Leadership Corner

Chartering an Employee Advisory Group

April 13th, 2018 at 2:45PM

Photo: Official portrait of Vicki Christiansen.
Interim Chief Vicki Christiansen, USDA Forest Service

Every one of us deserves a work environment in which we are treated with respect and dignity. That is the cornerstone for everything we do. Without that, none of us can do our jobs or fulfill our mission.

Accordingly, the Forest Service is committed to creating a work environment characterized by mutual trust, valuing difference and inclusion, listening to understand and learning from each other. Every one of us has the right to expect a work environment that is safe, healthy, productive, resilient and free from harassment of any kind. A workplace infused by these cultural characteristics is essential to our mission. That is a vision we can all share.

To make this vision a reality, employees will have the opportunity to advise me on issues affecting our work environment. Employee input is essential to good communication between senior leaders and employees. To improve communication, I have chartered an Employee Advisory Group for sustained dialogue with senior leaders.

Hundreds of employees—over 500, by one estimate—volunteered to serve on the advisory group. The willingness of so many was heartening, and selecting a group of 30 was no easy task. I wanted to ensure that this group represented a cross-section of employees: men and women, new and old hands, employees from every part of the agency—ranger districts, forests, labs, stations, the employees’ union and other workstations. I wanted representatives who would offer a diversity of thought and a full spectrum of life/work experiences.

The Employee Advisory Group will establish a formal platform for dialogue between employees and senior leaders. Group members will channel employee viewpoints through peer-to-peer contacts, ensuring a flow of ideas from across the agency to improve our work environment. Their role, in part, is to make sure that all employees have a voice at the table.

Members of the Employee Advisory Group will:

  • work with the Associate Chief and the senior advisor on work environment issues to identify steps the agency can take to support and empower employees;
  • advise me and other senior leaders on steps needed to eliminate harassment and promote safe, respectful work environments;
  • focus on what is possible;
  • take an evidence-based approach to understanding the issues affecting our work environment and advising senior leaders on how to resolve them; and
  • solicit feedback from peers, bringing their perspectives into the ongoing dialogue.

To the hundreds of employees who volunteered to serve, I extend my heartfelt thanks. I want to build on your energy by asking you to help me change our culture and realize our vision: a Forest Service where everyone is treated with dignity and respect, valued for the work they do and the diverse backgrounds and perspectives they bring toward fulfilling our mission.

View the Employee Advisory Group.