WE: It's Up to Our Members to Save It
Wednesday, December 07, 2011
Nearly a year after it was unveiled as a way to try and make the Air Traffic Organization (ATO) a better place to work, the Workforce Engagement (WE) program has struggled to catch on. However, not all hope is lost, and some NATCA officials who helped implement the program think it can end up being as effective as it was intended to be.
After an Office of Personnel Management study ranked FAA employees near the bottom in a survey of best places to work in the federal government, the FAA partnered with Gallup last year to introduce a survey designed to measure what all workers, from management down, do and do not like about their places of work. But some of the NATCA members who helped roll the program out said it was a hard sell from the start.
“Usually when there is some major program, the FAA and NATCA sit down and develop something together,” said Russ Miller (ZFW), the first director of the NATCA committee charged with promoting WE to members. “The difference here was that they approached us, and that made a lot of rank-and-file members skeptical.”
WE team member Dub Pearman (ZTL) said he feels management, especially at some small and medium towers, have ignored the program and that attitude spreads down to rank-and-file employees.
“If [WE] is going to be fully successful, it needs more support at the highest levels,” Pearman said. “There are things we as the union can do to encourage progress, but I don’t want to see it as a tail trying to wag the dog scenario.”
That said, Pearman added that union leadership could also be active in pushing management to promote the program to their employees.
“There is ownership we as a union have to take to be stewards of this and shepherd the program along,” he said. “We need to have a message to management at each location telling them how important this is.”
The second round of surveys is supposed to come out in March. Jerry Johnston (PHX), the current board leader, said the whole WE program might be in peril if the management at towers and centers doesn’t take steps towards implementing impact plans soon.
“We are at a critical phase right now,” Johnston said.
Miller said program engagement is about 10 to 12 weeks behind where he had hoped it would be when it began last winter. But NATCA Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert said the program is anything but a lost cause, and one that will pay off greatly for NATCA members if they take it upon themselves to support it.
“Communication and collaboration are the keys to improving our workplace and being a part of changing the culture of the FAA,” Gilbert said, mentioning the “heroic” efforts of the union to improve workplace morale. “NATCA members have never cowered away from hard work or challenges of any kind.”
To watch a video to find out more about what the WE program is all about, please click HERE.
To meet the members of the NATCA WE team, please click HERE.