Sandia LabNews

Valuing good people-management skills at Sandia


Latest Employee Attitude Survey results raised awareness of issue

The vast majority of Sandia managers areexemplary individuals, laboring mightily to do adifficult — one might say thankless — job. Regret-tably, there is a perception “out there”— on theline, in the trenches — that good people-manage-ment skills are not rewarded as fully as manySandians think they should be.According to Employee Attitude Survey datacollected in 1999, just 17 percent of Sandiansagreed with the statement, “Managers whodemonstrate good people-management skills areconsistently recognized and rewarded.” Similarconcerns were expressed in the 1999 Ethics Survey.When Human Resources Div. 3000 VP DonBlanton shared those survey results with the Labo-ratory Leadership Team (LLT), the perception —accurate or not — was troubling enough that LLTcreated a special group to look into the matter. (Don notes that the attitude survey resultsshouldn’t be interpreted as suggesting that mostLabs managers aren’t good at managing the “peo-ple” side of their jobs.

They are, he says. Rather,Don says, the message of the survey is that seniormanagement must do a better job of encouraging,recognizing, and rewarding those skills.)Bruce McClure (3526), who worked on theissue as part of a small team along with Don andLLT members Lenny Martinez, recently retiredEthics Director Miguel Robles, and others, notesthat the team conducted focus group meetingswith staff and managers to determine whether, infact, the perception was justified. In addition toBruce, Don, Lenny, and Miguel, the group alsoincluded just-retired HR VP Charlie Emery, SandraBarnes (3000), Char Wells (3525), Karen Gillings(3545), and Pat Smith (8500). As they probed deeper into the subject, theyfound that good people-management skills, whileidentified as a component of the Manager’s Rolesand Responsibilities, were not emphasized or artic-ulated clearly enough.

Meanwhile, at about the time the focus groupswere being conducted, Executive VP JoanWoodard charged the Human Resources Division3000, Center 1700 Director David Williams, andCenter 15200 Director Pat Eicker to formalize a listof roles and expectations for management.“One of the key elements of that document ispeople-management skills,” notes Bruce. “So wesaw this [focus group process and subsequent fol-low-up] as an opportunity to really work on allthese issues, to get the word out more about thisaspect of a manager’s roles and expectations, todeal with the findings of the Ethics Survey, andalso to address the attitude survey concerns, because they seem to mesh.”Staff members who participated in the focusgroups — from Divisions 1000, 6000, and 14000 — defined good people-management skills as consis-tency, being a good listener, building teams, help-ing folks develop their careers — in short, “no sur-prises, common sense stuff, about what you’d expect, but we wanted to make sure we were alltalking about the same things,” says Bruce.

Managers agreed with the broad definition ofwhat constitutes good people-management skills,Bruce says. But “in general,” he adds, “the sense[among managers in the focus groups] was thatpeople-management skills aren’t highly valued.These were seen as skills that were, you might say,noteworthy only in their very conspicuousabsence.”Managers, Bruce says, perceived that “if youwere an absolutely dreadful manager of people,then you might have to deal with some repercus-sions. If you were a dreadful manager of peopleand you didn’t get the work done, then you’regonna be in trouble. But if you could actually getyour work done, you could probably get away withbeing a pretty poor people manager.”The good news, Bruce says, is that the 1999Employee Attitude Survey raised an issue which,upon close study, proved to be quite legitimate.

Legitimate enough, indeed, that good people-man-agement skills have been folded into the concep-tual framework of the Labs’ Management Roles andResponsibilities and recognized as a critical elementof the Labs Total Rewards strategy. (In that context,employees are assured that their managers are heldaccountable for their people-management skills.)Also, due to the team’s work, Labs’ seniormanagement became convinced that the issue wasimportant enough and credible enough that goodpeople-management skills are now incorporated asa basic expectation on every manager’s Perfor-mance Management Form.Bruce acknowledges that the Labs needs to“walk the talk” and provide tangible rewards forgood people-management skills.

And speaking of“walking the talk,” Sandia’s senior managementwants employees to know that rewarding and rec-ognizing good people-management skills is a 360-degree process — everyone has a stake in acknowl-edging and rewarding their colleagues who displaythe traits that characterize those skills (see “Pattingeach other on the back,” this page). “We have the annual performance and com-pensation review and should use that process toreward good people-management skills and otherthings. We have all kinds of already existing awardprograms; we could use these as mechanisms. Wealso have just-in-time [spot award] processes.

We’readvocating using the systems that are there andspecify: If I’m a director and I’ve got a managerwho’s really worked well with a group, has done areally good job developing their folks’ careers, orwhatever, let’s reward ’em.“Ultimately, finances are truly the limitedresource. So the question becomes: Are you goingto spend some of that limited resource to rewardgood people-management skills? That’s the test,and that’s where we’re headed.”

Patting each other on the back: A good model

Bruce McClure, who has spent a gooddeal of time over the last few months studyingthe issue of how Sandians relate to each other,says he’s found a gem of a model of interper-sonal relations in National Security and ArmsControl Div. 5000. “There’s a lot of activity there, in terms ofrewarding each other,” he says. “We [the teamanalyzing Sandia’s policies and practices regard-ing good-people management skills] drew oninformation from Division 5000.“ They had templates that guided deci-sion-making. . . . They had basically thisnotion — and I think there’s sort of an under-current here of what we’re advocating — thatin fact any one person at Sandia can rewardor recognize any other person.“The traditional flow [in a reward model]is down the hierarchy.

In fact, there was noreason on earth why it should be that way. Iffor instance we’re colleagues and you do areally great job and I’m affected by it or Iappreciate it, there’s nothing wrong with mesending you a thank-you note. It’s as simple asthat. Or buying you lunch. Or, being moreformal, at a staff meeting I could make up acertificate and say, ‘Hey, I really appreciate it; Iwant to thank you for the work you did.’ Like-wise, you could do the same for your boss.Anyway, that’s what we’re pushing for.”“Everyone can play a role in ensuring thatgood people-management skills are recog-nized and rewarded, but, more importantly,everyone can play a role in ensuring they arepracticed,” says Bruce.

“Ultimately, finances are truly thelimited resource. So the questionbecomes: Are you going to spendsome of that limited resource toreward good people-managementskills? That’s the test, and that’swhere we’re headed.”

Rick Stulen named Director of Materials & Engineering Sciences Center

Rick Stulen has been named Director ofMaterials & Engineering Sciences Center 8700at Sandia/Cali-fornia, effectiveFeb 2. Rick willoversee a centerof nine depart-ments and some150 people. Hesucceeds MikeDyer, who isretiring thisspring after 25years at Sandia.For the pastthree years Rickhas been thechief operatingofficer of the Extreme Ultraviolet Lithogra-phy (EUVL) Virtual National Laboratory con-sortium and deputy director of the ScienceBased Engineering and Technology Center atSandia.

RICK STULEN

He joined Sandia in 1976. His earlywork included research on the physics of sur-faces carried out at the Stanford SynchrotronRadiation Laboratory, where he served onthe Executive Users Committee and laterheld a similar position at the Advanced LightSource at Lawrence Berkeley National Labo-ratory (LBNL). In 1984 he was promoted to manager ofSandia’s Surface Science and Chemical PhysicsDepartment. In 1989 he started a new researchprogram focused on extreme ultraviolet lithog-raphy in collaboration with AT&T Bell Labora-tories and in support of DOE’s technologytransfer initiative.

In 1995 he was named theEUVL technical champion for the Semiconduc-tor Industry Association lithography workinggroup. The next year he helped organize theEUV Virtual National Laboratory (VNL), com-posed of scientists and engineers from Sandia,Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, andLBNL. Now this program has become thelargest 100-percent industry-funded programin the DOE complex and is a model for manag-ing complex projects.During his 25 years at Sandia Rick haspublished more than 100 papers in his fieldand in 1999 received the prestigious NOVAAward for Technical Excellence from Lock-heed Martin. He earned his bachelor’s degreein physics from the University of Michiganand PhD in solid state physics from PurdueUniversity.