Sandia LabNews

Sandia pushes quest to be inclusive workplace


9/80 work schedules, telecommuting, formal mentoring among improvements

A quick look at what’s changed since 1992 in Sandia’s quest to be an inclusive workplace where diversity is valued and people are respected shows the Labs has made significant strides.“We’ve come a long way from where we were, that’s for sure,” says Margaret Harvey, Manager of Diversity, EEO & AA Services Dept. 3511.“The programs, classes, and efforts with individual departments and organizations over the years have brought about many positive changes.”A list of changes (see “So what’s changed since 1992?” below) including flexible 9/80 work schedules, telecommuting, formal mentoring pro-gram, vacation donation plan, diversity program,and the Corporate Diversity Team (CDT) reflect an array of human resources systems changes implemented during the last decade, as well as input from employees through various commit-tees and feedback mechanisms. Don Blanton, Human Resources VP 3000,says Sandia began taking steps toward building diversity and culture change and making the Labsa more inclusive workplace in the early 1990sbecause identified workplace issues indicated “it was the right thing to do.” A real boost to the effort came with the change in the operating con-tract in 1993. One of the provisions that DOE included in the contract was for Sandia to develop a diversity program that could serve as a model for the rest of the DOE complex. The program has evolved since its inception when a number of Sandians were trained as diversity champions to help lead the transition.

Today, a Diversity Program Team in Human Resources and a Corporate Diversity Team made up of representatives from each division continues to lead the implementation of identified diversity goals. Don says the team’s purpose is to develop and implement strategies that will address Sandia’s work environment issues and have a positive impact on its evolving high-per-forming, inclusive work culture.“We have four approaches to diversity and culture change at Sandia. One focuses on individuals, one on teams and interpersonal relation-ships, one on managers, and one to address organizational systems,” says Rochelle Lari(3511), Diversity Program lead. “The Diversity Program has several strategies in place to achieve positive cultural change including an awareness strategy, which involves classes, Web-based programs, profiles, video modules, and tutorials.”For example, individuals — some referred and some who come on their own because of their personal interest— can take a four-hour course, “Inclusion is a Conscious Choice,” where they are introduced to concepts of self-awareness, behavior, and inclusion.They can create their own personal profiles related to their styles, diversity beliefs, listening approaches, and ways of exploring differences. They can also participate in video modules on a variety of diversity issues.Teams can take classes in “Making the Most of Diversity in Work Groups” and “Effective Teaming: Creating Inclusive, High-Performing Work Teams.” Also available for teams are tutorials on effective teaming and video modules on conflict resolution, gender, and communication called “Invisible Rules for Men, Women, and Teams,” and how to handle difficult people. A Web-based “teams tool kit” designed to help teams work together better is being developed.A Web-based course targeting managers,“Managing Diversity Competence: Achieving Results through People,” is available, as are video modules on conflict resolution.Also, the Diversity Program Team conducts a40-minute presentation at each month’s new employee orientation. It also offers a video module on cultural diversity in the workplace and a tutorial on the caste/class issue (see “Caste/class problem: While Sandia has made significant strides in diversity, much more needs to be done”on next page). Occasionally, Rochelle is called to help organizations struggling with diversity and employee issues. She will tailor a survey to identify issues in its work environment. The information is shared with all the people involved, and then key players gather to determine what it would look like if there were high levels of trust and inclusion and few barriers to good working relationships. In a facilitated session, the group comes up with action items to make changes and works out a plan for implementation and follow-up. “We did this for one group with some 100people,” Rochelle says. “There were a lot of issues to deal with, but we were successful.”“Each one of us is unique in our own way,”Don says. “And CDT is there to educate and develop awareness about our differences and pro-mote understanding that there are strengths in our differences that we can build upon.”The Corporate Diversity Team, with the Diversity Program Team, played a key role inputting together last year’s DOE-mandated diversity stand down, “Building Bridges.” Based on the suggestions for positive action, next week’s visit by “Einstein” (Arden Bercovitz) is a follow-on to the Labs’“Building Bridges” activities. (See“‘Einstein’ performer Arden Bercovitz returns to Sandia for creativity session,” on page 12.)

Why value diversity?

Why is valuing diversity and individuality important at Sandia? While there are many ways to answer this question, Human Resources VP Don Blanton says it’s a matter of creating an inclusive work environment where every-body can achieve their full potential and be valued for their contributions. Toquote William A. Wulf of the National Academy of Engineering, “One’s creativity is bounded by one’s life experiences.”“In this era where Sandia is competing for the best employees, our challenge is not only in our ability to attract the needed talent,” Don says. “We are also challenged to include and ensure the best performance from those whose life experiences are varied and reflective of diversity along multiple dimensions.”A company’s approach to diversity begins with how it defines the term. Sandia’s definition includes all people in the work environment, and the similarities and differences they bring to the work-place. One of the issues of similarity and difference at Sandia has to do with age.The Labs, like other companies, is facing a demographic reality. The baby boom generation is starting to entertain fantasies of retirement, and those who might be expected to take up the lead(e.g., Generation X, those born between1965 – 1980) comprise a pool that is too small to meet the need fully.In the United States there are now 54million people born before 1946, 78 mil-lion born between 1946 and 1964 (the Baby Boom Generation), 48 million born between 1965 and 1980 (Generation X),and 72 million born between 1981 and1995.Don says, “We need to have a work culture that is flexible, meeting the needs of a diverse workforce. We need to have a work environment that allows each and every one of us to be productive to the best of our abilities, whether we are long-service, experienced employees, or those just now joining the evolving workforce of the future."

Caste/class problem: While Sandia has made significant strides in diversity, much more needs to be done

As far as Sandia has moved toward becoming a more inclusive place to work, much more needs to be done, says Rochelle Lari (3511), Diversity Pro-gram lead.“One of our biggest problems centers on caste and class,” Rochelle says. “Through a variety of data collection sources — personnel surveys, inter-views, and environmental scans — caste/class has been identified as the primary issue at Sandia that prevents individuals and teams from being inclusive and high-performing.”The caste/class issue “is sliced up in many different ways,” she says. It involves problems that appear in interpersonal relationships between individuals — administrative and technical, union-rep-resented and non-represented, management and non-management, professional and support (technical staff and technologist, laboratory staff and administrative support), exempt and nonexempt,contractor and Sandian, cleared and uncleared,direct- and non-direct funded, reimbursable and defense, New Mexico and California, on-roll Sandi-ans and new hires/employees, regular and non-regular employees.Such class distinctions have many manifestations that can limit and prevent optimal performance.

Among these are loss of productivity,turnover within organizations, employee frustration, low self-image/esteem, low trust, cynicism,low morale, feelings of no value, sense of not belonging, poor communication, lack of respect,perceptions of favoritism, insecurity about the future, perceptions of unfair compensation, and more.“We are dealing with a culture that is more than 50 years old,” says Margaret Harvey, Manager of Diversity, EEO & AA Services Dept. 3511. “This is an environment with a low turnover rate of employees — which makes change slow and difficult. Caste/class issues have been a part of our culture since the beginning.”The Corporate Diversity Team (CDT), a group of people from throughout the Labs with interests in ensuring that Sandia begins to benefit from a work culture that is inclusive, has struggled with the issue. It has identified four solutions to begin addressing the caste/class problem. Recognizing that change is a process, the team strives to facilitate movement from knowledge (having information about the negative impacts of stereotypes), to understanding (increasing awareness and empathizing with those whose perspectives are different), to acceptance (practicing tolerance and respect), and finally to behavior (using self-awareness to improve interpersonal skills). One of the solutions currently being developed addresses such issues on a personal or individual level. It is an Employee Self-improvement Program (ESI).

On a self-selected basis, and depending on individual needs, employees make a commitment to take classes in a variety of areas, including conflict resolution, self-awareness,inclusiveness, and managing diversity. Such self-development programs are most effective when supported by rewards, recognition, and incentives and when included as a development commitment on an employee’s Performance Management Form (PMF). A second solution, a “respect campaign,” provides visibility to issues of caste/class at Sandia and encourages addressing such issues openly. Through mutually shared activities and events, respectfulness for one another can be heightened. This includes a Web page and all-hands skits.The third solution addresses diversity issues at the managerial level. Managing Diversity Competence(MDC) is an easy-to-use, self-paced, Web-based tool rich in resources. Managers can use it to strengthen their competence in managing diversity. Through a series of scenarios,with new ones released periodically,participants review actual Sandia issues based on situations at the Labs.

Participants can select from a choice of four responses, receive feedback on them,and review related tutorials addressing specific issues and behaviors that contribute to effective management of diversity within organizations. Through shared department meeting discussions with all employees, this tool can be a useful leverage to reduce caste/class barriers that may exist and allow for safe dialogue and understanding in departments.The fourth solution for class issues is focused at the organizational and systems level. Piloted first by the Division 1000 Workplace Enhancement Council, the goal is to address already identified caste/class issues between technologists and members of the technical staff. Upon gathering and analyzing relevant data, the intent is then to develop a job aid to improve productivity, communication, and trust between technologists and the MTS population. Once this is successful, the process could be replicated in other divisions throughout the Labs.Margaret says that even with solutions such as these, the Corporate Diversity Team realizes that it can take time — years even — to bring about changes that will end problems related to caste/class.“Change is not going to happen immediately,but it’s something that we have to commit our-selves to if Sandia is to be an ‘employer of choice’ competing in the national marketplace,” Margaret says.

Sandia instrumental in forming regionalDiversity Leadership Council

Human Resources VP Don Blanton served as 2000 chair

At the same time Sandia was starting its diversity program, several Labs executives engaged DOE, Lockheed Martin, and community partners in focused discussions on corporate diversity initiatives. Through a series of Executive Forums on Diversity, “Representatives from Sandia and other leading employers in the area met to see if there was someway we could work together on diversity issues,”says Human Resources VP Don Blanton. “Sandia introduced a proposal to form a council.”Sandians involved in laying the ground-work for the Diversity Leadership Council(DLC) included Jim Tegnelia (then Executive Vice President, now DoD Programs Div. 15000VP), former Human Resources VP Charlie Emery, Dick Fairbanks, Berweida Learson(3000), and Miguel Robles (ret., then Director of the Diversity Leadership Center). With Sandia’s leadership, the council was formalized in 1996. Don served was chair of the Diversity Leadership Council in 2000. In 2001 he will be succeeded by Ed Rodriguez, associate dean of the College of Continuing Education at the University of New Mexico.Today, some 20 organizations from Central New Mexico participate in the council.Among them are Albuquerque Public Schools,Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute,Bank of Albuquerque, DOE, Goodwill Indus-tries, Intel, Public Service Company of New Mexico, UNM, United Way, and Target Stores.

Don says the council meets once a month at different members’ sites. A diversity issue is discussed at each meeting with topics like Generation X, the aging work-force, gender-related concerns, and a variety of others.“The goal of the DLC is to leverage diversity to make our businesses more successful,”Don says. “Sandia plays an important leader-ship role in the DLC, and will continue to do so. We’ve been fortunate in having such an active program at Sandia and we’ve learned so much that we have a lot to share. But the fact is, we benefit tremendously from the experiences of the other member organizations. That is useful to Sandia’s program.”The council also gives the members an opportunity to network and share ideas. Each year the council sponsors an Executive Forum on Diversity. The daylong events consist of workshops that help businesses, educational institutions, government entities, and community-based organizations explore and better understand the role that diversity plays in the workplace. Experts speak on cutting-edge diversity topics and talk with participants. One new project the council is currently pursuing is establishing a diversity institute at UNM’s College of Continuing Education.Funds from the New Mexico State Legislature are being sought for this endeavor. Once the institute is established, DLC members will offer their expertise supporting the institute in the areas of human resources management and diversity.“Unlike Sandia, which has a program devoted to diversity and culture change, many small businesses can’t commit large amounts of resources in this area,” Don says. “This institute will offer classes on diversity that will benefit smaller businesses and individuals.

Diversity quest

The Corporate Diversity Team also tackles specific issues, bringing in experts who might offer advice. For example, they recently studied the issue of the “sandwich generation”— those who are sandwiched between taking care of their children and aging parents simultaneously.