Professional Development/Work Environment

A major goal of the WMP is attracting, developing, and retaining world-class employees to achieve the imperatives and frontiers outlined in the NCAR Strategic Plan. This goal is consistent with two goals of the NSF Workforce Plan contained in the NSF Human Capital Strategic Plan (2008). These goals are “Effectively recruit a diverse, world-class, forward-looking and adaptable workforce” and “Build and sustain a capable, diverse, well-trained, forward-looking, and adaptable NSF workforce and enhance retention through learning and professional development opportunities.” UCAR recognizes that a healthy and vibrant organization is continually monitoring the working conditions of its staff. These conditions include equity within UCAR and with comparable organizations for salaries, benefits, promotions or reclassifications, employee recognition, office/lab space, respect in the workplace, and problem resolution processes.

An external survey of 17 successful institutions that have similarities to NCAR is revealing. Most of the institutions offer flextime to their employees. However, only two reported that they offer daycare facilities. All offer a combination of bonuses and incentive awards to recognize their employees, and all but one have formal training and development programs. NCAR offers flextime, daycare facilities, bonus/incentive programs, and training and development programs. Not surprisingly, the external survey revealed a spectrum of performance evaluation/appraisal processes that include goal setting, pay for performance, ranking of employees, self-appraisals, and a focus on deliverables.

A healthy and vibrant organization must always be alert to professional development opportunities to ensure that employees maintain world-class expertise. These include staff training, mentoring, and effective performance appraisals. It is important that employees understand how they can move up in the organization or be prepared for job opportunities outside of UCAR. Indeed, although our ultimate goal is to retain excellent employees, the institution can also feel a great sense of pride when a former staff member excels in another organization.

Conclusion: UCAR and NCAR enjoy a low attrition rate. Over the past ten years total attrition has ranged between 5 and 11% per year. For regular (without term) employees, it varies between 2 and 4% per year. The UCAR Climate Survey results indicate that 85% of employees find the climate in their workplace welcoming, 88% feel their current job provides ample professional challenge, and 91% would recommend their workplace to others. These findings suggest that our professional development and work environment are excellent. The organization must continually monitor and evaluate these areas to ensure a content, productive, and respectful workforce.

Professional Development/Work Environment

Attracting and Retaining Employees

1. Position salaries strategically.

 UCAR’s total compensation package (pay, benefits, working conditions, performance management, etc.) should be crafted strategically to meet the needs of the organization in terms of attracting and retaining employees.

2. Promote benefits.

Supervisors should be given training on the benefits available to staff.   This includes flexible work options, leadership training programs, and comparison of UCAR benefits with other organizations.

3. Tailor processes so that we can hire the best people in a competitive environment.

Information about salaries should be provided at the time of a job opening. Supervisors should be able to decide the level of preliminary filtering that occurs in HR.  For scientist positions (including some project scientists), NCAR should consider developing a central pool of start-up resources (e.g. computer, high-performance computing time, shared support staff, and possibly major laboratory equipment) and funds for other needs and ongoing support so that we can attract the best of the best.

4. Make office/lab space equitable and promote telecommuting.

NCAR and its laboratories/divisions should clarify and communicate to staff the process for allocation of office/lab space, to ensure that the process is open and transparent.

NCAR should provide teleconferencing facilities for all staff so that less time is spent commuting to meetings and UCAR/NCAR’s carbon footprint is reduced.


Professional Development/Work Environment

Developing and Evaluating Employees

1.  Promote and expand staff training and continuing education.

Technical Training

Management should fund staff training and continuing education and clearly communicate the policies for use and reporting requirements. Supervisors should be made aware of their respective lab policies and their responsibility to ensure that employees are adequately trained for their current job requirements.

Management should publicize and promote opportunities for professional training and continuing education on the employee benefits website, and in new employee orientation.   HR should continue to work with internal professional groups to expand employee training and continuing education as resources permit.

The UCAR HR website should advertise the types of training and continuing education that are available to employees, and the procedures to follow to obtain such training.

Training of Managers and Directors

UCAR/NCAR management should continue to support leadership programs that meet the organization’s needs for future talent, especially considering that a significant percentage of senior executives and middle managers will be eligible for retirement over the next decade.

LA (Leadership Academy - and ELP (Executive Leadership Program - are intense training programs that require a significant time commitment.  NCAR and UCAR management should explore additional forums such as comprehensive Web-enabled development tools that provide online training on a 24/7 basis.  An example is NOAA’s Commerce Learning Center, which hosts a variety of courses and services through the NOAA Workforce Management Office.  It may be possible to tie into already existing management tools.

NCAR management should continue the Leadership Assessment and Development (LAD) process—surveying direct reports and colleagues for feedback on supervisors’ strengths and areas for additional work. Career coaching and professional development should be incorporated into the follow-up to the LAD. Feedback from employees should be obtained regularly on the performance of managers and leadership to further develop and fine-tune management skills.

2.  Tie performance appraisals to other management systems.

Performance appraisals should be linked to other important management systems including pay and rewards, employee development, promotions, mentoring, employee recognition, and succession planning.

3.  Continue to emphasize employee recognition.

UCAR should ensure that its employee recognition and rewards policies and practices continue to be part of the UCAR culture to support the organization’s goals and mission and are communicated to all staff.  Supervisors should be well trained in the application of these policies.

4.  Plan for succession.

Management should continually assess whether critical areas need to be strengthened to ensure continued operation if key staff leave the organization.  Talented and interested staff need to be provided with opportunities to gain experience in key positions.

Professional Development/Work Environment

Workplace Environment

1.   Promote processes for problem resolution.

A communications program is needed to increase supervisor and employee awareness of avenues for problem resolution.   HR should continue to provide training and support to help employees deal with staff who are having a negative impact on the climate of UCAR as an accepting and respectful place to work.

2.   Expand conferencing tools.

The number of meeting rooms with conference capability needs to be increased at each campus to facilitate improved interaction/collaboration among staff.

There needs to be at least one video seminar room per campus that will display seminars presented at other facilities. Employees should be trained to use Web-based conferencing tools in their own offices for meetings of small groups or distributed staff.