May 18, 2001

Survey will help shape Lab policies

Because results from the upcoming survey will be used to shape Lab policies for years to come, all employees are strongly encouraged to participate and voice their honest opinions about the Laboratory’s work environment, said Deputy Director Jeff Wadsworth.

The goal of the workforce study, "Assessing the Workplace," is to get an accurate reading of how employees view working at the Lab, what benefits they value most and what can be done to improve the working environment for both current and future employees.

"That’s the real driver. The Lab needs to improve its recruiting and retention tools in coming years. We understand that incoming generations have different needs than people who have staffed the Lab since 1952. The challenge is how do you recruit them. We will soon have four generations — the military generation, baby boomers, generation X and generation Y — all working at the same place at the same time. They all have different wants, needs, desires and priorities," Wadsworth said.

From the start of the Lab in 1952, highly qualified employees have been attracted to work at the Laboratory because of its national security mission, encouragement of R&D work of national importance, and for providing an environment for conducting world-renowned research, Wadsworth said.

But in recent years, the Lab has had a tougher time with recruiting and retention because of increased competition from industry and universities, cuts in basic R&D funding, increased safety and security requirements, and compensation and benefits that are lower than what some competitive industry segments offer.

The survey asks a wide range of questions about the work environment, including morale, what it feels like to work at the Lab, and whether the Lab benefits match employees’ needs.

"We want to know what we need to do to make the Lab an attractive place to continue to work at as well as to join," Wadsworth said. "This survey will guide our policies and how we implement change at the Laboratory. The more people who take the survey, the more complete our results will be. It’s very important for people to participate."

"Assessing the Workplace" will be available for employees to take either electronically via the Web or in booklet form, beginning May 29. To maintain confidentiality, all employees will be assigned a random password to access the Website.

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).

"It will be 100 percent confidential," Wadsworth said. In fact, the Lab has hired International Survey Research to conduct the survey. "The independent company is our way of ensuring confidentiality."

ISR will conduct the survey, compile the answers and report the results back to the Lab. No one at the Lab will see a completed questionnaire. Also, to protect confidentiality, any survey question answered by less than 20 people will not be included in the final results.

"They are experts at surveys of organizations of all sizes and kinds," Wadsworth noted. "They will therefore be able to benchmark our results against other companies to see how we compare."

The last Labwide survey was conducted in August 1995, also by ISR. As a result of the employee feedback in that survey, a number of changes were instituted at the Lab, including mandatory supervisory training for all new managers, expanding the ombuds program Labwide, putting job postings on line and enabling hiring departments to indicate if there’s an identified qualified candidate for a posted job.

"I’ve used the modification to posting practices myself. People should know if there’s an identified qualified preferred candidate for a job. That change came directly out of the survey," Wadsworth said.

The upcoming survey invites employee feedback on a wide range of issues, including competency of supervisors, the performance appraisal process, compensation and benefits, and the workplace climate.

It’s important to note that the survey has been compiled, reviewed and tested by a broad spectrum of employees. To formulate the survey, ISR worked closely with a Lab survey steering committee representing various directorates, led by Wadsworth, as well as focus groups, employee interest groups, senior managers and first-line supervisors.

Upon receipt of the survey results, an appropriate action plan will be developed, Wadsworth noted, adding that "it’s been six years since the last Labwide survey and it’s time to do one again. Many of the Lab’s current employees were not here for the 1995 survey."