Radney takes on new role to improve employee engagement at DISA
by Renee Hatcher
Office of Strategic Communications and Public Affairs
December 13, 2021
Former chief of staff Laura Radney became DISA’s first Culture and Employee Engagement Program director Nov. 8, and is seeking ideas for improvement from the workforce.
“There are pockets of this kind of work happening around the agency, but we haven’t had anybody focused on our culture or employee engagement for DISA as a whole,” Radney said. “Investing in employee engagement is something that should be ongoing, and it’s especially important because we have such a globally dispersed workforce.”
Originally from Panama City, Florida, Radney began her professional in 1988 working as a programming and promotion manager at a local Fox affiliate. She joined the U.S. Air Force as a broadcast journalist in 1991. After 10 years of service, Radney then worked for the U.S. Coast Guard as a communications specialist and then as the director of communications for acquisition. Her first assignment with DISA 11 years ago was as the public affairs officer. She went on to serve in a variety of leadership roles including the program manager for Active-Active Operations, civilian deputy for the Operations Center, chief of contracts, logistics, strategic communications, and DISA's congressional affairs liaison.
“I want to thank Laura for her dedication, hard work and commitment to the success of the agency,” said Air Force Lt. Gen. Robert Skinner, DISA director. “The chief of staff position is challenging and demanding and we all owe her a huge thanks for all she’s done. I look forward to seeing her bring the same commitment to the Program Director for Culture and Employee Engagement position where she will continue to take care of our personnel.”
Currently in the early stages of the new program, Radney is conducting research to establish a baseline of where the agency stands related to culture and engagement. She’s leading a one-person program but is getting input from throughout the agency, talking with employees and leaders, as well as those who already have employee engagement efforts underway. She’s also drawing on data from employee surveys, and feedback from focus groups.
“I want this to be an organizational approach, conceived and powered by the employees,” Radney said. “I’m in listening-mode, and I’m really interested in hearing what our teammates have to say. We have a 61-year-old worldwide combat support agency with many different locations, each with their own unique culture. My goal is to bring together the best parts of those individual cultures and help create a unifying culture for the agency.”
Radney defined employee engagement as a heightened employee connection to the mission, organization or co-workers.
“Research shows that a well-informed workforce, that’s interested and engaged, performs better, and goals are met faster,” Radney said. “We can see so many more dividends going forward as an organization if we can improve employee engagement.”
Radney said she plans to have a program strategy in place within six months.
“I’ve found that it can be challenging for some of our teammates to see themselves in our strategic plan and in the agency’s goals. One of my first priorities is to define who we are as an organization from an Ethos perspective, and what we stand for. Then, figure out how we get after the goals laid out in our strategic plan.”
Radney said getting employee buy-in will be key to the success of this program.
“Each and every one of us has a role to play in employee engagement,” she said. “The DISA leadership team is invested in the workforce and wants to be transparent. In return, we expect the workforce to think like an organizational owner instead of an employee. We all own this organization; we own its reputation; we own everything about it.”
Radney admits that a military organization comes with some preconceived notions, but she also knows that not all great ideas come only from the top.
“We want input from every level,” she said, “and, we need that input to achieve solutions that help the Defense Department.”
One idea that Radney is especially excited to explore is gamification in the workplace. Wikipedia defines gamification as “the strategic attempt to enhance systems, services, organizations and activities in order to create similar experiences to those experienced when playing games in order to motivate and engage users.”
“We can make work fun and still accomplish our goals,” Radney said. “Empowering employees because of their skills, abilities and talents to create solutions is going to be really effective for us.”
Radney said she realizes that engaged employees doesn’t necessarily equal happy employees.
“You can’t make people happy; that’s not my goal,” she said. “There will never be enough money, people or resources. But I do believe if employees are engaged, satisfaction in their job will increase. We want to retain those folks.”
Radney is seeking input from everyone in the workforce.
“I know our workforce has a lot of great ideas, and I really want to hear from them,” she said.
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