FORT PICKETT, Va. — The Virginia Department of Military Affairs conducted their Supervisors Course for 13 new managers of DMA employees Dec. 2-4, 2020, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. The three-day course is a requirement for Virginia National Guard service members or civilians who manage DMA employees within one year of holding their position.
The unique course is a product of staff surveys and DMA strategic planning initiatives, and focuses on making sure anyone charged with supervising state employees is armed with the tools and knowledge needed for organizational improvements at their level.
The course covers the administrative responsibilities of new supervisors, including employee performance evaluations, work profiles and other performance management tasks. It also covers the DMA awards program, safety and compliance topics, training management, payroll, leave, travel and budget procedures.
“Supervisors of state staff, whether they are in uniform, other state staff, or federal civilian staff, need to understand the unique Virginia Human Resources processes and forms,” said retired Brig. Gen. Walt Mercer, the DMA Chief Operations Officer. “From leave to pay to performance evaluations, without this training we tend to see many mistakes and problems emerge.”
Because of the DMA and VNG’s unique mix of service members and civilians working in unison, making sure everyone is on the same page is vital.
“Because DMA is such a mixed-status organization, you have sections made up of Soldiers, Airmen, AGR, technicians, Title 5 Federal staff, and State staff all working in the same shops,” Mercer said. “You simply cannot operate effectively without knowing how to manage and work within these facts. This course gives the students the tools to do this and to be successful, which in the end helps us to better support the overall Virginia National Guard team. Virginia has specific and unique HR, pay, and leave policies and procedures that there is no way a supervisor would understand without training.”
Of the 13 supervisors taking the course, eight were uniformed service members, making this class unique, according to retired Command Sgt. Maj. Tim White, the DMA instructor and trainer.
“This was our seventh class and it was unique from all others, with a majority of the class attending from the military side of the Virginia Guard,” said White. “This training provided the tools to supervise state employees and to help better understand the importance that the state contributes to the overall readiness of the Virginia Guard.”
Because so many topics are covered in three days, key personnel from different fields are called on to help the class learn specifics about different administrative tasks. Students also get a chance to practice what’s being taught so they get a better understanding of what will be required of them.
“We get our key people from the fiscal, HR and training departments in front of supervisors so that they get to know them and can ask questions,” said Mercer. “In the end, we find that our interactive group sessions where we do practical exercises about communication and teamwork among other things, is very well received by the staff who attend the class.”
On the last day of the course, Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, visited with the class and presented challenge coins to the stand-out students.
Through all of the topics covered over the three days, the theme of the training is “What Right Looks Like,” and impresses on the new supervisors the need to do the right things for the right reasons. With as much support across the organization as the state staff provides, having new supervisors take the course provides tangible benefits to the whole team.
“I see a better understanding for and appreciation of the state staff and all that they do for the Air, Army, and Virginia Defense Force,” said Mercer. “I don’t think the team realizes how much of the support across the board is provided by the state staff. With better trained supervisors we are seeing fewer HR issues, better communication and interaction, and so fewer discipline and grievance issues. That is a real metric to our success.”