Sandia LabNews

Employee engagement survey sparks new initiatives

Image of Sandia Town Hall in Feb 2022
VALUED FEEDBACK — Sandia Labs Director James Peery, left, Executive Director and Chief Human Resources Officer Brian Carter, center, and Communications Director Frederick Bermudez led a Labs Town Hall in February. During the presentation, Brian shared results of the Employee Engagement Survey and spoke about upcoming initiatives. (Photo by Lonnie Anderson)

Sandia leadership shared employee engagement survey results at a virtual Labs Town Hall in February. Executive Director and Chief Human Resources Officer Brian Carter presented the results, the Labs’ analysis of them and new initiatives to strengthen workforce engagement, including enhanced opportunities for staff to feel more connected to their work.

“When we listen to the needs of our employees, we can identify ways to improve operations, career opportunities and more, then take action to ensure continued success at Sandia,” Labs Director James Peery said. “The employee engagement survey results provide valuable feedback that inform leadership decisions at every level of the Labs.”

Employee engagement is the degree of connectedness, maintenance, intensity and direction of energy employees give to the organization, which will either increase or decrease their level of performance.

“Another way of thinking of it is, what is the extent to which an employee is willing to give discretionary effort because of that level of connectiveness they have with the organization,” Brian said.

Listening to feedback

Sandia conducted the survey in May 2021 in partnership with an external vendor. The Labs received 9,580 responses, a 67% participation rate and an overall score of 3.94 out of five.

“Engagement is complex and is driven by two types of needs known as level one and level two factors,” said Brian. “Level-one factors are the essential needs of employees. Examples include compensation, resources, capacity and training; working conditions and job security; relationships and supervision; and meaningful work, advancement and promotion. Level-two factors that drive employee engagement can be categorized into four primary areas: belonging and influence, line of sight, leadership acumen and organizational integrity.”

The majority of employees feel engaged or have a high degree of connectedness. Sandia wants to continue building employee connectedness so that employees get more enjoyment and satisfaction from their work, which will in turn enhance the Labs’ ability to meet mission needs.

Image of Priorities identified in the 2021 employee engagement survey results
TOP FIVE — Sandia summarized employee engagement survey results into five priorities for improvement. The survey was conducted in May 2021, and results were shared with staff in February. (Graphic by the Workforce Planning and Effectiveness team)

As it relates to the level-one and level-two factors, an impact analysis on Sandia’s results found that employees perceive many level-one factors are favorable; however, employees see improvement opportunities in the areas of advancement, recognition, training, company direction and compensation. The same analysis found that Sandia scored favorably on leadership acumen, line of sight and organizational integrity but less favorably on belonging and influence. Based on the survey results, Sandia identified its top five improvement priorities, shown on the right.

Taking action

Much of Sandia’s strategic plan and the People and Culture Strategy, which is currently under development, actively addresses several of the opportunities for improvement identified in the survey.

“We as leaders at the Labs know that our workforce and the environment in which we all work are critical to Sandia’s success,” said Michael Rosales, manager of human resources and communications strategy. “We have to think strategically about how we continue to care for our people and work environment in order to be successful long into the future.”

Survey results have been shared with the divisions and centers, and leaders have identified actions at all levels to work on improvements that will make the greatest impact on employee work and well-being.

Additionally, Sandia is conducting a comprehensive review of its compensation system, reviewing everything from job descriptions and incoming salaries to promotions.

In the interim, Sandia worked with DOE and NNSA to provide midyear pay raises for all eligible employees.

Sandia is also redesigning how it delivers performance management. Employee survey feedback indicated that the system is burdensome, tends to value individual contributions over teamwork and employees struggle to identify the value of their work with the block rating distributions.

“We’re looking at how we can smooth out the bumps, make it easier to use and improve our communication,” said Brian. “The goal is to ensure the system is viewed as fair and as accurately reflecting employee performance.”

In addition to these efforts, the Sandia Spark initiative seeks to foster an environment where employees feel as energized, valued and engaged as they did on their first day at Sandia. “It’s about reinforcing our workforce’s connection to our mission and to each other,” said communications and marketing manager Erica Lopez-Hamby.

“I’m really excited about the Spark initiatives we have planned,” said Erica. “Especially our career week in June that will highlight options and provide tools and resources for employees pursuing career development opportunities. This event is in direct response to feedback we received from employees around a desire for more career development opportunities.”

Sandia is launching a website for Sandia Spark to share information and increase transparency of the work being done to support employees through this initiative. The link will be available in future communications.

Sandia invites employees to participate in an engagement survey in 2023 and will conduct shorter surveys periodically to ensure employees can share their feedback and engage in meaningful changes.