Sandia LabNews

Senior management will develop specific actions to address biggest concerns

The numbers from the 2011 LM Voice employee survey conducted at Sandia during April have been tallied and analyzed, and the results are mostly positive.

As will be the case with just about any survey, some numbers — a few, not many — stand out to Sandia’s senior management.

In remarks videostreamed to all Sandians this week, Labs Director Paul Hommert noted that the survey results have been posted on the Change at Sandia website on Sandia’s internal TechWeb.

“I encourage you to read them and draw your own conclusions about what you told us about what we do well and what we may need to work on,” Paul said. He noted that center-specific results have also been made available to all centers, adding that discussions are now beginning at that level.

In broad terms, the highest scores were in response to questions related to Sandia’s ethical culture and a category called modeling personal excellence. The weaker points came in the areas of rewards and recognitions, inclusion, engagement and retention, career development, and connection to the organization’s vision.

“Your feedback clearly reflected some areas of concern,” Paul said. “As an example, the overall competitive position of our compensation and benefits is certainly an issue. Given what we’ve had to work through over the past year, this is understandable.

“The challenges you identified in this and other areas are further motivation for the work we plan to do under our Laboratory objectives, committing to a learning, inclusive, and engaging environment for all our people. We will fold specific actions addressing your concerns into the goals and milestones that will further our work toward this objective. You’ll be hearing more on all of that as the summer progresses.”

The LM Voice employee survey is conducted across the Lockheed Martin Corp. to ascertain the overall health of the company. The survey takes the pulse of employees in four general workplace-related areas: Employee experience; leadership excellence; diversity and inclusion; and ethics and integrity. For tracking purposes, the questions asked in the 2011 survey are mostly identical to those asked in 2009.

‘We will use what we have learned’

In 2011, 46 percent of Sandia employees completed the survey, the same percentage that completed the survey in 2009, the last time it was conducted. Kim Sawyer, deputy director and executive vice president for mission support, commented, “I am pleased that nearly half of all Sandians responded to the LM Voice employee survey. I thank everyone who took the time to share their perspectives. We will use what we have learned to help make Sandia an even more engaging and inclusive environment.”

Of the 88 questions posed in the survey that could be answered on a 1-to-5 scale (with 5 representing the most positive response), all but 10 showed either an upward trend toward the positive over the past two years or remained statistically neutral.

In the analysis, a score of 4 to 5 is considered excellent; a score of 3.5 to 3.99 is considered favorable; a score of 3.0 to 3.49 is considered neutral (an area for improvement), and a score of less than 3.0 is considered unfavorable, an issue requiring immediate attention.

In the 2011 survey, the responses came overwhelmingly in the “excellent” or “favorable” range. A handful of questions — mostly those regarding issues of performance management/rewards and career development — elicited scores in the “neutral” range.

While at the macro level, ethics-related issues scored highest in the survey and pay/performance management issues scored lowest, at a deeper level, responses to specific questions provided useful insights about the state of mind of Labs employees.

Kudos to first-line managers

For example, first-line managers fared very well in the survey. In almost every question related to first-line managers, the answers came in the high favorable range or in the excellent range. Perhaps more significantly, most of the answers in this category reflected statistically significant upward trends. Paul singled out these trends for praise in his videostreamed remarks.

“I am delighted with your comments regarding your direct managers,” he said. “You overwhelmingly felt your manager establishes a clear vision for the future, creates an environment that allows you to perform at your best, and ensures solutions are developed to meet the customer’s evolving needs.”

A few sample questions (and the scores) related to direct managers:

  • My manager will keep his/her promises (4.05)
  • My manager treats employees fairly (4.04)
  • My manager sets a good example of ethical business conduct (4.24)
  • My manager makes sound business decisions (3.95)
  • My manager establishes a clear vision for the future (3.62)

All these responses — and several more in the same subject area — trend upward since the last survey.

Sandia’s culture of innovation

One area to carefully watch, and it’s a significant one, was highlighted by the question: “In my workgroup, we are encouraged to be flexible to come up with innovative solutions.” The score on the question was 3.96, very near the “excellent” range. However, the score represents a downward trend in an area that is at the very heart of the Sandia culture; the 2009 score was 4.06. The downward trend on the subject of innovation also showed up in the response to another question: “I believe in the ability of my work group to develop innovative work products and ideas.” That response scored a 4.05, still in the excellent range, but down a statistically significant .09 points from its 2009 score of 4.14.

The survey addressed an area referred to as “attachment,” which it defined as “the degree to which an employee feels the company is an important part of his/her life.” In four questions related to attachment, three showed a statistically significant upward trend. The questions: Sandia has a great deal of personal meaning to me (3.88 in 2011 vs. 3.74 in 2009); I fit in well with the Sandia culture (3.80 vs. 3.72); and, the values and culture of Sandia reflect my own values and personality (3.88 vs. 3.68).

While Sandians express a solid attachment to the Labs, a response to one question raises concerns for recruiting and retention efforts. The question, “I would recommend Sandia as a great place to work,” scored 3.72, down from 3.83 in 2009. On the other hand, the question, “I hope to continue working at Sandia for another five years or more (not considering retirement)” earned a score of 4.01, which is in the “excellent” range.

Performance management and rewards

If there was a sore point revealed in the survey it is not a new one: Sandians are largely ambivalent about issues related to performance management and rewards. In several pointed questions related to the issue, most responses fell within the “neutral” range, meaning they garnered scores of 3.0 to 3.49.

Those scores place the issue solidly in the “areas for improvement” category. Identifying a challenge, the trend was downward on responses to several questions in this subject area, specifically to questions related to the perceived fairness of the performance management and rewards distribution process.

Some other conclusions to draw from the survey:

  • The perceptions regarding diversity and inclusion at Sandia were uniformly favorable
  • Perceptions about trust were mixed; first-line managers and co-workers earned solid levels of trust. However, the question: I trust Sandia to treat me fairly earned a 3.42 score, putting it in the neutral range.
  • As observed above, issues related to ethics and Sandia’s ethical culture scored extremely well, mostly in the excellent range; senior management fared well here, showing upward trends in areas related to setting good examples of ethical business conduct.
  • Sandians to a very large extent consider their coworkers to be ethical in their business conduct.
  • Perceptions about the quality of work/life balance at the Labs are trending upward, 3.92 in 2011 — nearly in the excellent range — vs. 3.86 in 2009.

One question in the survey perhaps encompassed all the other questions in a nutshell. It garnered a score of 4.16, indicating that respondents “strongly agreed.” The question: “I am proud to work for Sandia National Laboratories.”