Kimberly Kelley from Summer Intern to Training Professional and LGBTQ+ Advocate
By Suzanne Hensell, OPACE
Senior Training and Program Analysis Specialist Kimberly Kelley has been with FSIS for 12 years. Her first experience with FSIS was as a summer intern during her college years. Now she’s a full-time professional with the Office of Employee Experience and Development (OEED) and finds her role very rewarding. Kelley manages FSIS’ New Supervisor Training Program, which cultivates new supervisors’ leadership skills, including how to communicate, motivate and lead other employees.
Kelley staffs the outreach booth at the USDA Farmer’s Market at D.C. Headquarters honoring Pride Month, June 2019. From left, Randi Johnson (retired from NIFA), Brent Elrod (NIFA), Kimberly Kelley (FSIS) and Trey Wilson (NASS). Photo by the USDA Farmer’s Market Coordinator.
Milestones in 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way training was delivered in 2020, and Kelley was excited to help with the transformation. She worked with Department and Agency subject matter experts to help convert OEED’s 2-week in-person New Supervisor Training Program into a self-paced, on-demand virtual program accessible from FSIS’ Supervisor Help platform.
Kelley’s supervisor (and Chief of OEED’s Organization and Employee Development Branch), Sylvia Bourn, said, “Kimberly’s professional success is largely attributed to her work ethic and collaborations with the Department and throughout FSIS. Most recently, Kimberly skillfully helped redesign, develop, package and launch a virtual, on-demand FSIS New Supervisor Training Program Pilot to meet mandates at significant time and cost savings to the Agency. As a result of her efforts, new supervisors are now being empowered with essential knowledge and resources more quickly within their first supervisory year at FSIS.”
Gallup, Inc. finds that managers account for 70 percent of the variance in employee engagement, and Kelley wholeheartedly agrees. “My focus is on developing and providing our supervisors the tools they need to impact themselves, their employees and our Agency. Statistically, engaged employees work harder and if I can assist with helping people be more engaged and have the tools to lead, I will be satisfied knowing I helped influence our culture at FSIS.”
For Kelley, “practice what you preach” is an important concept; while she receives great satisfaction from working with FSIS employees to help them align their passions with FSIS employment, she has also aligned her own passions with her work. To stay current with research in her field, she tries to find time to read articles, listen to podcasts or watch informational videos to improve her training skills. Most recently, she has been learning about how to keep employees engaged as they work remotely. One tool she has found particularly effective in keeping herself focused and staying on task is “calendar blocking” or reserving blocks of time on her calendar for specific tasks, such as completing a monthly report.
In late 2020, Kelley was honored to receive the Administrator’s Award for Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion. “My 11 years of diversity work have been a large passion of mine and to be recognized at this level is an incredible honor. To me, this advocacy is personal and necessary; according to IMD.org, LGBTQ individuals feel more loyal to their organization and are 20-30% more productive in a work environment where they can bring their full authentic selves. By helping develop and educate people about safe spaces and how we can support our LGBTQ+ employees, I play a part in helping USDA be a more welcoming workplace and employer of choice.”
Kelley has been actively involved in LGBTQ+ engagement since she started with the Agency. In her early years with FSIS, Kelley was involved in diversity efforts as the Agency’s LGBTQ+ special emphasis program manager. In 2017, she was selected as vice president of the employee resource group Equality USDA, a role in which she continues to serve today.
“Kimberly is recognized as much for her active special emphasis and equal employment opportunity leadership roles, as for her customer service endeavors throughout FSIS. She strives to understand unique differences, seeks solutions that will result in fair treatment and practices, and promotes work environments where customers can feel welcome, respected, engaged and productive,” said Bourn.
Introduction to FSIS
Kelley learned about FSIS from a high school soccer teammate’s father, former FSIS Administrator Al Almanza. She applied to the FSIS summer internship program and worked for the Agency during the summers of 2005, 2007 and 2008. Kelley accepted a full-time position with the Agency after graduating from Texas State University in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in communication studies.
She began her FSIS career in OEED as a management analyst, was promoted to program manager, then transitioned to her current position. Throughout her career, Kelley has learned from numerous mentors, including Almanza. She recalls the best advice he offered: “Come with a solution.” He advised she approach her supervisors with solutions to a problem instead of simply stating the problem, and she would have substantially different responses.
Kimberly Kelley with her dog, Pearl, at a pumpkin patch in November 2020. Photo taken by Kelley’s fiancée, Jessica Brondou.
Outside of Work
FSIS outreach has been a passion for Kelley for the last six years. She has helped organize and staff outreach booths at over 20 LGBTQ+ career fairs and conventions. “It brings a smile to my face to educate others about the opportunities available at FSIS, and to share stories of success and how the Agency is a welcoming employer of choice,” she said.
Kelley and her fiancée, Jessica Brondou, enjoy spoiling their new “quarantine puppy,” Pearl, an “Aussiedoodle” (Australian Shepherd and Standard Poodle mix). Kelley is so passionate about food safety, that everyone in her family has received an FSIS meat temperature magnet. Outside of family time and LGBTQ+ advocacy, her main hobbies are playing on a trivia team and anything thrill-seeking — she enjoys ziplining and hopes to skydive soon.