Diversity in the workplace

Fort Worth District equal employment office manager, Vidal Gray reviews the results of the BOXi and prepares the report for the Fort Worth District commander, Col. Calvin C. Hudson, II.
Fort Worth District equal employment office manager, Vidal Gray reviews the results of the BOXi and prepares the report for the Fort Worth District commander, Col. Calvin C. Hudson, II. (USACE photo by Randy Cephus)

An increase in interactions among people from various cultures and backgrounds is a direct result of the global market. Therefore private businesses and organizations are becoming more diversified in their hiring actions to remain competitive.

This attitude, or paradigm shift is valid for federal organizations as well. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, with offices throughout the continental U.S. and abroad in support of world-wide contingency operations is no exception.

Diversity can be defined as acknowledging, understanding, accepting, and valuing differences among people with respect to age, class, race, ethnicity, gender and disabilities. The federal government is required to “endeavor to achieve a workforce from all segments of society,” according to its recruitment policies.

The district’s Equal Employment Opportunity office uses data from Business Objects Reporting and Administrative Tools, or BOXi, to create a Management Directive 715, Self-Assessment Checklist. The checklist forms the groundwork for a model EEO program focusing on six essential elements and helps the commander manage diversity and other components within his EEO program.

These elements include demonstrated commitment from agency leadership, integration of EEO into the agency’s strategic mission, management and program accountability, proactive prevention of unlawful discrimination, efficiency and responsiveness to legal compliance.

“Managing diversity is a significant organizational challenge. Leaders and supervisors must recognize the ways in which the workplace is changing and adjust our managerial styles to accommodate a multicultural workforce,” said Fort Worth District commander, Col. Calvin Hudson, II.

Taking full advantage of the benefits of diversity in the workplace is not without its challenges, however. There are always employees who will refuse to accept the fact that the social and cultural makeup of their workplace is changing.

“A lack of diversity in the workplace can lead to complacency, stagnation and decreased productivity,” said Fort Worth District equal employment opportunity manager, Vidal Gray.

There are several key staff organizations that are part of the team to promote diversity at the Fort Worth District. They include the EEO office, the Human Resource Human Capital Committee, the STEM champion and senior leaders within the district.

“By focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics programs in underrepresented areas and leveraging recruiting efforts in places where certain underrepresented populations receive their degrees will help bring more diversity to the workforce in the future,” said Hudson.

Gray encourages leaders to involve all staff members when formulating and executing initiatives in the workplace. His desire is to have senior leaders foster an attitude of inclusion where employees from various backgrounds are encouraged to express their ideas and opinions.

“We must get out of the mindset of only considering people who look, act and think like us,” Gray said.

According to Gray, a lack of diversity can also unintentionally create a hostile environment for those in the age, class, race, ethnicity, gender or disabilities minority. Therefore, leaders must strive to make the workplaces more inclusive.

“Always keep an open mind and understand your own biases when making decisions on things such as hiring actions,” said Gray.

Leaders should implement policies such as mentoring programs to provide staff members access to information and opportunities. They should also promote diversity in leadership positions as this provides visibility to junior staff members of underrepresented groups that there are opportunities for inclusion and upward mobility within the organization.

“The old way of doing things is not always the best way,” concluded Gray. “We need to look at the different perspectives people from diverse backgrounds bring to the table.”

Fort Worth District inducts 61st Distinguished Civilian Employee

The 2016 Distinguished Civilian Employee Award was awarded posthumously to Gene Rice, Civil Works Project Manager with the Fort Worth District's Programs and Project Management Division. Gene Rice's daughters, Caitlin (left) and Stephanie (right) accept the award honoring their father during the ceremony on April 22
The 2016 Distinguished Civilian Employee Award was awarded posthumously to Gene Rice, Civil Works Project Manager with the Fort Worth District’s Programs and Project Management Division. Gene Rice’s daughters, Caitlin (left) and Stephanie (right) accept the award honoring their father during the ceremony on April 22. USACE Photo by Randy Cephus)

Fort Worth District retirees and employees past and present, gathered at the organization’s annual retiree luncheon and Gallery of Distinguished Civilian Employees Induction Ceremony April 22, to recognize Project Manager Gene Rice posthumously as the 61st inductee into the Gallery.

Rice began his career of 31 years with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1982 in the District’s Planning Division, where he served as a planner and technical manager for flood control projects. During his tenure in the Planning Division, he received his Professional Engineer certification and completed the Planning Associates Program.

In 1997, Rice moved to Programs and Project Management Division to put his abilities to use as a project manager on the Upper Trinity River Basin studies. Working on the Upper Trinity River projects for more than 15 years, Rice became the face of the Corps as he interacted with the public at meetings with representatives of the local sponsors and cities, and in presentations to members of Congress.

The Houston native and father of two received major accolades for his contributions of the Dallas Floodway Extension Engineering Design Study and Upper Trinity River Feasibility Study. At the time, the study was the largest cost shared feasibility study undertaken by the Corps of Engineers since implementation 50/50 cost sharing provisions.

Those contributions led to him being referred to the affectionate nickname “Mr. Trinity.” Rice’s knowledge of the Civil Works processes and public involvement quickly earned him the reputation as an expert and the “go to” person to get guidance on how to overcome project challenges.

“Gene Rice was an example of what we hope to develop all project managers in to being – a technically competent engineer that could bring the technical side of Civil Works projects into focus for the staff, our partnering stakeholders and the public. He fully understood all aspects of the Civil Works Program, from planning to schedule and budget development. He possessed superior people skills that helped to meld high performing project delivery teams,” said Robert P. Morris, Jr., chief, Programs and Project Management Division and Rice’s award nominator.

From 1997 to 1998, Rice was instrumental in preparing District leadership for Senior Review Group meetings on three major focus projects, the Fort Worth Sumps, Dallas Floodway Extension and Johnson Creek. He also worked with District Hydrology and Hydraulics experts to revise the Upper Trinity River Basin floodplain maps. Under Rice’s leadership, three follow-on feasibility studies totaling over $4.6 million were negotiated that helped shape the future of flood protection in Dallas, Arlington and Fort Worth, Texas.

One notable accomplishment was when he personally briefed the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, John Woodley and HQ USACE staff in 2004 on the DFE as they prepared to nominate the project for inclusion in the President’s Budget.

Unlike many project managers, Rice worked projects through all study phases and saw them through construction. The Texas A&M University graduate worked hard throughout his career to advance complex projects and implement public involvement into study programs, while also mentoring his colleagues on all facets of the Civil Works Program. The outcome of Rice’s hard work, positive spirit and strong leadership skills resulted in District teams coming together in delivering successful projects to the community of North Texas.

While accepting the Distinguished Civilian Employee award on her father’s behalf, Rice’s oldest daughter Caitlin said, “Growing up we heard a lot about the Corps of Engineers and that if it rained, it was good thing. You all became a part of our family. Our Dad enjoyed working for the Corps of Engineers and loved what he did. We are truly honored that he was recognized for this award.”

In his last months with the Corps, Rice’s health was failing and his colleagues supported him by assisting him with physical tasks. This assistance was graciously provided by many of the project managers and program analysts that he had mentored over the years. It also allowed him to continue to give back to the community and keep his mind focused on where he could still contribute to the people of North Central Texas.

“I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting Gene, but I was told that he was one of the preeminent project managers in the Corps of Engineers’ Civil Works Program. His expertise and knowledge of the Civil Works processes and his unselfish nature won the respect of his colleagues throughout his career. Gene left a lasting impression on the District and this was evident by all who attended the induction ceremony, knowing that he is fully deserving of this recognition,” said Col. Calvin C. Hudson II, commander, Fort Worth District.