By Bill Murphy
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During a special briefing and pep talk recently for managers and recruiters, Executive VP Joan Woodard, joined by HR acting VP Don Blanton and California site VP Mim John, laid out the Labs' hiring plans for FY01 and beyond.
"Yes, we are going to have a large recruiting program," Joan said, "and our intent is that it will be a stable program for the next several years."
The recruiting emphasis during the next few years, she said, will be to bring in more "recent graduates from top schools." In recent hiring cycles, she noted, we have focused more on experienced hires with less emphasis on recent college grads. As a result, she said, "we may be losing an element of cutting edge" skills in rapidly changing technical fields.
The Labs will have the opportunity to hire more than 2,000 new employees by FY05, assuming a stable budget, Don said during his section of the briefing. Half of those, he said, will be members of technical staff. That represents a turnover of approximately one-third of the tech staff by 2005, he said.
A large portion of new technical hires, Mim noted in her remarks, will be in disciplines required to support the Labs' primary stockpile stewardship mission. Given the trends in science and engineering, Mim said, it is reasonable to expect that a large percentage of new technical hires over the next five years will come from the information technology fields -- computer science, software engineering, and other computing-related fields. However, because of attrition among long-time weaponeers who are approaching retirement, the Labs also will be hiring mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, materials scientists.
Joan said the Labs' go-forward hiring practices will have a different look and feel from practices of the past few years.
"We've fallen into a tactical approach to hiring," she said. "We need to think five to 10 years down the road [with our hiring]. Hiring new staff is the one most important thing we undertake."
Joan noted that the Labs' number one hiring priority -- to hire the best and brightest prospects -- is complicated by the fact that "we are in a very competitive labor market today, particularly in the high-tech industries." Sandia, though it can't offer stock options, isn't without its own bargaining chips in the recruiting sweepstakes, she said. She cited the Labs' "total rewards," which combines market-linked, pay-for-performance salary and non-base incentives, benefits, training and development opportunities, and work environment. That last -- work environment -- may be the Labs' biggest drawing card of all, Joan suggested. "Sandia has a tremendous reputation built on the work we've done in the national interest. We get accolades from all over. We need to emphasize that [in our recruiting]."
Joan said the Labs' job-offer process needs to change the way job offers are made. It's a "big challenge," she noted, to hire quality graduates when Sandia's job-offer cycle is out of sync with the time when most students, especially the best, most in-demand students, are making decisions about their futures. The problem, Joan said, is that because of the DOE-congressional budget process, Sandia often doesn't know its final budget numbers until well into a fiscal year.
Historically, Sandia has made job offers later in the fiscal year, with the peak offer month being April, as indicated by a chart Don showed during his remarks (see chart at left). Offers should peak in the previous late October and November, Joan said.
"We are going to have to hire when the students are ready, even before we have a final budget, she said. She told managers they'll have to be ready to "take some risks" in hiring without final budget figures, but pledged upper management support for such a course.
"We'll all be there to help you get the right candidate," she said.
In his remarks, Don reviewed the numbers behind what is shaping up to be the most aggressive hiring campaign in at least five years. The big driver making room for 500 new employees a year for the next several years is Sandia's changing workforce demographics. Today, Don noted, some 16 percent of employees are retirement-eligible (for full or partial retirement); by 2005, that number will be 25 percent. Many of those employees will retire and will be replaced. In addition, as Mim noted, the marketplace demand for technical talent -- especially in the skill areas needed for the future -- has led to more non-retirement separations. Taken together, Mim said, these factors, combined with stable or modestly increasing budgets mean that "we'll need to hire a lot of talented people over the next few years."
During the Q&A session following the prepared remarks, Sandia manager Paul Shoemaker, participating via video link from Carlsbad, N.M., said, "Do I sense here a philosophical shift away from filling vacancies to hiring people?"
"Yes! Very well put," said Joan.
Said Mim, "Read our lips!"
Last modified: September 8, 2000
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