Focus turns to challenges to the Lab's workforce

Jan. 12, 2001

Focus turns to challenges to the Lab's workforce

The Laboratory will be faced with a number of challenges in 2001. One of these challenges, and a major focus for me, will be the workforce, where we have seen a number of external and internal developments that have made all of our jobs more difficult. I’d like to discuss four major areas where our efforts will be focused throughout 2001.

Senior manager selections
Today there are six open senior manager positions: Deputy Director for Operations (DDO), Associate Directors for Biology and Biotechnology Research Program (BBRP), Physics and Advanced Technologies (PAT), Energy and Environment (E&E), and Computations, and Director for University Relations Program. In filling the DDO vacancy, I am considering some restructuring of the operations organizations and will finalize and post appropriately by the end of January. The remaining positions have selection committees that are in various stages of their processes.

At the outset I charged each committee — whose members were chosen to represent a broad spectrum of relevant Lab staff — to develop a nationally prominent, diverse and compelling pool of candidates. This requirement has lengthened the selection process but should improve the outcome I am regularly meeting with each committee chair to track progress and, hopefully, we will have selections made for most positions by March.

Recruiting/retention
Externally, a robust economy fueling an increasingly competitive labor market is challenging the Lab. We are losing highly skilled people at a rate greater than anytime in our history and have had difficulty filling many critical positions. A number of large and successful high-tech companies have begun to move operations into the Livermore Valley, with consequences on the cost of local housing and traffic congestion that are felt by everyone.

Internally, we have made major changes in the way we do business, particularly in safety and security. While these changes will, over time, have positive impacts on the Lab, including a safer working environment and improved public confidence, they have put enormous stress on us in the near term as we struggle to meet the milestones that we set for the Lab and adapt to more stringent requirements. Several other factors have further stressed our employees, including polygraphs, the perception of prejudicial stereotyping, and bureaucratic burdens imposed by many different groups currently involved in management oversight.

These external and internal drivers have had major impacts on our workforce. Over the past several years, we have initiated several efforts, mostly by our Human Resources organization, to implement new policies that enhance our recruiting and retention status; e.g., hiring bonuses, “hot skills” salary increments, expedited hiring processes, Employee Referral Process Program, etc. Recently, various groups and organizations have focused considerable effort on these issues. I have asked Deputy Director Bob Kuckuck to consolidate all recruiting/retention efforts and develop institution-wide recommendations.

Diversity
During the past few months, I have met with many employees, including the Lab’s Employee Network Group leaders and various Asian Pacific American (APA) employee groups to better understand their concerns. This dialogue is critical to our understanding of the issues and our ability to effectively take advantage of the increasingly diverse workforce of the 21st century. Additionally, we must constantly reinforce the message of the April Diversity Stand-Down; i.e., racial profiling or any form of discrimination will not be tolerated.

I expect to introduce some near-term measures into our system, as well as devoting the entire year to develop and implement a long-term strategy. New measures will include such things as incorporating diversity and avoidance of racial profiling as substantive elements of the new employee orientation process, enhancing these emphases in supervisory and management training and performance, and systematically assessing our progress, particularly in creating and enhancing career growth and opportunities.

Employee survey
Finally, I know that each of you has experienced some aspect of these pressures on our workforce and work environment. In order for us to make positive impacts, we must know what you think about your work environment and quality of life at the Lab. Also, at the same time, we want to continue to follow up on the Lab diversity survey conducted five years ago. You gave us your feedback on what you thought about the Lab’s environment at that time. You told us what needed improvement and what you liked about working at the Lab. We took that input and made a number of changes.

We will be working with various groups and forums around the Laboratory, and will be developing a new, comprehensive survey that will help define our path forward. The new survey will have diversity as a significant element, but will focus more broadly on all aspects of the present and desired future work environment at the Lab. We will have this survey to employees by spring, the results digested soon thereafter, and a full set of recommendations implemented within the calendar year. When this survey comes forth, I hope you will devote serious thought to it and provide us with your views.

We need to maintain our highly skilled workforce as we prepare for the future. I want to ensure that the Lab is seen as a good place to work, “an employer of choice.” Over the next six months, much effort will be put into these four areas I have just discussed. We need your perspective to succeed. I also welcome your individual input and suggestions. An e-mail address, workforce2001 [at] llnl.gov"> workforce2001 [at] llnl.gov , has been established to provide a mechanism for you to communicate your thoughts to me in confidence.

I look forward to working with you on these issues.