Go Back

Administering Change

In Focus
NAME:Rebecca Holwerda
COMPANY:Indiana Department of Administration
LOCATION: Indianapolis, US
Commissioner Rebecca Holwerda explains why collaboration, a service culture and giving back to the community are the pillars of the Indiana Department of Administration.

Comparing the Indiana Department of Administration (IDOA) to the fast food restaurant chain Chick-fil-A may seem surprising, but, as Commissioner Rebecca Holwerda explains, there may be more overlap than initially thought.

“I joke that we are striving to be the Chick-fil-A of state government,” she tells The CEO Magazine. “Their service is always fantastic and efficient, so I say that we are going to do the same – our service will be efficient and delivered excellently.”

However, to do that, she knows that one thing is key: great employees.

“And we do have great employees, so that’s good news,” she says. “But that means being very intentional about creating an environment where employees are valued and can grow.”

In collaboration with


A company designing the built environment of the future. A company designing the built environment of the future.
Read More Below

In order to cultivate that culture, the IDOA has implemented a number of programs to help employees feel appreciated and more inclined to remain with the organization.

“Some of the ways we have done that have been restructuring departments and ensuring upward mobility,” Holwerda says. “We recently did a statewide compensation study to attract new employees and retain our brightest by making sure wages were comparable to the private sector.

“We added a hybrid work schedule, and another thing that I am excited about has been the creation of an employee engagement program that offers monthly opportunities for professional growth, team building and being recognized for a job well done.”

Other initiatives include ‘The Where in the World?’ series, which employees are invited to share about their country of origin, heritage, culture or a place they have visited, as well as public service weeks, where staff are given the option to volunteer at local nonprofits.

“They don’t need to take any vacation or personal time, so they still get paid for their days of service, but it’s just another way for them to be connected to and give back to their own communities,” she explains.

Fresh Eyes, Open Ears

Holwerda first joined Governor Eric J Holcomb’s administration as Senior Operations and Policy Director in 2017, having just relocated to Indianapolis.

“I came with fresh eyes, open ears, ready to learn and ask a lot of questions,” she recalls.

She continued this approach to government service when she was appointed Commissioner to IDOA in 2021.

“What a joy it is to have the opportunity every day to make an impact and improve lives.”

“That’s the lens through which I look at every issue in state government: how can a bureaucratic mess be transformed and provide a service that impacts and improves people’s lives and the process in a very real and tangible way?” she says.

IDOA is unique as it touches every state agency and is doing the work behind the scenes to keep the state government functioning. The Department is responsible for all state contracts, procurement of goods and services, supplier diversity, fleet management, state government facilities, campus security, surplus, the call center, public works and capital projects.

It may be wide-ranging, but that’s precisely what keeps Holwerda so engaged.

“One day is never the same as the next,” she says.

One Direction

Once she stepped into the role, Holwerda took on a number of tasks that she could see needed improvement – first and foremost to encourage more collaboration.

“Each department was in a silo or on an island,” she says. “But now we are a team, we are all collaborating and running full speed in the same direction.

“I make it a point to be present, to walk around, talk with employees, and have staff gatherings where everyone can interact and get to know each other, because you can’t have a team if you don’t know who your teammates are.”

Another facet of this strategy has been building a culture of transparency and open communication.

“It starts with me at the top communicating the vision, goals and expectations of the agency, and at the same time giving employees a space to hear their concerns, ideas and ways that things could be improved.”

“You can’t have a team if you don’t know who your teammates are.”

Lastly, IDOA has worked on removing barriers and helping its sister agencies, vendors, business partners and stakeholders achieve goals in a timely, thoughtful and efficient manner.

Unsurprisingly, this means strategically planning and building relationships with those partners.

“It’s impossible for us to be experts in everything,” she admits. “So that’s where we rely on our private sector partners and leverage their expertise and experience.

“We pride ourselves on the fact that we are willing to meet and talk with anyone as long as we don’t have an active solicitation, so that if people do have questions or they want to understand what the process is, we can very openly and transparently talk about how we expect to get things done.”

Community Cohesion

IDOA is currently managing five major capital projects throughout the state totaling over US$2 billion.

“It is imperative that we work with like-minded private sector companies who understand the state’s needs. RATIO, a design firm, has been a strong community partner for decades. This is a great example of a local company with a global reach helping the state think through how things should be designed, but also thoughtfully considering how we can better serve vulnerable populations and meet the needs of our citizens,” Holwerda explains.

These kinds of projects and partnerships, especially when driven by local companies, help to build trust and cohesion within the community – something that she says has become a strength of IDOA.

“One of Governor Holcomb’s goals to help take Indiana to the next level is to cultivate a strong and diverse economy in the local community,” she explains.

“Indiana is the best place to work, play and live.”

“It’s also to ensure that Indiana remains a magnet for jobs and business. An increase in revenue and workforce participation by our certified vendors has an impact statewide by positively reinforcing that Indiana is the best place to work, play and live.”

This mindset truly exists throughout the entirety of the organization, not least of all, for Holwerda herself. As she looks ahead to what the rest of the year, and the future, may hold for IDOA, Holwerda enthuses that she feels truly fortunate to work for an organization that is making a tangible difference within the state.

“What a joy it is to have the opportunity every day to make an impact and improve lives by tackling tough issues and finding practical solutions for our citizens and businesses,” she says.

“That’s what we do every single day in the agency, and it is such a privilege to be able to lead the team and to keep IDOA moving in the right direction.”

Back to top