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Reforming the Organization: What role do diversity and inclusion play?

Diversity

Lee Floyd, Air Force Reserve Command’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, speaks at a Black History Month celebration at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Newport in Newport, Rhode Island, in February. Floyd is charged with making sure diversity and inclusion are ingrained into everything the Air Force Reserve does. (Rich Allen, McLaughlin Research Corp.)

Generations in the Workplace

The Air Force Reserve is committed to getting people from different generations to work well together and value what members of each generation can contribute.

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --

(Editor’s note: As Air Force Reserve Command’s Diversity and Inclusion officer, Lee Floyd is on a mission to tell Reserve Citizen Airmen across the command how diversity and inclusion are vital to AFRC’s mission of providing combat-ready forces to fly, fight and win. We recently sat down with Floyd and asked him how inclusion and diversity fit in with AFRC Commander Lt. Gen. Richard Scobee’s vision of reforming the organization. Here’s what we learned.)

Lee Floyd is not a bean counter. As the chief of AFRC’s Diversity and Inclusion Branch, he is way more interested in making sure diversity and inclusion are ingrained into the very fiber of the Air Force Reserve than he is with how many African Americans or women are wearing Reserve blue.

“It’s important the Air Force Reserve represents the diverse population we serve, but it’s much more important that we include all of the different skillsets, experiences and cultures all of our people bring to the table. A diverse work force is no good if we don’t celebrate what makes us different and allow people with different points of view or ideas to contribute to the mission.”

Floyd likes analogies. He compares the Reserve mission to a campfire and the people sitting around the fire to the members of the Air Force Reserve team. “Everybody has a log they can put on the fire, but if I’m reluctant to put my log on the fire or if somebody doesn’t let me put my log on the fire, that fire is never going to burn like it should. And pretty soon, it’s going to burn out. It’s the same with the Air Force Reserve mission. Everybody on the Reserve team has something unique to offer to the mission and we have to make them feel like they are a valuable part of the team so they will be willing to contribute.”

One analogy Floyd does not like is the one that likens the United States to a melting pot. In a melting pot, everything that goes in is transformed into something that is the same throughout and very different from the individual parts that went in. “That’s not what we want,” he said. “A much better analogy is a salad bowl where a tomato can be a tomato and lettuce can be lettuce and they both bring a unique taste that adds to the overall flavor of the salad without losing their own individual flavor.”

Floyd said diversity is an inherent strength of the Air Force Reserve. “We have a diverse work force because we have people from all walks of life who serve,” he said. “We have everything from CEOs of companies to top engineers and scientists to experienced pilots serving in the Air Force Reserve. The key is to make sure we value the diversity everyone brings to the table, so they will want to remain a part of the team.”

Floyd said one diversity-related issue the Reserve is constantly facing is how to get people from different generations to work well together and value what members of each generation can contribute.

“A lot of young companies today are made up almost entirely of people from one or two generations, so they all can relate well with one another. Depending on which chart you look at, we have people from four or five different generations working for the Air Force Reserve,” he said. “And baby boomers are way different from millennials and youngsters from Generation Z. The key is for everyone to realize that while they may be different, they all have something valuable to contribute to the team.

“The bottom line is we are trying to introduce a way of thinking that causes leaders, managers and unit personnel to consider diversity and inclusion’s value, risk and relative priority as a fundamental element of organizational development.”

Currently the command is engaged in two training initiatives in the area of diversity and inclusion. Diversity 101 is a two-hour interactive course designed to bring about individual self-awareness and understanding of the role they play in mission accomplishment. This one-time training for all members of the Reserve team meets the mandated requirement set forth in Air Force Instruction 36-7001.

Reserve units at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia; Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio; Homestead ARB, Florida; Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina; and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport ARS, Minnesota, have all started diversity and inclusion training for wing personnel.

Diversity and Inclusion Program Manager’s Training is a two-day training seminar where wing and group vice commanders and their respective program executers receive diversity and inclusion awareness training as well as the ABCs of running a wing-level diversity program.  Included in the training are diversity and inclusion council development, business case development, outreach and marketing strategies to including funding requests submissions, and data gathering, tracking and reporting roles and responsibilities.

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