At the April 2008 Strategic Management Council (SMC) meeting, eight members of the next generation community attended to discuss the long-term strategic effects on the NASA mission of current hiring practices and the upcoming gap in US human space flight, and specific actions that the SMC and next generation community could each take. At the conclusion of the discussion, the Administrator requested that center directors hold cross-generational discussions at their centers to explore the questions posed in the presentation and during the discussion. This document is intended to summarize the efforts of seven NASA Centers to complete this SMC action.
At the March 2008 SMC meeting, as the result of the Administrator's strategy discussion, the Assistant Administrator of the Office of Human Capital Management, Toni Dawsey, was asked to bring together a group of next generation civil servants to foster a discussion of issues concerning NASA's younger workforce at the April SMC.
At the April 2008 SMC meeting, eight members of the next generation community attended. The SMC discussion focused on long-term strategic effects on the NASA mission of current hiring practices and the upcoming gap in US human space flight, and specific actions that the SMC and next generation community could each take. At the conclusion of the discussion, the Administrator requested that center directors hold cross-generational discussions at their centers to explore the questions posed in the presentation and during the discussion:
3. Process To fulfill the action to hold cross-generational discussions, seven centers held the discussions in seven different ways. However, for continuity purposes each center was asked to complete a template addressing the four questions listed above from the SMC presentation. This report is a description of those results and recommendations. It should be noted, that a complete list of ideas is captured in Appendix A. The team analyzed the data to look for trends and realistic suggestions that could be implemented at the Agency level, rather than addressing all the ideas that can be implemented at the organization or Center level.
4. Current Center Efforts
As the cross-generational project team began to conduct their focus groups, it became clear that some great things already happening at the Centers to engage all generations and there were some easy things that could be done to continue to do so. This section represents a small sampling of the things that have happened and are going to happen in the cross-generational arena.
Ames Research Center - To engage the entire Ames community, the group OpenAmes is having bi-weekly dialogue of issues affecting the center. Specifically the group is currently working on an employee orientation that fits the needs of several groups at the center. As a formal employee orientation was one of the repeated concerns generated from the original cross generation discussion. Furthermore OpenAmes is working on an outreach program that will be based on ambassadors that engage the community in creative and exciting ways while promoting NASA. They have also been the catalyst for the new Constellation Seminar Series, champions for the integration of SharePoint 2007, and are currently working on bringing in Ward Cunningham the inventor of the WIKI to the center. Overall the OpenAmes community is committed to reinvigorating Ames with excitement and increasing morale at the center, most of which is being accomplished with the assistance of the Exchange Council.
Dryden Flight Research Center - Dryden is in the process of developing a new professionals group to engage the more junior employees. Discussions are also taking place with the Public Affairs and Commercialization Office to discuss the outreach suggestions that were generated from the focus groups.
Glenn Research Center - At the GRC focus groups it was noted that new employees don't get a good orientation to the business of NASA and the GRC role in this. The Human Capital Office has created two new classes, GRC 101 and 102 to give employees an overview of the organizational structure, major projects, tours of both Lewis Field and Plum Brook, and the opportunity to network with Senior Leadership. The pilot offering was so popular that these courses are now being offered quarterly. Additionally, a Developing Professionals group has been created and is gaining momentum. The group focuses on development, community service, and networking and has regular opportunities to interact with Senior Management.
Goddard Space Flight Center - In an effort to improve Center communications the Goddard Intranet has been redesigned and plans are underway to include a "Spacebook" portion, much like the popular Facebook application. Blogs are being utilized to capture and share information about what is happening. Several organizations have invested in an innovative workshop focusing on communication that was recently held to rave reviews. This workshop introduces a new paradigm for communication that is designed to cause a breakthrough in performance, employee satisfaction, and resolution of long standing chronic problems. The Goddard Ambassadors program has been started that will train employees to excite and inspire other employees and the public about what is happening at NASA. A new forum has been created called OpenGoddard in which all employees are invited to contribute their ideas for improving the quality of experience across the Center, ultimately creating an atmosphere of inspiration and excitement at Goddard. Finally, the NASA FIRST class is working on a project focused on the issues of attracting and retaining the right kind of people for the future of NASA.
Kennedy Space Center - The KSC Refresh team was established at KSC in March 2008 to address workplace improvements from the "next gen" perspective. The team initially reported directly to the Center Director, but was recently relocated to KSC's Human Resources Directorate. The team has been instrumental in obtaining approval for KSC's new Cyber Cafe concept which is scheduled to be complete in FY09. Refresh organized and implemented quarterly social networking events for the KSC New Employee Orientations and also partnered with the KSC External Relations Directorate to increase launch viewing opportunities for new employees and students. Over the next few months, the Refresh team plans to launch a Center-wide organization for young employees called Launching Leaders, which will focus on leadership development and networking.
Langley Research Center - In the interest of a growing vital workforce and fostering a climate of continuous learning and improvement, NASA Langley has launched a formal mentoring program. The program was designed to connect employees across the Center to foster career development and to continue the growth of talented and skilled employees. In addition, the Center Director is now meeting with all new employees (both civil service and contractors) to give them a detailed overview of the Center's mission. The Directorates are following suit by providing opportunities for newer employees to learn about the organizations at Langley and what they do.
Johnson Space Center - In response to the SMC discussion, the Inclusion & Innovation (I&I) Council has formed seven Employee Engagement teams, in collaboration with the Joint Leadership Team (JLT), Employee Leadership Team (ELT) and Next Gen Groups, to coordinate a center-wide, cross-generational discussion. The goal for each of the I&I Council Employee Engagement teams is to explore well thought out and researched recommendations for senior management on improvements that can be implemented which will make JSC more open minded, collaborative, inclusive and innovative. The seven teams include information technology, recruiting and new employee experience, communications, mentoring, work/life fit, awards and recognition, and barrier analysis. Recommendations will be provided to the center senior staff on January 15th, 2009.
The cross-generational project team would like to present the key themes that came from the Center focus group discussions. These recommendations represent topics that arose in multiple center level discussion activities across the agency.
Formal Development Programs - NASA has undergone a restructuring of the formal development programs available with new programs such as NASA FIRST and deletion of programs such as the Leadership Development Program. As a result, the workforce is largely unfamiliar with the new programs such as FIRST and any other potential new programs upcoming. It is recommended that across the agency, the content be more widely advertised and the target audience could be identified more effectively. Perhaps an agency directive that instructs supervisors to identify potential candidates and to encourage participation in these programs is warranted. This is especially true in technical organizations where personal development, personal effectiveness, and leadership training are not widely supported by technical management therefore eliminating participation of much of the workforce. It is therefore recommended that a new strategy for advertising NASA formal development that gains traction at lower levels at centers within middle management to promote leadership training, identify high-potential candidates, and advertise all available programs to all employees.
Mentoring - Several Centers have very high quality formal mentoring programs in place and have a rich culture of informal mentoring. However, this is not uniform across the Agency and many of the smaller Centers do not have the same resources to make this happen. The recommendation is that the Agency Office of Human Capital investigates the possibility of having an Agency wide contract with a vendor that could set up and administer formal mentoring programs at each of the Centers. This would save time and resources and entrench mentoring in the NASA culture.
NASA Rotation Program - To retain and recruit new employees, as well as promote the One NASA philosophy and increase awareness of NASA's broad missions, a recommendation was made that a new employee rotation program be implemented within the agency. Newer employees can apply for details lasting three months at other NASA centers to work there and gain knowledge within that center's areas of expertise. All newly hired employees and converted coop students would be eligible, and can potentially work one or more details over a two to three year period at other NASA centers. The centers would effectively exchange employees during the three month detail, and the projects would pay for the employee's time. NASA headquarters would then fund the travel and per diem cost for those on detail. It will be extensive--if ten slots were available per fiscal year, then three month details would yield 40 employees benefiting from the program.
Business Resource Management - Cross-generational discussions consistently proposed a business resource management model similar to the 70/20/10 model successfully implemented by Google CEO Eric E. Schmidt. A modified version of the model suggested for use at NASA, with the intent of cultivating innovation, would empower employees to utilize their time in the following 80/20 ratio:
The nature of the work undertaken in the 20% time could vary significantly between individuals based upon their skills and interests. Such a program would have far-reaching positive effects, including: (1) encouraging innovation by allowing individuals to pursue new ideas, (2) creating new pathways for communication by allowing individuals to cross project lines, and (3) effectively spreading "lessons learned" across individual Centers and across NASA. A number of different implementations for such a program exist, due to the wide range of activities that could benefit from it; the challenges for establishing a program will also vary depending upon the implementation.
Communication Technology - NASA's employees would greatly benefit from the usage of new technologies in communication such at wiki's, Instant Messenger, blogs, and other social networking tools. Also, better informing employees of the availability of currently available technology would be beneficial. For instance, Windows Messenger is currently available, but many employees are not aware of it or do not use it. When it comes to social networking tools, they can be used as collaborative forums to discuss technical issues, and to use as technical resources. If a certain skill is needed, these tools can have a list of people and skills to find what is needed--perhaps even at another center, further fostering the One NASA concept. The recommendation is that usage of these new communication tools be further investigated and more thoroughly advertised to the workforce by establishing a tiger team focused solely on this issue.
Launch Tickets - The focus group participants recommended that a certain number of tickets be set aside for employees from each center, from all levels, to view the remaining Shuttle launches to experience the fulfillment of NASA's mission. This can continue forward to raffle tickets to the Ares 1-X and 1-Y launches, and future Ares I and V launches.
In conclusion, The Cross-Generation Project Team was successful in collecting a number of innovative and engaging ideas The discussions were highly successful in developing a number of innovative ideas that address the four questions posed at the April 2008 SMC. In addition to the six major themes presented in this report, many of the inputs were center specific and may not require significant changes or intervention from senior leadesrhip. One key undertone to all the cross generational discussions is that of effective communications. Studies conducted by the Chief Historian Culture Survey, the OPM Human Capital survey and others continue to point to communication as an issue. Moreover, there remains a post Columbia residue of ineffective, unproductive, and withheld communication across the Agency. Although NASA has many great programs and initiatives in place, awareness of these opportunities is low. NASA may benefit from outside assistance in order to develop innovative communication methodologies. The Cross-Generation Project Team thanks the SMC for shining a light on the issues related to taking NASA into the future and the hope is that these discussions will continue to take place.
The OpenNASA/Next Gen group came together each week addressing barriers and accomplishments at the center level. Below are listings by question of all the data from the cross-generational discussions at the seven centers.
A.I Provide the NASA workforce with infusion of fresh ideas, methodologies and technologies
A.II Provide the NASA workforce the programs and experience it needs to be the leaders in the future
A.III Enable enhanced communication and collaboration between NASA centers
A.IV Attract, hire and retain young people