Majority of employees ‘proud to be associated’ with Lab

Sept. 7, 2001

Majority of employees ‘proud to be associated’ with Lab



More than 80 percent of the workforce says it is “proud to be associated” with the Laboratory, according to results from the employee survey, “Assess-ing the Workplace.”

Laboratory employees, on the whole, gave high marks for the level of safety at LLNL, their work role and involvement, and overall job satisfaction and commitment. All three categories scored higher than a 70 percent favorable response, with safety in the workplace being the highest at 83 percent favorable.

“It is a fascinating series of data. What it says is as interesting as what it doesn’t say,” said Director Bruce Tarter in inviting employees to “take a good look at the data. Hear it today, then we’ll take a little bit of time to digest it.”

The results of the survey, held in May and June, were presented to employees Thursday during a special all-hands meeting. Rebroadcasts of that presentation are currently playing every hour on Lab TV Channel 2. The results are also posted on the Grapevine at http://www-r.llnl.gov (click on the survey logo) or directly on the Web at http://www-r.llnl.gov/intranet/ 001news/esr_files/esr.html .

During the presentation, Leo Brajkovich of International Survey Research, the firm that conducted the survey, showed that many facets of the Lab rank well above the norms of U.S research and development, Silicon Valley companies, as well as similar government research institutions in DOE and DoD. Areas where Lab employees are more favorable than the norms include group management, employment security, safety, benefits and communication, among other areas.

While issues such as performance evaluation and ranking fell significantly below all three norms, 64 percent of the employee population still feel their performances are evaluated fairly. The Lab’s survey score was 3 percent below the U.S. R&D norm.

Brajkovich said ranking “is an area where people were consistently unhappy with the overall system. They want change.”

Overall, employees feel they are empowered to do their jobs, there is sufficient contact between employees and group management (group and division leaders), and feel benefits are as good as or better than those of similar organizations outside the Lab, Brajkovich said.

The survey also showed some improvements since the last employee survey, held in 1995. Since that time, employees have grown more positive about the Lab’s diversity efforts, its ability to follow up on the survey results, supervision and Lab management. However, areas such as culture/work environment, performance evaluation, career development, training, and pay, benefits and recognition all showed slight downturns — from 2 to 9 percent.

“The survey shows many people are very happy to be associated with the Laboratory and are satisfied with their work environment,” said Brajkovich. “But that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t like to see a few improvements that go beyond previous tweaking.”

Jan Tulk, AD for Administration, thanked employees for “exceeding expectations on responses” and promised a “swift” response (see accompanying story).

While the survey identified many strong areas for the Lab, there were also notable areas for improvement. In addition to performance evaluations and ranking, improvement areas included the need for more “people skills” among managers, a higher number of managers undergoing the current crop of training courses, more visibility among senior managers, additional career and personal development opportunities, better pay competitiveness, and increased respect in the workplace.

Brajkovich explained the survey shows that while people understand there is a natural hierarchy at the Lab, employees want increased respect for the jobs that need to be done.

“Some jobs may be more critical to the Lab’s mission, but every job still has to be done,” said Brajkovich. “People want to see a little more humanity and a little more respect among the division of labor.”

Brajkovich said among the surprises in the survey is a request for a five-day workweek with flexible start and stop times. Prior to the survey there was speculation for an overwhelming request for four/10 or nine/80 schedules. However, work weeks such as four 10-hour days or 80 hours over nine days with a 10th day off were the second and third choices overall, with telecommuting and the standard 40-hour work week coming in fourth and fifth respectively. Only 30 percent of the Lab showed interest in part-time schedules, while only 18 percent of the respondents were interested in job sharing. These responses do vary by age or job classification, indicating the need for further examination.

When asked what issues were of “utmost importance” or very important in terms of improving morale or continuing a career at the Lab, respondents cited: UCRP retirement (82 percent), pay (81), the benefits package (80), challenging work (77), the work environment (73) and job security (72).

Other suggestions for improving job satisfaction and commitment include expanding on-site services, such as a post office, dry-cleaning pickup, etc. (28 percent ranked this a first choice), expanding food service/eating options (19), expansion of LLESA activities (18), expanding availability of childcare (11), and offering backup childcare (4).

The survey asked 179 questions broken into categories such as Lab Management, Supervision, Work Role & Involvement, Diversity, Communication, Training, Performance Evaluation and Career Development.

The total number of survey responses was 5,413, or 70 percent of the workforce, a 2 percent increase from the 1995 survey total.

The survey broke down results by directorate, job classification, matrix, age, tenure, gender and ethnic background. Survey results found very little difference in opinion between men and women, longer and shorter tenure, and younger or older employees.

Percentage differences tended to fluctuate more when comparisons were cut by ethnic or racial background. African Americans have concerns regarding Lab management, supervision and diversity (10 to 16 percent less favorable from the Lab’s overall scores); Asian/Pacific Islanders cited career development, job security and satisfaction and commitment as concerns (7-8 percent difference from the Lab average).

To clarify any area of concern, employees were also given a chance to provide written comments. When asked what critical areas need to be improved, 4,170 employees made 7,386 comments, citing pay, benefits and recognition, Lab management and performance evaluation as the top three areas.

When asked what are the Lab’s greatest strengths to preserve and build on, 2,958 employees made 4,789 comments. Creating a research environment, the Lab culture and work environment, and pay benefits and recognition were the three areas cited most.

Brajkovich said that while most employee comments tend to be negative in any survey, “it isn’t the whole picture. The quantitative data is more representative than the qualitative. What this survey says is that employees will take any opportunity to critique the Lab, but at the end of the day 83 percent are proud to be working here.”

Yet Brajkovich cautioned the many positive results are no reason to sit on the data. “History shows the Lab is a careful culture that takes its time getting through the issues,” he said. “The company that succeeds long term is the one that identifies and cultivates its strengths while it continually looks for, and acts on, its areas for improvement.”

For a complete look at the survey results, excluding employee comments, see the Website at http://www-r.llnl.gov/intranet/001news/ esr_files/esr.htm l. Employee comments will eventually be made available for review at the TID Library. They are being screened to ensure anonymity.