

Why Leadership Is Important

“Leadership is often regarded as the single most critical factor in the success or failure of institutions” (Bass and Bass, 2009, p. 11). Repeatedly, leadership has been shown to influence employee morale, productivity, job satisfaction, organizational commitment, stress, and resilience (Allen, 2012; Britt et al., 2004; Cunniff, 2013; Dirks and Ferrin, 2002; Everly, 2012). When leadership is effective, it can create “a climate of trust, growth and development, which can enhance performance” (Bates et al., 2010, p. 33). A successful organization depends on effective leaders— a point not lost on DHS, as noted in the current Department of Homeland Security Workforce Strategy (DHS, 2011).2 Collins and Hansen (2011) point to three essential qualities of great leaders: they are disciplined, demonstrating consistency in their actions; they depend on empirical evidence as opposed to relying on conventional wisdom or the advice of pundits or experts; and they remain hypervigilant at all times, planning and preparing for “what if” scenarios.

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1The Partnership for Public Service is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. Since 2003, it has produced Best Places to Work in the Federal Government annually, drawing on its analysis of FEVS results.

2Goal 1 of the strategy is “building an effective, mission-focused, diverse and inspiring cadre of leaders.” It includes three objectives: “Implement succession planning to ensure continuity of leadership; institute a Department-wide leader development program to enhance leadership skills for DHS employees at all levels; and achieve a diverse leadership cadre.”

Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
×

Alternatively, poor leadership (which the literature divides into abusive and passive leadership styles3), including lack of supervisor social support, can have adverse effects on employees (Kelloway et al., 2005). Kelloway et al. (2005) concluded that although poor leadership itself is likely to increase stress, poor leaders are also likely to contribute to other stressors in the workplace, including workload and pace, role conflict and ambiguity, career concerns, work scheduling, interpersonal relations, job content, and control. Leaders’ influence on all those variables “has often resulted in detrimental effects on employee well-being” (Kelloway et al., 2005). Ineffective leadership can also lead to decreased organizational commitment and high turnover rates in an organization. Talented people leave organizations when their supervisors and leaders are not perceived as sharing their values, do not demonstrate concern for employees, and do not “create a sense of purpose, hope, direction, and trust” (Gantner, 2012). As the Partnership for Public Service (2013) noted, federal employees who responded that they were planning to leave their current jobs in the next year rated their agency 35 percentage points lower in the effective-leadership category than those planning to stay in their jobs. In 2010, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) projected that 48 percent of federal employees will be eligible to retire in fiscal year (FY) 2015 (Partnership for Public Service and Booz Allen Hamilton, 2010). With the looming possibility of high turnover due to retirements in the coming years, developing the next generation of effective leadership from within will play a critical role in ensuring workforce retention.

Leadership is critical for successful and sustainable program implementation. For a new program or initiative to take root, leadership must be supportive, vocal, and involved; “leaders are agents of change” (Bass and Bass, 2009, p. 13; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 2011; Cunniff, 2013; Spaeth, 2013; Sparling, 2010). The NIOSH Essential Elements guidance has two elements related to leadership: “Demonstrate leadership” and “Engage mid-level management” (NIOSH, 2008). Those elements stress the importance of having leaders at all levels actively involved and vocal in promoting health, safety, and wellness programs throughout an organization (see Box 3-1), and they helped to guide the committee’s deliberations in this subject.

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3“Abusive leaders are those who act in an overly punitive or aggressive manner. Passive leaders are those individuals who do not demonstrate the necessary abilities for a leadership role and often fail to live up to their responsibilities” (Kelloway et al., 2005).

Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
×

BOX 3-1
NIOSH Total Worker Health Framework—Leadership

Demonstrate Leadership

Commitment to worker health and safety, reflected in words and actions, is critical. The connection of workforce health and safety to the core products, services, and values of the company should be acknowledged by leaders and communicated widely. In some notable examples, corporate Boards of Directors have recognized the value of workforce health and wellbeing by incorporating it into an organization’s business plan and making it a key operating principle for which organization leaders are held accountable.

Engage Mid-Level Management

Supervisors and managers at all levels should be involved in promoting health-supportive programs. They are the direct links between the workers and upper management and will determine if the program succeeds or fails.

SOURCE: NIOSH, 2008.

Leadership and Resilience

Leadership is critical for building individual and organizational resilience. As noted in Chapter 2, consistent and vocal support by high-ranking leaders and others throughout the leadership ranks is an important building block for both initiating change (in this case, establishing an organizational and workforce resilience effort) and embedding and sustaining it. Moreover, research has shown that leaders, especially frontline leaders, are important in building resilience in the workforce (Everly, 2012; Everly and Lating, 2013; IOM, 2012). It is frontline leaders with whom employees have the most interaction, so these leaders have the most influence on their employees. Col. Paul Bliese noted at the 2011 IOM Workforce Resilience workshop that research in the US Army has demonstrated that the “strongest factor related to unit resilience is officer leadership…. Good leaders make a very big difference under high-stress conditions” (IOM, 2012, p. 78). As Everly (2012) explains, a culture of leadership is necessary to create a culture of resilience, and developing resilient leaders is crucial in creating this culture.

The US armed forces have recognized the importance of leadership for force readiness and resilience in the creation of their fitness programs. To address stressors that may affect readiness, the Department of Defense created the Total Force Fitness framework to support and augment efforts in the services. That framework emphasizes the importance

Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
×

of leadership both in establishing and supporting the framework and as a key component for individual growth (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 2011). The Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF) effort provides soldiers with “instruction on specific mental and physical skills to enhance performance when facing challenges, whether those challenges are in their personal or professional lives” (Cornum et al., 2011, p. 7). Special focus is placed on teaching small-unit leaders to instill those qualities in those whom they lead (Cornum et al., 2011).

Leadership in the Department of Homeland Security

Employee responses to the 2012 FEVS demonstrate overarching leadership issues in DHS. With 52 percent positive responses to questions on the Human Capital Assessment and Accountability Framework (HCAAF) Leadership and Knowledge Management Index,4 DHS scored 8 percent below the government average and ranked 36th of 37 in the HCAAF rankings (OPM, 2012a). Only 32.9 percent responded positively that leaders in DHS “generate high levels of motivation and commitment to the workforce” in contrast with 43.2 percent who disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement (OPM, 2012b, p. 4). Whereas 63.8 percent reported that their immediate supervisor or team leader was doing a good job overall, the same question regarding the manager directly above the immediate supervisor garnered 49.1 percent positive responses (OPM, 2012b). Regarding senior leaders, 46.2 percent reported a high level of respect for those in DHS (OPM, 2012b, p. 6). Table 3-1 shows additional FEVS results related to leadership.

DHS employees voiced concerns to the committee on issues related to leadership during the committee’s site visits and meetings. Regarding frontline leadership, the committee heard that the quality of leaders varies widely. It was generally reported in various sites that many supervisors are managers as opposed to leaders; employees often stated that supervisors

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4HCAAF identifies the standard for Leadership and Knowledge Management as follows: “Agency leaders and managers effectively manage people, ensure continuity of leadership, sustain a learning environment that drives continuous improvement in performance, and provide a means to share critical knowledge across the organization” (OPM, 2005, p. 3). As a measurement of whether the standard is met, the Leadership and Knowledge Management Index of the FEVS “indicates the extent to which employees hold their leadership in high regard, both overall and on specific facets” (OPM, 2012a, p. 10).

Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
×

TABLE 3-1 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey Results Related to Leadership


Question

DHS Positive, %

Government-Wide Positive, Average, %


42.   My supervisor supports my need to balance work and other life issues.

69.0

76.7

43.   My supervisor/team leader provides me with opportunities to demonstrate my leadership skills.

59.5

65.2

44.   Discussions with my supervisor/team leader about my performance are worthwhile.

57.6

62.2

45.   My supervisor/team leader is committed to a workforce representative of all segments of society.

58.5

64.5

46.   My supervisor/team leader provides me with constructive suggestions to improve my job performance.

57.4

60.8

47.   Supervisors/team leaders in my work unit support employee development.

57.2

65.1

48.   My supervisor/team leader listens to what I have to say.

69.9

74.3

49.   My supervisor/team leader treats me with respect.

76.2

79.4

50.   In the last six months, my supervisor/team leader has talked with me about my performance.

76.8

76.8

51.   I have trust and confidence in my supervisor.

61.8

65.8

52.   Overall, how good a job do you feel is being done by your immediate supervisor/team leader?

63.8

68.4

53.   In my organization, leaders generate high levels of motivation and commitment in the workforce.

32.9

42.9

54.   My organization’s leaders maintain high standards of honesty and integrity.

46.9

55.1

55.   Managers/supervisors/team leaders work well with employees of different back-grounds.

55.8

63.4

Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
×

Question

DHS Positive, %

Government-Wide Positive, Average, %


56.   Managers communicate the goals and priorities of the organization.

53.2

62.4

57.   Managers review and evaluate the organization’s progress toward meeting its goals and objectives.

50.1

62.0

58.   Managers promote communication among different work units (for example, about projects, goals, needed resources).

42.4

53.3

59.   Managers support collaboration across work units to accomplish work objectives.

46.1

56.9

60.   Overall, how good a job do you feel is being done by the manager directly above your immediate supervisor/team leader?

49.1

57.9

61.   I have a high level of respect for my organization’s senior leaders.

46.2

54.1

62.   Senior leaders demonstrate support for Work/Life programs.

43.0

54.0

63.   How satisfied are you with your involvement in decisions that affect your work?

42.4

51.6

64.   How satisfied are you with the information you receive from management on what’s going on in your organization?

39.8

48.4

65.   How satisfied are you with the recognition you receive for doing a good job?

40.1

48.0

66.   How satisfied are you with the policies and practices of your senior leaders?

34.7

43.4


SOURCE: OPM, 2012b.

do not respect or value them, do not know or care about their strengths, and lack the expertise and skills to be in their supervisory role.

Many employees also reported a disconnect between department and component headquarters leadership at headquarters in Washington, DC, and the workforce on the ground, expressing little faith in upper-level leaders who lack knowledge of what is happening in the field. Many em-

Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
×

ployees who spoke with the committee felt a lack of support by leadership at any level in the department. Common complaints included the feeling that leaders at multiple levels often use workers as scapegoats, do not value them, and view them as easily replaceable. Throughout the course of the committee’s work, it was increasingly evident that leadership in DHS is at best inconsistent.

DHS has been scrutinized by Congress and others regarding its ability to hire and retain senior executives and the number of vacancies in senior leadership positions (Chellino et al., 2008; US House of Representatives, 2007). The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has previously noted that “high-performing organizations understand that they need senior leaders who are accountable for results, drive continuous improvement, and stimulate and support efforts to integrate human capital approaches with organizational goals and related transformation issues” (Mihm, 2007, p. 1) and that “extensive loss of experienced workers can lead to critical gaps in an agency’s leadership, skills, and institutional knowledge” (Lord, 2010, p. 2). In February 2012, GAO released a report on senior leadership vacancy rates in DHS (GAO, 2012).5 The leadership vacancy rates reached a peak of 25 percent in FY 2006 but declined to 10 percent by the end of FY 2011 (GAO, 2012). However, “DHS vacancy rates in 2006, 2007, and 2010 were statistically higher than the average rates of other agencies subject to the CFO [Chief Financial Officer] Act” (GAO, 2012). Vacancy rates varied by DHS component, with up to 56.7 percent (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) in 2006, but rates were generally lower by the end of 2010, with an average of 17 percent (range, 8.4–20.7 percent) (GAO, 2012). The 2012 GAO report also looked at the senior leadership attrition rate, which was 11.4 percent at the end of FY 2010. In 2006, 2007, and 2009, DHS attrition rates were statistically higher than the average of other CFO agencies. The most frequent reasons for separation in 2006–2010 were

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5The GAO analysis focused on Senior Executive Service (SES)—including Transportation Security Executive Service (TSES)—positions because DHS components had few senior level (SL) and scientific/professional (ST) positions during the review period. However, its attrition analysis included positions in SES (including TSES), ST, and SL categories. “Most DHS components were not allocated SL or ST positions during the 2006 through 2011 review period. Specifically, only CBP received ST allocations during this time frame. Less than half the components received SL allocations—never exceeding a total of three positions. As of the end of fiscal year 2011, DHS had a total of 65 SL and ST allocations, 60 of which were spread among DHS headquarters offices. The Office of the Undersecretary for Science and Technology is the only office to have received more than eight SL and ST allocations” (GAO, 2012).

Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
×

retirement and resignation (GAO, 2012). DHS is implementing two programs to enhance senior leadership hiring and recruitment, including a simplified, resume-only hiring process that was piloted in FY 2010. DHS deemed the pilot successful and plans to use this process as its primary method for all hiring of Senior Executive Service (SES) employees (GAO, 2012).

Several factors affect the department’s vacancy rates, and DHS reported that OPM’s authorization of additional senior-level allocations, department and component reorganizations, and political transitions increased vacancy rates (GAO, 2012). However, consistent leadership is crucial. During the writing of this report, 15 of the 43 senior leadership positions in DHS were filled by “acting” leaders, and one slot was vacant (DHS, 2013c). As noted earlier, during the course of the committee’s work, the DHS deputy secretary and the chief medical officer in the Office of Health Affairs (OHA) resigned (both were political appointees), followed a couple of months later by the DHS secretary and the acting chief medical officer.

Disconnect Between Department of Homeland Security Leaders and Frontline Workers

In discussing leadership at DHS, it is vital to focus on leaders at all levels in the department, including executive and organizational leaders (secretary, deputy secretary, under secretaries, and component leaders), career staff, nonpolitical staff (SES and GS-15), and supervisors (midlevel and frontline). For DHS to be successful in increasing workforce resilience, vocal and active commitment is needed from leaders at all those levels, starting at the top and feeding down to the ones that frontline workers interact with daily. However, the committee observed a disconnect between employees on the frontlines and their leaders.

“Commitment to worker health and safety, reflected in words and actions, is critical” (NIOSH, 2008, p. 1), and it begins at the uppermost levels of an organization. Former Deputy Secretary Lute spoke passionately to the committee about her vision of a healthy, resilient, and engaged DHS workforce (Lute, 2013). However, conversations with DHS staff have led the committee to believe that vision is not being transmitted to the frontlines. Members of the workforce who spoke with the committee generally complained of directives coming from above without their input or consideration of how they affect work on the ground.

Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
×

They also spoke of visits from the secretary or high-level component leaders to their region in which they were given a “dog and pony show” by regional leaders instead of talking with frontline staff or supervisors about the issues that they face and about how they can be better supported in their missions. To increase employee morale and resilience, the committee believes that it is vital for top leaders in DHS and the component agencies to take an active interest in their employees. They must not only speak about the importance of a healthy, resilient, and engaged DHS workforce but demonstrate a belief in the vision for the workforce by speaking with those on the front lines and demonstrating concern for employees and their input.

It is the nature of federal government that new leaders, often from outside the organization, are appointed to the topmost ranks of executive departments with each new presidential administration. Thus, equal focus must be placed on the career, nonpolitical leaders (SES and GS-15 staff). They are the ones on whom political appointees must rely for organizational memory and thus for continuation of the mission; they hold the organization together, providing leadership stability despite changes of administration. There must be a sustainable system in place in which these leaders can be functional regardless of who is appointed above them.

Finally, midlevel and frontline leaders are vital for success and must be a focal point. They are the people that the workforce interacts with daily and that therefore have the most influence. They are also the people who are likely to rise to higher levels of leadership. Developing resilient leaders will increase the resilience of the workforce that they lead (Everly, 2012; Everly and Lating, 2013). Instilling in them the vision of a healthy, resilient, and engaged workforce early in their careers will help to spread the vision as they progress upward in the department.

Leadership Development in the Department of Homeland Security

Leadership development is a key element in sustained organizational success. However, as Thad Allen (2012) testified before Congress, “the federal government has struggled for decades to create a strategic and comprehensive leadership development framework.” Many federal departments have worked to develop their own training programs, but such programs are often among the first budget casualties, with agencies “fo-

Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
×

cus[ing] on large, high dollar programs and policies at the expense of the basics of organizational success” (Allen, 2012).

The DHS workforce is aging, and many leaders have retired, or will retire in the coming years, so this is a prime time to commit to developing the next generation of leaders in the department. DHS leadership has explicitly recognized the need for leadership development throughout the department; indeed, goal 1 of the current DHS workforce strategy is to “build an effective, mission-focused, diverse and inspiring cadre of leaders” (DHS, 2011). To achieve that goal—recognizing that “leader development is critical to the organization’s growth and long-term success and must be prioritized as a strategic mission investment” (Lute, 2012, p. 1)— Deputy Secretary Lute directed the creation of the Leadership Development Program to provide “a standardized framework and a shared set of expectations about competency development for leaders that is appropriate across the entire department” (IOM, 2012). The DHS Leader Development Framework (see Figure 3-1) was created to guide the 841 training programs that DHS was participating in or sponsoring (Savkar, 2013a) and “to maximize mission performance, strengthen the DHS leadership bench, and build leadership competencies at all levels of the DHS workforce, through a coherent and seamless continuum of leader development opportunities across the Department” (Emerson, 2012). Built around 44 leadership competences in 5 content categories (core foundations, building engagement, management skills, solutions capabilities, and homeland security), the framework focuses on developing leadership at all levels of DHS (Emerson, 2012; Savkar, 2013a).

To guide implementation of the program, DHS created

the Leader Development Governance Board, consisting of senior subject-matter experts from Operating and Support Components of the Department to 1) act as a critical forum regarding programs, plans, funding, decisions and recommendations, as required; 2) ensure that the DHS Leader Development Competency Model and Framework are the guiding architecture for the Department’s training investments; and 3) actively seek efficiencies by leveraging existing programs and eliminating unproductive or redundant training programs where possible. (Lute, 2012)

Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
×

image

FIGURE 3-1 DHS Leader Development Framework. This framework provides a strategic roadmap for developing a consistent, seamless continuum of leader development opportunities across the department during the next 3 years. It is intended to develop experienced, proactive leaders who are able to drive strong mission performance in dynamic environments across the Homeland Security enterprise.
SOURCE: Provided to the IOM by DHS, 2013b.

However, it was reported to the committee that the Leader Development Program is not allowed to eliminate any existing programs (Savkar, 2013a).

Much of the Leadership Development Program has not been formalized, approved, or resourced. It was reported to the committee that there is no formal evaluation of the program beyond utilization and self-assessment (Savkar, 2013a). In calling for a departmentwide leader development program, the DHS workforce strategy suggests that performance be measured on the basis of the “percent of leadership positions that have identified competencies” and the “percent of employees completing a DHS-wide leadership development program offering” and does not take into account measurement of whether the program has any effect (DHS, 2011).

Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
×

High priority has been placed on establishing the Cornerstone program, a set of baseline requirements that focuses on essential competencies for new and veteran supervisors, which has also been opened up to managers and executives at all levels (DHS, 2013b; Emerson, 2012; Savkar, 2013a). To date, Cornerstone is the only program in the framework that has been fully implemented; through 2012, about 80 percent of frontline supervisors have participated in it (DHS, 2013d). A pilot of the Capstone program was completed in 2012, but the program has yet to be approved and is relying on one-time funding per cohort (Savkar, 2013a). The program reached 24 new SES members in its first pilot; a second cohort is targeted for November 2013 (DHS, 2013d; Savkar, 2013b).

As Lina Savkar (2013a), Deputy Executive Director for DHS Leadership Development, explained to the committee at its second meeting, the DHS leader development program is not a course but an “intervention in organizational culture,” its purpose being to increase the effectiveness of training and create a climate and context for leading people. Savkar (2013a) informed the committee that the program is based on the idea that “the mission of leaders, all leaders, every leader, at every level … is wholly and solely to create the climate and the context for leading people and programs and creating the conditions under which they can come together to create forward movement.” While the committee agrees with that sentiment, the practice has not permeated the training of employees in the components with whom the committee spoke. A deficiency in leadership training was one of the most prominent issues reported to committee members and staff during site visits and was noted repeatedly in public comments that the committee received. Many employees in the various components that the committee visited reported that training for supervisory positions too often focused strictly on managing job duties as opposed to effective leadership. In addition, during her keynote address to the committee, Deputy Secretary Lute (2013) noted that “we know that we don’t have a leadership program, we know we had not been equipping our frontline managers with the basic tools they needed to understand frontline leadership” and that she would “like to have 100 percent of our leadership going through some training every single year, particularly our frontline leaders, but leadership at all levels. I’d like to have 100 percent of them have some exposure to leadership training, management skills, and human resource enrichment.” That has not been achieved.

Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
×

ADDRESSING LEADERSHIP GAPS

The committee has observed a number of gaps regarding leadership in DHS that need to be addressed. Leaders are not born, they are grown; thus, to address deficiencies in leadership, DHS must institutionalize leadership development in its components. The leadership development program needs to delineate not only expectations of employees but what employees can expect of the organization.

It is essential that DHS take a strategic approach to leadership development, including planning and goal-setting, implementation, and evaluation of results. To assist federal agencies in this process, OPM created the HCAAF to “enable agencies to transform the Federal workplace into high-performing arenas where every employee is enabled to understand and maximize his or her contribution to agency mission” (OPM, 2005). A key element in implementation of HCAAF is the Leadership and Knowledge Management System, which “ensures continuity of leadership by identifying and addressing potential gaps in effective leadership and implements and maintains programs that capture organizational knowledge and promote learning” (OPM, 2005). The system lays out five critical success factors—leadership succession management, change management, integrity and inspiring employee commitment, continuous learning, and knowledge management—to ensure “a constant flow of leaders who can properly direct an agency’s efforts to achieve results; a workforce with the competencies required to achieve the agency’s mission; and that the workforce is motivated to use its competencies in service of the agency’s mission” (OPM, 2005).

For an effective leadership development program to take root and grow, the involvement of leaders at all levels is critical; focusing on high-level management alone would not be effective. To attract top talent to and retain it in public service, “senior leaders must assume responsibility for the development of future leaders as coaches, mentors, teachers— and most of all, as exemplars—within and without leader development programs” (Blunt, 2004, p. 70). Commitment to developing future leaders at every step of the career cycle promotes personal and organizational growth, demonstrates responsibility to the workforce, and makes the department stronger. Most important, the program must be formalized, approved, and budgeted for to ensure lasting success.

Training focused exclusively on effective management practices is inadequate to promote resilience at the organizational level. As discussed in Chapter 1, a ready and resilient workforce is one that is physically,

Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
×

mentally, and emotionally healthy. In its leadership development program, DHS needs to focus on developing resilient leaders and on inculcating the importance of readiness and resilience at all levels of the organization. Everly et al. (2012) defined seven core characteristics of highly resilient people—“1) présence d’esprit: calm, innovative, nondogmatic thinking, 2) decisive action, 3) tenacity, 4) interpersonal connectedness, 5) honesty, 6) self-control, and 7) optimism and a positive perspective on life”—all of which can be learned. Similarly, Seligman (2011) has asserted that “positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment [are] the building blocks of resilience and growth;” this represents a model that is based on “positive psychology,” an integral part of CSF, which works to build psychologic fitness in the US Army. In addition to those characteristics, the committee believes that it is important for DHS to focus on instilling in department leadership a duty of care, compassion, and camaraderie. It is important that leaders at every level have a sense of responsibility for their workforce, be prepared to recognize potential issues before they arise, and take an active role in the lives of the people whom they lead. “Ethical leaders have no alternative if they wish to lead ethically—they must care for those beneath, around, and above them. And this ethical leadership needs to be exemplified from top to bottom” (Jones, 2006).

In developing resilient leaders, it is especially important that DHS focus on frontline supervisors. As Everly (2012) explains, three unique attributes of good frontline supervisors coalesce to make them the ultimate culture changers: “they are conduits of information,” “they are willing to invest in the careers and well-being of their subordinates,” and “they have credibility” with the frontline workforce. This has been a central focus of the Army’s CSF program, which created the Master Resilience Trainer (MRT) program to “teach a selection of skills designed to enhance resilience with an emphasis on how to teach these MRT skills to Soldiers and Family members” (US Army, 2012). “Resilient leadership practices serve as the catalyst that inspires others to exhibit resistance and resilience, and to exceed their own expectations” (Everly, 2012; Everly and Lating, 2013, p. 150). Focusing on developing resilient frontline leaders in the department will help to create a culture of readiness and resilience and ultimately help members of the workforce to withstand crisis and adapt to and rebound from adversity, both chronic and acute (Everly, 2012).

In their book Resilience, Zolli and Healy (2012) describe “translational leaders,” who possess the ability to bring together various constit-

Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
×

uencies and institutions, representing “a form of ‘middle-out’ leadership, seamlessly working up and down and across various organizational hierarchies, connecting with groups who might otherwise be excluded, and translating between constituencies.” Fostering that type of leadership through its development program will help DHS to create the desired culture of readiness and resilience and to build interconnectedness throughout the organization, both within and between components. Finally, a program that brings together current and future leaders from the various components will encourage communication and reinforce crosscutting cultural threads. It will help to create and provide the appropriate tools for departmentwide communication, the second building block of a successful organization, as discussed later in this chapter.

The committee believes that leadership is the key to the advancement of resilience in the DHS workforce and needs to be one of the first points of focus for DHS investment of time and resources. Before rolling out programs that specifically address resilience, DHS needs to ensure that it has in place a leadership base that can ensure effective implementation of such programs. Leadership permeates all facets of the organization and correlates with effective communication, culture, and issues of trust and morale. Information presented in the committee’s open meetings and the 2011 workshops, obtained during committee site visits to DHS components, and a comprehensive review of FEVS data suggests that there is substantial dissatisfaction with and distrust of leadership in DHS. And the committee found inconsistent approaches to leader selection, development, and education, especially at the middle-management or frontline levels. Central leadership development programs were yet to be approved, not adequately resourced, and do not appear to be tied to employee performance. The evidence suggests that this has had an important adverse effect on employee morale and engagement, which the committee believes will prove detrimental to workforce readiness and resilience.

Recommendation 4: Establish a sustainable leadership development program in the Department of Homeland Security.

The committee recommends that the Department of Homeland Security develop a sustainable, resourced, and consistent leadership development program for all levels of management throughout the department while providing flexibility to enable components to meet their missions. The leadership development

Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
×

program should include institutional education and training appropriate to the level of responsibility and distinct from management skills training.

The leadership development program should include mentorship, sponsorship,6 objective mechanisms for identifying high-potential employees, creation of leadership opportunities, and evidence-informed measurement of leadership performance.

Formal education for leaders at all levels should include emphasis on duty of care, compassion, camaraderie, communication, leading by example, and celebrating successes. That will supply leaders with the knowledge, attitudes, and skills to increase the readiness and resilience of the workforce. The committee recognizes, and applauds DHS for acknowledging the need for leadership development and creation of a program to address the need. However, the current program is disjointed, lacks coordination, and has not been fully approved or resourced.

The above recommendation and the associated strategic plan activities presented in Chapter 5 reflect the committee’s belief that leadership development in the department will be more effective if it is part of an integrated, architected solution set. In addition, the current DHS leadership program does not include a formal evaluation process, but such a program needs to include built-in metrics for evaluating its effectiveness and promoting its evolution (see Chapter 4). As the program is evaluated, adjustments might be needed, and elements that are not working can be removed.

COMMUNICATION

Strong communication is the second necessary building block of a successful organization. Communication in organizations is not simply the transfer of data between people but is in part a sense-making process that involves interactions, decisions, messages, and interpretations. Strong communication that emerges through dense interactions results in a representation of the world that none of those involved individually

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6Sponsorship is a corporate initiative to advance promising new leaders through the leadership pipeline, for example, identifying high-potential motivated employees in senior roles who are ready to move to the next level and establishing formal advocacy relationships for them with senior leaders.

Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
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possess or could possess. Strong communication shapes perceptions as well as relationships.

As Spaeth (2013) explained to the committee at its second meeting, it is important not to focus solely on what you want to say; the goal of communication is “to influence what [people] hear, what they believe, and what they remember.” Effective communication must create a positive impression on everyone, both within and outside the organization. Commitment to a common communication model is a leadership issue that begins at the top (Spaeth, 2011). As Spaeth explained, people throughout the enterprise cannot be asked to take ownership of and articulate a message unless they see their senior leadership doing it on a regular basis, and with enthusiasm. However, although the message begins with top leadership in the organization, it must be consistently repeated by middle management and the general workforce. Similarly, the Public Affairs Council has found that senior management support and involvement and a focus on employee communication are two of the characteristics common to companies that have successful communication strategies (Pinkham, 2013).7 “Leading companies have come to realize that their own employees are often their most important audience … due to the rising influence of word-of-mouth communication” (Pinkham, 2013).

An effective communication strategy helps to create a brand for an organization, one that everyone in it believes in and consistently repeats both to each other and to those outside the organization. To achieve that, Spaeth (2013) asserted, there must be alignment in messaging to internal and external audiences through formal communication (such as marketing materials and advertising) and informal communication (such as media and oral) routes of communication. For example, FedEx has fully embraced a communication strategy that includes its “Purple Promise” and consistent use of the word reliable. Those keywords are consistently repeated by everyone in the company, top to bottom, in internal and external and in formal and informal communications (Spaeth, 2013). The goal is to inculcate a different way of thinking and then to institutionalize it across large complex organizations (Spaeth, 2013).

______________________

7Other common characteristics include a well-developed issues-management process, strong collaboration between all external teams, integrated crisis-communication planning, an understanding of risk communication, strategic use of communication technologies, innovative approaches to media relations, and robust performance management.

Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
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Communication in the Department of Homeland Security

A vast majority of the 200,000 members of the DHS workforce are spread out across the country—84.3 percent work outside Washington, DC (OPM, 2012b). Although most component headquarters are in Washington, DC, even these offices are not co-located.8 That has presented challenges for communication in the department. The committee found a variety of communication issues through discussions with DHS staff during committee meetings and site visits. DHS employees in the field generally felt that communication between DHS leadership and those on the frontlines was nearly nonexistent. Many employees complained of decisions coming from headquarters without input from or regard for those on the ground or consideration of how they will affect their work.

There is a general lack of communication between and within components and seemingly little sharing of best practices. For example, during a committee site visit with Transportation Security Administration (TSA), supervisors at Reagan National Airport discussed a program they had implemented for improving screener recognition of potential explosive devices. The two-step program consists of informal discussions with leaders and screeners about potential outside stressors that could be affecting the screeners work (such as family strains, day-care arrangements, and a second job) followed by a one-on-one training session with an explosives technician. Leadership touted the program as successful in increasing test scores and improving TSA screeners’ confidence; however, it has not been shared with TSA management at other airports. In other examples of best practices not being shared, as discussed in Chapter 1, four DHS components or subcomponents have independently developed peer-support programs based on different models, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Joint Field Office in New York has created a wellness committee without seeking input or best practices from DHS or FEMA, and the Federal Air Marshal Service has developed a new wellness program of which OHA and the Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer were unaware.

Communication gaps related to workforce health and resilience were also evident. Often, there is no clear communication or understanding of what programs are available to assist employees with wellness and work-life issues. Although DHS employees in every component have access to

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8There are plans for a consolidated DHS campus on the grounds of St. Elizabeths Hospital, but the new US Coast Guard headquarters is the only part of the project that has progressed.

Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
×

an employee assistance program (EAP), many individuals the committee spoke with were not fully aware of the array of services or programs available and sometimes did not even know that they existed. For FY 2012, EAP utilization rates in DHS9 ranged from 2.16 percent in FEMA10 to 11.75 percent in the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center11 (DHS, 2013a).

There are also barriers to help seeking at DHS even when an employee knows what resources are available. For example, there is a stigma associated with using an EAP for mental or emotional health (IOM, 2012). That is an issue in many organizations, especially law-enforcement organizations (Johnson and Barthelmass, 2011). It is amplified when an employee holds a security clearance and is worried about losing that clearance and therefore not being able to do his or her job (IOM, 2012). DHS policy explicitly states that an employee cannot lose his or her clearance just for seeking help, and use of an EAP is not reported to DHS unless the person is at risk for suicide (IOM, 2012). The committee heard in its site visits and discussions with DHS employees that peer support programs are also not always used, because of the fear that what they say will be used against them or because of concerns about the credibility of counselors, who some believed had received little or no training. It is in the best interest of employees and DHS for people to access help before a problem worsens. Communicating—and leading by example—that help seeking is a desired behavior is needed.

In the committee’s discussions with component headquarters staff to gather information about best practices in DHS, it seemed that most either had not heard of the DHSTogether program or related resilience efforts in OHA, or had heard of them but did not know much about them. Many mentioned that they would not know whom to contact in DHS to get help with their programs or to identify best practices in other components or even in different locations in their own components. The 2012 FEVS asked whether “managers promote communication among differ-

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9Information was provided for Customs and Border Protection, US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the US Coast Guard, the US Secret Service, DHS Headquarters and National Protection and Programs Directorate, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, and the DHS Office of the Inspector General. TSA requested that its use data not be released to the committee.

10This percentage takes into account only core employees; the contract for the disaster workforce is separate, and its use rates were not provided.

11This percentage represents FY 2012 and internal Critical Incident Stress Management staff and family members.

Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
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ent work units (for example, about projects, goals, needed resources)”; only 42.4 percent of respondents responded in the affirmative. The survey also asked whether “managers support collaboration across work units to accomplish work objectives,” and 46.1 percent said yes (see Table 3-2 for other FEVS results relevant to communication; OPM, 2012b).

TABLE 3-2 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey Results Related to Communication


Question

DHS Results, % Positive

Government Average, % Positive


2.     I have enough information to do my job well.

64.4

71.9

3.     I feel encouraged to come up with new and better ways of doing things.

43.2

57.8

6.     I know what is expected of me on the job.

77.3

80.1

15.   My performance appraisal is a fair reflection of my performance.

63.6

68.8

17.   I can disclose a suspected violation of any law, rule or regulation without fear of reprisal.

54.0

61.5

24.   In my work unit, differences in performance are recognized in a meaningful way.

27.7

33.8

25.   Awards in my work unit depend on how well employees perform their jobs.

33.2

41.0

26.   Employees in my work unit share job knowledge with each other.

68.9

72.3

30.   Employees have a feeling of personal empowerment with respect to work processes.

34.9

45.2

31.   Employees are recognized for providing high quality products and services.

36.7

48.4

32.   Creativity and innovation are rewarded.

28.3

38.5

44.   Discussions with my supervisor/team leader about my performance are worthwhile.

57.6

62.2

46.   My supervisor/team leader provides me with constructive suggestions to improve my job performance.

57.4

60.8

48.   My supervisor/team leader listens to what I have to say.

69.9

74.3

50.   In the last six months, my supervisor/team leader has talked with me about my performance.

76.8

76.8

Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
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Question

DHS Results, % Positive

Government Average, % Positive


56.   Managers communicate the goals and priori-ties of the organization.

53.2

62.4

58.   Managers promote communication among different work units (for example, about projects, goals, needed resources).

42.4

53.3

59.   Managers support collaboration across work units to accomplish work objectives.

46.1

56.9

63.   How satisfied are you with your involvement in decisions that affect your work?

42.4

51.6

64.   How satisfied are you with the information you receive from management on what’s going on in your organization?

39.8

48.4

65.   How satisfied are you with the recognition you receive for doing a good job?

40.1

48.0


SOURCE: OPM, 2012b.

The Quadrennial Homeland Security Review, which offers the vision and strategic framework for homeland security, fails to highlight the importance of a healthy or resilient workforce for completing the mission.12 The word resilience appears more than 60 times in the document—with reference to the nation, disasters, critical systems and infrastructure, society, communities, families, and individuals—but not once with reference to the workforce. Resilience of the workforce is as important as structural resilience; employees are the structure that allows DHS to achieve its mission. If DHS leadership believes that there is a connection between workforce health and success of the DHS mission, it has done little to communicate it.

Given public distrust and low favorability ratings in recent years,13 “the job of government communications [is] especially difficult” (Pinkham, 2013). DHS has seemingly had an especially difficult time with external communication and public affairs. In a June 2013 hearing on the subject, House Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency Chairman Jeff Duncan (2013) discussed the department’s “bun-

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12See http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/qhsr_report.pdf (accessed July 9, 2013).

13A 2013 Pew Research Center poll showed that only 28 percent of Americans have a favorable view of the federal government. A January 2013 poll showed that 73 percent of respondents indicated trust in the government “only some of the time or never” (Pew Research Center, 2013).

Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
×

ker mentality,” stating that “whether it is with members of Congress, the press, or directly to the American people, 10 years after its establishment, the Department of Homeland Security seems to have developed serious challenges communicating its goals, priorities, tactics, and missions.”

ADDRESSING COMMUNICATION GAPS

As DHS endeavors to build a ready and resilient workforce and to change its image, and indeed itself, effective communication is essential. “Leading change requires the use of a diverse set of communication techniques to deliver appropriate messages, solicit feedback, create readiness for change along with a sense of urgency, and motivate recipients to act” (Gilley et al., 2009). DHS needs a strategy for communication that is coordinated, is engrained in the organization, and includes specific elements for communication among components. The committee heard from DHS staff that they often have good relationships with staff in other components or in headquarters and this allows them to make strategic relationships for input, sharing of ideas, and collaboration. Communication among the workforce should not rely on personal relationships; explicit pathways need to be in place. That will make it easier for leaders at all levels to communicate, regardless of who is appointed to a given position in the department. The committee was informed that the Employee Engagement Executive Steering Committee (EEESC) is working on a departmentwide communication strategy, but this strategy was not provided to the committee despite requests.

Employee involvement, particularly in decision making and generating ideas, has been found to be integral in enhancing an organization’s ability to adapt to challenges and in creating new health initiatives in the workplace (Grawitch et al., 2006, 2009; Heifetz et al., 2009). Thus, employee participation throughout the department needs to be encouraged. It begins with seeking input from frontline employees (bottom-up) and demonstrating regard for how high-level decisions will affect completion of the mission on the ground. Continuous, open discussion about why decisions are made and how they affect employees will improve relationships between DHS leadership and the rest of the workforce. That is especially true for programs related to workforce health and resilience; “everyone (workers, their families, supervisors, etc.) with a stake in worker health should know what you are doing and why” (NIOSH, 2008).

Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
×

DHS needs to communicate consistently to the workforce their importance in achieving the mission—that it cannot be done without them and that their institutional knowledge and expertise are valued and put to good use. DHS also needs to communicate to employees that improving employee readiness and resilience is in the best interest not only of DHS as an organization but of their own well-being. In the 2012 FEVS, only 40 percent of DHS respondents gave a positive response to a question about the recognition that they receive for doing a good job; 36 percent responded negatively (OPM, 2012a). Recognizing the accomplishments of the DHS workforce is important, and leadership needs to do it regularly.

A successful DHS communication strategy will also address external communication. In his testimony before the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency, Doug Pinkham (2013), President of the Public Affairs Council, explained that “there’s a natural tension between promoting the identity and services of the parent organization and those of each individual subsidiary … [and] promoting one ‘brand’ over another,” which has appropriately led DHS to take a hybrid approach to communication. Pinkham (2013) suggested that because of the high levels of distrust and the fact that “government officials or regulators don’t score well as spokespeople … DHS leadership should continue to collaborate with academics, nonprofit organizations, the private sector, and others to ensure that a wide variety of ‘voices’ are being heard when communicating key messages.”

Communicating the importance of the DHS mission and of a healthy and ready workforce for the success of the mission and celebrating the accomplishments of the DHS workforce, both internally and externally, could improve public perceptions of DHS. If employees do not feel proud to be part of their organization, it has a detrimental effect on morale. Many DHS employees interact with the public daily, and the success of its mission depends heavily on its interactions with state, local, and tribal governments; nongovernment organizations; and private industry. How DHS and its component agencies are portrayed to the general public is vitally important. Pinkham (2013) suggested that DHS “has to be diligent about setting the record straight when the public is misinformed … [and] it must do so with compelling stories to supplement its facts.” Leadership must publicly and consistently communicate support of the frontline workforce, not just through the occasional platitude, and never negatively.

“If management is credible and communicates consistently, members of the group may begin to develop consistent expectations about what is

Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
×

important. When this consensus is also rewarded, clear norms can then emerge” (O’Reilly, 1989). In her remarks to the committee in its second meeting, Deputy Secretary Lute stated that “the purpose of Homeland Security is to help create a safe, secure, resilient place where the American way of life can thrive.” But it is not clear to the committee that the workforce, especially those on the front line, have heard that sentiment from their leaders. The department needs to integrate the message from top to bottom; it must be engrained throughout the organization. “If you can get the people throughout an enterprise to have a shared group of words, anchored core words, and to take ownership for them and look for opportunities to repeat them, you go the first step … to creating an extremely robust and resilient culture” (Spaeth, 2013).

The committee found that the DHS workforce were largely unaware of existing resources and services available to enhance their or their families’ readiness and resilience. That has resulted in misperceptions, barriers to help seeking, and an overall adverse effect on workforce readiness and resilience. DHS needs to create a common language, appropriately harness the expertise of its workforce to foster innovation, learn to communicate among siloes (including sharing of best practices), and ultimately improve workforce morale, satisfaction, and success.

Recommendation 5: Improve organizational communication to enhance esprit de corps; cultivate a culture of readiness and resilience; and align public perception of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with its accomplishments.

The committee recommends that the Department of Homeland Security develop and implement a communication strategy to build and promote an organizational identity that increases a sense of pride in the department, enhances commitment to its mission, and moves toward a culture of readiness and resilience while leveraging the strong identities and traditions of its component agencies. The internal strategy should promote awareness of, educate about, and build trust in available resources that increase readiness and resilience and should put into place mechanisms to measure these outcomes. The strategy should recognize the diversity in the methods of communication among the workforce and use multi-channel communication avenues. The strategy should engage frontline leaders as advocates for

Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
×

workforce readiness and resilience to engage the workforce at every level in every component and headquarters office.

The strategy should encourage bottom-up communication that ensures frontline input into decision making and idea generation.

Goals of the 5-year communications strategy should be

•   Consistent, repeated communication processes and messaging for internal and external audiences that enhance two-way communications.

•   A public that values the work and accomplishments of DHS and its components.

•   A workforce that is knowledgeable about and confident in the availability of resources and services that enhance individual and workplace health, readiness, and resilience.

One option for DHS is to create organized, DHS-wide recognition programs for employees for best practices and innovations similar to the C. Everett Koop National Health Award for best practices (The Health Project, 2010). Eligible programs would be linked to metrics, such as health improvement and cost savings. Such a program would encourage competition among component agencies and their subcomponents and encourage sharing of ideas and best practices throughout the department. In the current financial climate, there is a need for sharing best practices and avoiding duplication of efforts. DHS has previously stated that it would incorporate the IdeaFactory, an online tool that allows employees to submit and collaborate on innovative ideas, which TSA has successfully implemented (and has won awards for), to garner input from the workforce for improvements, but that has not occurred (DHS, 2010; Green and Perkins, 2012). The IdeaFactory is a successful initiative that could serve as a useful communication tool and increase workforce engagement throughout the department. The EEESC could be enlisted to assist in sharing best practices, recognizing innovation and achievement, and increasing employee engagement in creating and implementing health-related programs (including those related to workplace readiness and resilience). Chapter 5 contains specific elements that DHS should include in its 5-year readiness and resilience strategic plan with regard to both leadership development and communication.

Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
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ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE

Successful reorganizations also require far more than simply creating a new organizational structure and providing legal authorities. Our study found that merging government agencies requires developing and communicating a clear vision; unifying managers, employees and very different cultures into a common mission; integrating complex and different financial, human resources and technology systems; changing relationships with important stakeholders; and navigating a complex political system.
 —Partnership for Public Service and Booz Allen Hamilton, 2011

Culture is the third essential building block of a successful organization. “Culture consists of the long-standing, largely implicit shared values, beliefs, and assumptions that influence behavior, attitudes, and meaning in a company” (Deloitte, 2009, p. 1). It provides a common platform, models how employees interact, motivates employees to perform, and ultimately creates the image and identity of the organization. Even the best strategies will not survive in a culture that does not support the organization’s mission and core values and does not value change and innovation. The strategic plan and organizational chart may illustrate how things are supposed to happen, but organizational culture determines what actually happens.

Few leaders give culture the attention it deserves:

Leaders must persistently and patiently lead not simply in the strategic direction but in the change in culture—forming a strategy for cultural change, dispelling the myths, identifying the dislocations between word and action and their underlying assumptions, and championing a long-term investment in every aspect of the area of human capital to which leadership and cultural change are the keys to wider transformation. (Blunt, 2004, p. 70)

Behaviors and attitudes of leaders throughout an organization shape and manage the culture of the work environment (Gantner, 2012). Strong leadership that consistently communicates through both words and actions, provides a vision of the culture, and models what is expected can help to create a strong organizational culture that everyone throughout the organization believes in and helps to develop (Blunt, 2004; Gantner,

Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
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2012; Kotter, 1990). “All organizations … draw on the same underlying psychology and create situations characterized by strong norms that focus people’s attention, provide clear guidance about what is important, and provide for group reinforcement of appropriate attitudes and behavior” (see Figure 3-2 for conditions that create corporate culture) (O’Reilly, 1989).

No two organizations have the same culture—a point that is often overlooked when organizations merge. When DHS was formed a decade ago, the variety of organizational cultures of the 22 legacy organizations

image

FIGURE 3-2 Conditions that create corporate culture.
SOURCE: O’Reilly, 1989.

Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
×

was not properly acknowledged. In the corporate world, failure to account for existing organizational cultures has led to many unsuccessful mergers (Bundy and Hukins, 2009; Deloitte, 2009; Hewitt, 2011; Mercer, 2013). Moreover, it is a gross oversimplification to talk about the monolith of an organizational culture. An organization may have subcultures that are in alignment or at odds with the dominant culture. In fact, there is wide variation in the extent to which organizational cultures are integrated (Sutcliffe, 2013). Cultures can be defined by assumptions that are harmonious and shared, but an organization’s cultural landscape may be characterized by a set of subcultures whose assumptions are in bitter conflict or by a fragmented set of subcultures whose assumptions are contradictory. In the case of DHS, the legacy components that were brought together with the creation of the department tend to identify with the cultures that they had before the integration. To complicate the cultural issues, there are generational gaps among the staff and differences in employee backgrounds, including civilian and military, political appointees who have little DHS experience, and career employees. Such inherent differences between these microcultures need to be taken into account (see Box 3-2).

BOX 3-2
Cultural Issues in Organizations

“Conflicts, differences, and contradictions in organizations often can be attributed to differing assumptions that derive not only from the macrocultures in which organizations operate (e.g., ethnic groups), but also from assumptions of functional microcultures. Schein proposes that three generic subcultures exist within all organizations. These include the operators, engineers, and executives. The operator subculture, also known as the line or technical core, is critical to actually running or producing things. The engineering/design subculture represents the group that designs products, processes, and structures to make the organization more effective. The executive subculture represents top managers who are concerned with the administrative and financial functions of the organization. These subcultures naturally share many assumptions of the total organization, but they also hold particular assumptions that reflect their occupations, unique experiences, and functions. These differences can be problematic if not resolved, as all three subcultures are necessary for organizational effectiveness. But, if harnessed, these differences can be an important and valuable organizational resource as they can provide a diversity of perspectives and interpretations of emerging problems.”

SOURCE: Sutcliffe, 2013.

Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
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Organizational Culture in the Department of Homeland Security

Attempts to create a core DHS culture that components identify with has been generally unsuccessful (Partnership for Public Service and Booz Allen Hamilton, 2011). Figure 3-3 provides a visual sense of how 22 agencies were merged and rearranged to create DHS. Throughout its information-gathering process, the committee consistently found that employees in the component agencies do not identify with DHS. For example, when discussing their agency, employees commonly referred to their own components as “we” and to DHS as “they.”

Deficiencies in leadership and communication and a failure to account for existing organizational cultures during the creation of DHS have led many in the workforce to feel disengaged and untrusting and to have low morale. OPM (2012a) defines an engaged employee as “one who is immersed in the content of the job and energized to spend extra effort in job performance.” On the Employee Engagement Index of the 2012 FEVS, DHS had a 58 percent positive response rate, 7 percentage points below the government-wide average in this area. Only 43 percent responded that they “feel encouraged to come up with new and better ways of doing things” (compared with 58 percent governmentwide), 48 percent reported that their “talents are used well in the workplace” (compared with 59 percent governmentwide), and 35 percent reported that “employees have a feeling of personal empowerment with respect to work processes (compared with 45 percent governmentwide) (OPM, 2012a, pp. 13–15).

Trust is the key to any relationship and is certainly important for DHS in trying to focus employees and managers on health and wellbeing. However, distrust appears to be a prevalent feature of the department’s current culture. Only 24 percent responded positively to the FEVS item that “promotions in my work unit are based on merit,” 38 percent that “arbitrary action, personal favoritism and coercion for partisan political purposes are not tolerated,” and 54 percent that they “can disclose a suspected violation of any law, rule or regulation without fear of reprisal” (OPM, 2012b). Similar notions were presented by DHS employees that the committee spoke with in the component agencies. During its site visits, the committee often encountered employees who reported a feeling of victimization by the “political machine.” Staff in multiple locations reported a lack of opportunity for career advancement,

Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
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image

FIGURE 3-3 Who became part of the Department of Homeland Security?
NOTE: US-CERT = US Computer Emergency Readiness Team.
SOURCE: Partnership for Public Service and Booz Allen Hamilton, 2011.

Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
×

some citing rampant favoritism in the process. Some employees reported fear of approaching their supervisors to discuss problems, or even innovative ideas, because they worried that it would be used against them when promotion opportunities came along. Many employees also reported that they do not use such programs as EAPs or peer support when they would like to for fear of adverse consequences related to their jobs.

As reported at the 2011 Institute of Medicine (IOM) workshops on DHS workforce resilience, many still believe that help-seeking behaviors will have job-related consequences, including loss of security clearance (IOM, 2012). In addition, the current political climate and budget sequester (resulting in furloughs and loss of overtime) have further fractured the relationship between some component agencies and leadership in part because of a lack of communication; employees feel that they do not have the support of the department behind them.

Moving Toward a Culture of Readiness and Resilience

DHS struggles with its own identity and needs to identify a small set of key values and goals common to its components that it can use as the basis of a core DHS culture. As discussed in Chapter 2, there is a need to strengthen DHS’s “organizational identity.” In doing so, however, DHS needs recognize the variety of existing subcultures in its component agencies. As pointed out by the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC) (2007, p. 6), “no single Homeland Security culture is possible or—for that matter—wise.” However, HSAC posited that an “overarching and blended culture can be developed that is based on threads of common values, goals, and focus on mission among DHS Headquarters and its component organizations” (Homeland Security Advisory Council, 2007, p. 6). DHS needs to foster a core culture and ethos (how one thinks, feels, and acts) that account for both commonalities between and the uniqueness of its components. To succeed in achieving its mission, DHS will need to work toward creating a feeling of “we are all in this together;” and its component agencies must coalesce under a singular overarching mission. DHS recognizes the need to improve its workforce culture, but it also needs to recognize and celebrate the different cultures of the component agencies; the latter has generally not occurred.

DHS needs to foster a culture of readiness and resilience that is based on its core purpose and values and innovation that will allow it to adapt to the ever-changing security environment in which it operates.

Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
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Creating and sustaining an organizational ability to adapt is critical for achieving a successful, ready, and resilient DHS. Heifetz et al. (2009) identified five characteristics of adaptive organizations:

1.   Hard questions and difficult issues, the “elephants,” are discussed openly.

2.   There is a sense of shared responsibility for the organization.

3.   Independent judgment is valued and sought from all levels.

4.   There is a commitment to development of leadership at all levels.

5.   Reflection and continuous learning are institutionalized.

As Collins (2004, pp. 8–9) explains, “a visionary company almost religiously preserves its core ideology … [while] display[ing] a powerful drive for progress that enables them to change and adapt without compromising their cherished core ideals.”

As discussed earlier, it appears that trust and engagement are lacking in the current DHS culture. A key aspect of building these dimensions of culture is ensuring that employees know that the department is looking out for them. Effective leadership and a strong communication strategy, as recommended by the committee in this chapter, will help to create a core culture. The committee believes that there needs to be clear and consistent communication of the desired DHS culture (for example, a small set of key beliefs, values, and norms), beginning with top leadership and permeating the entire organization. It is imperative that leadership at all levels live the culture, communicating its importance not only through words but, more important, through actions. Without a core culture that all employees know and understand, programs will not be sustainable.

A recurring theme in the 2011 IOM workshops on DHS resilience, the information-gathering meetings held by the committee, and the committee’s site visits was a perception that DHS does not support employee use of health and wellness support services (such as EAPs, peer support programs, and chaplaincy). It is essential that seeking help related to readiness and resilience—whether mental, emotional, or physical—be not only seen throughout all DHS components as acceptable but encouraged by leadership at all levels, communicated relentlessly to the workforce, and strongly embedded in the DHS culture. The committee’s vision of a transformed culture in DHS includes a culture of readiness and resilience that is in alignment with the DHS mission: a culture that promotes commitment, trust, and engagement through a strategy of sus-

Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
×

tained cultural change. The committee has referred to culture throughout this report in terms of leadership, trust, engagement, and so on, these are all features of a core culture that will help to build and sustain a ready and resilient workforce.

A collective common core culture coupled with acceptance of diverse subcultures can lead to a sense of belonging for the DHS workforce as opposed to resistance to belonging. DHS must invest in creating a culture that includes building and sustaining trust and respect among leadership, the workforce, and the department and a commitment to leadership development and a strategy that promotes effective and open communication.

CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS

Improvement in leadership, communication, and culture in DHS is an investment in the organization and the workforce that will fulfill the department’s mission. It is important to remember that leaders create the culture and that culture drives organizational results (Gantner, 2012). Without those building blocks, DHS will not be able to grow to its full potential and employee morale and engagement will not improve. In the next chapter, the committee discusses the need for assessment, evaluation, and reporting that are integral to the development and monitoring of any workplace program, including measuring and evaluating leadership development and organizational communication.

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Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
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Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
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Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
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Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
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Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
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Suggested Citation:"3 Leadership, Communication, and Culture in the Department of Homeland Security." Institute of Medicine. 2013. A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18407.
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Next: 4 Measurement, Evaluation, and Reporting for Improved Readiness and Resilience »
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The responsibilities of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) range from preventing foreign and domestic terrorist attacks; securing the nation's borders; safeguarding transportation systems; responding to natural disasters; nuclear detection; and more. Created in 2002 from a merger that rapidly incorporated parts of eight cabinet departments and 22 government agencies, DHS has struggled to integrate its numerous components and their unique cultures. While DHS is very accomplished at performing its many missions, the nature of the DHS work environment is inherently stressful, and employees suffer from low morale.

A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security: Protecting America's Front Line reviews current workforce resilience efforts, identifies gaps, and provides recommendations for a 5-year strategy to improve DHSTogether, the current DHS workforce resilience program. This report stresses the importance of strong leadership, communication, measurement, and evaluation in the organization and recommends content for a 5-year plan that will promote centralized strategic direction and resource investment to improve readiness and resilience at the department.

While all DHS component agencies share a common mission, each have distinct roles with different stressors attached, making implementation of an organization-wide resilience or wellness program difficult. The recommendations of A Ready and Resilient Workforce for the Department of Homeland Security outline how DHS can focus its efforts on creating a common culture of workforce readiness and resilience, while recognizing the distinct, proud, celebrated cultures of its component agencies.

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