May 11, 2001

Lab engages its workforce in upcoming survey

When the employee survey, "Assessing the Workplace," kicks off on May 29, it will give every Lab employee the chance "to put his or her spin on the issues at hand.

"This is not just a request for employees to check off the boxes," said Leo Brajkovich of International Survey Research, which is putting together the Lab’s upcoming employee opinion survey. "This is an invitation by management to engage all employees in the issues that are important to the Laboratory and its workforce. The survey only holds value if those employees participate. If they don’t, then they cannot complain in the future."

"Assessing the Workplace" will be available for employees to take either electronically through Web, or in booklet form. The online survey will be available through June 22; booklets are due June 15 (extra time will be needed to scan in the booklets and analyze the survey data, thus necessitating the shorter deadline.) Future Newsline articles will detail instructions for taking the survey.

This is the second survey developed and conducted by ISR, a Chicago-based firm with a satellite office in Walnut Creek. ISR produced the 1995 diversity-focused Employee Survey.

Companies have been making good use of employee surveys for years, said Brajkovich, ISR’s director of Global Organization Development Practice. Brajkovich was also project director of the 1995 survey. "The research shows it: Employee engagement is quite a predictor for future business performance. The companies that do well are the ones that look for real time feedback from their employees, then make the necessary adjustments."

And that is what "Assessing the Workplace" should help accomplish, Brajkovich added. "The best source of business insight comes from those who are already carrying around your business card," he said. "If you do not actively engage your own employees, you are missing out on a potential blockbuster idea."

"Assessing the Workplace" was designed with the goal of enhancing the Lab’s desirability as an "employer of choice," according to Director Bruce Tarter, who called for the survey in January. The survey will be used to measure broad Laboratory views, benchmark against other labs, research facilities and similar organizations, and identify and prioritize specific issues.

Survey thrust areas include overall job satisfaction and the work environment, career development and retention issues; diversity and equal opportunity issues; work/life balance issues, and overall management of the Lab.

"The survey touches on the key issues that are important to the Laboratory workforce," said Brajkovich. To formulate the survey ISR worked closely with a Lab survey steering committee representing various directorates, led by Deputy Director Jeff Wadsworth, as well as focus groups, employee interest groups, senior managers and first-line supervisors. Questions were developed and then "red-teamed" and pretested to ensure "quality and precision."

"This survey is a much more precise diagnostic tool than the 1995 survey," Brajkovich said. For example, there are an increased number of organizational codes (44), and additional codes have been added to identify supervisory training and years of experience.

However, Brajkovich emphasized that all answers will be confidential. In fact, the survey will be conducted from ISR’s Website, not the Lab’s, and all completed questionnaires will be returned directly to ISR for tabulation. ISR’s agreement with the Lab is to report only statistical summaries of results for groups of 20 or more respondents. No individual responses will be reported, and no attempt will be made to identify individual respondents.

Now in its 27th year, ISR has surveyed more than 38 million people in more than 2,500 organizations around the world. Past clients include Agilent Technologies, Applied Materials, Ernst & Young, General Mills, General Motors, Toyota, Nokia, Phillips, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments.

In the past many surveys were used for "temperature taking," Brajkovich said. Now the emphasis is on identifying priority areas for change and general diagnosis. The Lab’s survey will accomplish both, Brajkovich added.

"With all the changes the Lab has endured over the past few years, it’s obvious the internal environment has been impacted. This survey will determine the degree of impact, but will also identify how best to make that change more manageable," he said.

Brajkovich urges every employee to take the survey, re-emphasizing the opportunity to prioritize myriad issues. "The last presidential election proved every vote does indeed count.

"With this survey, the Lab is saying it realizes the value of crisp ideas."