To be an effective leader in an organization, you must have two things: the right tools and a motivated workforce. Without the tools, you can’t empower your employees to accomplish the work that must be done, and without a motivated workforce, the quality and efficiency of the work will suffer regardless of the amount of tools or technology. As a leader in the public sector, I strive to build relationships through trust, honesty, and transparency while continually looking for ways to encourage my team to grow professionally. I know that if I provide a modernized set of tools and cutting-edge training to a motivated, driven, and vested workforce, there are no limits to the success of our organization.

As the Chief Information Officer of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), I am hyperaware that technology is a critical component of any leader’s toolbox. Just like a handyman can’t repair a squeaky door without the proper equipment, employees can’t work effectively with outdated or l a c k i n g technology. This is why NNSA is undertaking an aggressive enterprise transformation initiative that will deliver a modern, well-managed, and secure computing environment to improve efficiencies and increase performance. By undertaking this modernization effort, NNSA will provide its workforce across the Nuclear Security Enterprise with the tools and training necessary to achieve its mission.

Yet I know that this is only half the battle. Even if employees have the right tools – including cutting-edge digital and mobile technologies – how does a leader ensure his team members are motivated and empowered to use them? First, you have to take stock of the needs of the workforce. Are your employees happy and engaged? Do supervisors support employee development and communicate goals? If not, what needs to change? Are employees given ample opportunity to provide open and honest feedback?

Second, once you know the needs of your workforce, a great leader must be able to clearly communicate across the organization, earn the trust of team members, and maintain transparency. One way that the U.S. Government tries to tackle this issue is through the Office of Personnel and Management’s annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS), which asks employees to evaluate their job satisfaction across a broad number of categories. Employees are asked to rank feedback on areas like “My supervisor supports my need to balance work and other life issues” and “How satisfied are you with the training you receive for your present job?” The anonymous responses are provided to leadership to inform the need for change or improvement and can be tracked yearly to benchmark results and identify trends in workforce satisfaction.

My organization recently experienced an increase in employee empowerment, as evidenced by the 2019 FEVS results. This shift indicates that the steps we are taking as an organization to improve overall employee job satisfaction are making an impact — from implementing one-on-one mentoring sessions with mid-level staff to holding quarterly organization-wide staff meetings. We have been working to provide opportunities to hear back from staff from the bottom to the top, and we aim to continue on this trajectory.

While I am pleased with our ratings in certain areas of the survey, I know there is work to be done. No corporation, organization, or team can flourish without a diligent and dedicated workforce. Creating an environment of success through proactive engagement and open communication while ensuring that employees have state-of-the-art technology, training, and resources to do their job is critical to mission success and employee buy-in. This environment ensures a strong and sustainable organization now and into the future.