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Mark Kohlheim

SSC Pacific commanding officer keeps his diversified work force motivated

Navy Capt. Mark Kohlheim has had the distinct privilege of being in a position to hire hundreds of people in recent years, with another 600 expected in 2009.

While much of the employment world suffered from a bad economy in 2009, the commanding officer of Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SSC) Pacific could hire civilian workers from a variety of educational backgrounds with experience in many fields.

"Our work force is very multidisciplinary," Kohlheim said. "It's not focused in one area. The nature of our business is we have quite a depth and breadth of interest."

In addition to adding new employees, SSC Pacific also experienced high retention rates. Kohlheim said 95 percent of people who stay five years stay for their entire career.

The variety of work coming out of the lab allows for significant rotation and opportunities in the first years of employment. As a result, employees can find the right fit within the lab.

And SSC Pacific is focused on employee satisfaction, which Kohlheim also attributes to the retention rate.

"Our management is really paying attention to what drives the work force and make sure we provide opportunities in that -- the right technologies, the right work environment, the right type of work," he said. "So we keep people motivated."

He also has overseen aggressive recruiting and educational outreach efforts within SSC Pacific to diversify its work force and prepare the next generation of employees.

What's more, SSC Pacific was named the best place to work in the Navy.

That top rank is no doubt related to Kohlheim's leadership.

"I think of myself as a consultative leader," Kohlheim said. "I like to get input from everybody. I think the more (input) you get, people feel like they have a voice, and you have more synergy moving forward."

But he does not only consult his management team. He wants to hear from everyone. Kohlheim said he likes to get out of his office and interact with his employees.

"My job isn't about sitting in my office," he said. "My job is to be available to my team. I can do the administrative stuff after hours."

He said being available gives him the opportunity to learn about and remove obstacles his employees might be facing.

Kohlheim calls himself a change agent, driving change and ensuring the work force is ready to handle it.

SPAWAR has been going through an organizational change on large and small scales during the past couple of years, Kohlheim said.

"We've done great things," he said. "I think these changes are going to help us for long-term success in the future. They'll make us a stronger organization.

"I want to turn the corner on that so we're executing the change as part of our daily lives, and that we're focusing more on delivering warfighting capabilities."

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