Categorically designed to employ scientists, engineers, administrative and security personnel, Congress established the National Nuclear Security (NNSA) in 2000 as a semi-autonomous agency within the Department of Energy (DOE) with responsibility for enhancing national security through the application of nuclear science (NNSA, 2020). Notwithstanding the intellectual character of the organization, human resource management (HRM) officials sustain a complex employment relationship as any private sector business and includes other multifaceted aspects; (e.g., psychological dimensions of sociological acceptance or respect for a job well-done, an justifiable expectation of payment for services Wilmott, 2016). Although this analogy seems simplistic, it exists as the foundation of operational success for HRM staff because they recruit and hire the best candidates for open positions, work to attain employee satisfaction and retention incorporate competitive wages, training opportunities, employee feedback surveys and quality benefit packages.
Concerning the leadership element, one must consider that employees are an organizations number one asset and no two employees are alike; therefore, management must incorporate some semblance of psychology and diversity into this equation to meet individual needs and motivational factors (NCU, 2020). To accomplish the objectives of this assignment, in-person conversations occurred with HRM, which facilitated a dialog concerning the elements of an effective HR manager, strategies, and the major components of a highly functioning HR office within the federal sector; (e.g., recruitment, hiring, training, benefits, performance, and employee relations).
An Effective Human Resources Manager
A senior HR manager employed at NNSA agreed to participate and respond to questions related to leadership, the organization and organizational success.
Question: What makes an effective human resources manager?
Answer: A successful HR manger brings several qualities to the table. First, this person must possess leadership abilities. Many times, staff members ask questions related to a broad mixture of HR related topics such as benefit, policy, classification (job descriptions), staffing, performance management, and employee relations. Leaders should possess the right skill set or experience to appropriately respond to any questions or assist in problem resolution. Also, effective HR managers assist in developing their subordinates by providing training, giving them specific assignments, allowing them to work through the project to completion and providing any guidance as they work through it.
Another trait a good manager possess is good time management skills. Also, setting reasonable deadlines for staff with achievable goals. Another is good communication skills and interpersonal skills. Those individuals most successful in this organization practice open door policies, keep their tempers in check, and display a positive attitude. They are mindful of us being human but expect each employee to pull their own weight and work diligently at achieving NNSA’s mission. Finally, good managers maintain high ethical standards, encourage diversity in the workplace and demonstrate those behaviors in their interactions with staff. For example, during the holidays, managers may not accept cash from subordinates or gifts that exceed twenty dollars.
Human Resources Strategies
Question: What part does HR strategies play in the success of an organization?
Answer: Strategic planning in HR plays such an important role in NNSA’s overall success. The more we, the members of HR leadership, align ourselves with NNSA’s business strategy, the better we are at having the ability to anticipate and the needs of our customers, while maintaining a competitive edge. Competitive edge in our world is encouraging nuclear non-proliferation and enhancing the safety of our citizens and environment by increasing the effectiveness of our nuclear stockpiles and reducing the global vulnerabilities of weapons of mass destruction. This is a job not easily accomplished and involves arduous activities related to research and planning as well as implementing and cultivating positivity and professionalism in our work culture, behavior, skills, abilities and competencies that essentially promote a successful business relationship and strategy.
Strategically speaking, the ultimate role of HR is to determine the best approaches to attract a diverse applicant pool, effectively resolve problematic situations that occur between employees in the workplace and conduct annual employee opinion surveys. In response to the surveys, management applies strategic applications to address any dissatisfaction in the work environment. To explain, management listened to staff in Washington, D.C. when they communicated issues on the survey about mold in the HR office. Subsequently, we hired experts to measure air quality, etc., and to provide an analysis of their findings. Ultimately, HR management relocated several employees to another building, which guaranteed their safety and allowed them to continue meeting our goals. Effective recruitment is another avenue to meeting strategic goals.
Recruitment and Hiring
Question: How does strategic management apply to recruitment and hiring activities?
Answer: Throughout the year, the HR office deploys several HR personnel to vary universities and job fairs across the nation. In fact, two HR Consultants recently traveled to Purdue University to attend a job fair and recruit graduating senior majoring in engineering, physical science and administrative positions; (e.g., accountants, budget analysts, etc.). In addition to the HR personnel, other NNSA professionals accompany them to answer technical or profession related questions such as nuclear, safety or mechanical engineering questions.
Training and development
Question: What opportunities does NNSA offer in terms of training and development?
Answer: NNSA leadership believe education and learning doesn’t conclude when an employee or perspective employee earns a college or post-graduate degree. Rather, we accept the idea that on-going training is an integral part of creating a highly-skilled workforce prepared to meet the on-going challenges in this ever-changing nuclear global environment.
NNSA HR created and implemented a training department staffed with HR consultants who specialized in HR Development (HRD). This means that current NNSA offers employees training opportunities related to their specialty fields; (e.g., HR sends staff members to HR training as needed), our organization offers training to students currently attending high school and college. For example, NNSA recruits and selects graduate students to fill positions at a NNSA program office, which allows the student an opportunity to gain experience in addressing real-world challenges, participate in an arduous learning and development program, which prepares them for a leadership role in the field of national security. One effective training avenue is on-the-job training where tenured employees share job knowledge with new employees. This increases communication and openness in the work place.
Question: What are some avenues NNSA uses to retain employees?
Answer: As you are aware, NNSA offers an excellent benefit package to its employees which includes paid time off, family medical leave, medical, dental, life insurance and retirement. In terms of pay, we offer a unique pay system specifically to designed as a tool attract and retain highly qualified and the smartest employees in those disciplines associated with national security; (includes scientific, trade, engineering and mechanical occupations). The pay system is known as pay-banding, which focuses on pay-for-performance rather than the general schedule (GS) pay program offered across the federal sector. The pay system includes five pay systems, professional, and technical, administrative and support, with three or four pay band within each occupational path. Pay banding offers supervisors, with senior management approval, to set higher pay for employees during their course of employment and including initial appointment, promotions and performance evaluations. The purpose of pay banding is to strengthen recruitment successes, to motivate and retain current staff members.
Performance Evaluations, Performance Awards and Employee discipline
Question: What is the purpose employee performance evaluations?
Answer: NNSA strives to improve organizational performance through the work of the staff. In addition, performance evaluations ensure unit success and effectiveness by ensuing employee accountability. Performance evaluations plans are mandatory, and they define the critical elements of employee performance through specific performance objectives (SPO’s); (e.g., customer service or supports the NNSA vision, shared goals, core values, etc.) and the employee success is measured by categories significantly exceeds expectations, fully meets expectations, needs improvement, and does not meet expectations.
Performance evaluations occur at the end of the fiscal year (September 30). If the employee receives a significantly exceeds expectations, he / she receives a performance bonus and a five percent salary increase effective the second pay period of the year. At the beginning of the year, Congress determines if federal employees and retirees will receive an annual increase on top of the NNSA performance award. The overall purpose of NNSA performance evaluations is to encourage employees to excel at their jobs, provide quality customer service and align performance elements with NNSA’s strategic plan. For those employees who receive needs improvement or does not meet expectations, supervisors place them on a performance improvement plan for a designated time period, usually 90 days, which provides them with the opportunity to improve. If the employee continues to perform below expectations, the supervisor contacts the Employee Relations unit to initiate disciplinary action, usually termination.
Question: How is employee discipline administered at NNSA?
Answer: That depends on the circumstances. Employee misconduct is different than performance or failure to perform. Misconduct is structured depending upon the severity of the behavior. Let’s say one employee pushes another. The supervisor could recommend a disciplinary action ranging from letter of concern up to termination. So many factors are taken under consideration. Has the employee displayed behavioral issues in the past? What were the circumstances? Is the employee performing as expected? These are just some of the questions asked prior to any disciplinary action taken. Concerning NNSA employees, they have a right to a safe environment, and it is up to the organization to provide that environment for them to ensure the success of the employee and NNSA too.
Question: How important is it to ensure a healthy and happy workplace and what actions does NNSA take to ensure this?
Answer: Ensuring a healthy and happy workplace is vital to our success at NNSA. We encourage positive interaction among the staff. First, to reduce stress and to increase happiness in the workplace. It seems that happy employees are creative, other employees want to associate with them and, of course, productivity increases when employees work in a safe and healthy work environment. The HR office employs a benefits team that administers such Family Friendly Programs as telecommuting, alternative work schedules, leave transfer, and other related programs (NNSA, 2020).
A happy employee is a productive employee! Providing staff members with a healthy work environment increases productivity and reduces overall costs in terms of employee absenteeism, turnover rates, workers’ compensation and the costs associated with on-the-job accidents. At NNSA we provide a work environment designed to ensure healthy employees. For instance, we try to inspire employees by providing a culture that encourages positive employee interactions, healthy lifestyles both mental and health, and a supportive management staff. Considering mental health, NNSA offers employee assistance programs. NNSA will pay mental health professionals for five visits so employees can address such issues as stress, family problems, etc. We also offer flexible work schedules, which allows the employee to work eighty hours in the pay period without a set schedule. The caveat being the employee has to maintain satisfactory performance.
Diversity and Inclusion
Question: How important is it to ensure diversity and inclusion?
Answer: In today’s global economy, NNSA has to ensure diversity and inclusion because we are a world-wide organization concentrating on nuclear safety. Diversity and inclusion are so important especially relating to cultural aspects of each nation. Diversity is no longer considered an HR issue, management now encourages diversity by attending university job fairs and focus on applicants’ representative of differing race, gender, religious beliefs, culture and lifestyles. Also, the management team encourage employees to actively participate through employee engagement activities. This unifying employees by allowing them, despite their differences, to assist management in creating a successful and happy place to work.
During the course of several conversations with HR managers, one key element surfaced. HR exists as an important player in the hiring and development of a highly productive workforce, which promotes healthy competition within an organization involved in a highly controversial public sector organization. The workforce includes members who interact with differing nations across the globe as well as those located within the continental United States. Indubitably, this involves dynamic recruiting strategies for NNSA. Current recruitment strategies include organizing special local recruitment events in Washington, D.C., and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Also, NNSA recruits through a partnership approach with the USAJOBS.gov team, which allows potential candidates view vacancy announcements, upload resumes and supporting documentation as required, and apply for vacant positions. As previously mentioned, NNSA sends HR specialist to major universities to recruit new college graduates. However, many times this traditional recruitment strategy fails to yield representative numbers of people of color (Horowitz, Brenner, Lachapelle, Amara, & Guedy, 2009). To meets NNSA’s strategic goal of supporting an inclusive work environment, HR recruitment teams are dispatched to smaller universities across the continental US; (e.g., Mississippi State University, New Mexico State University, etc.); form partnerships with university counselors and coordinate efforts to hire underrepresented groups.
Another unique strategy fostered by HR includes the HR Policy and Initiatives Unit, which maintains responsibility for conceiving, initiating and directing NNSA’s HR policies. This group evaluates HR programs and ensures HR accountability, provides guidance related to HR policies, and provides HR advice concerning all HR policies, federal regulations while developing and implementing methods of interpreting Human Accountability forums (NNSA, 2020).
Employee Feedback Channels
Question: How does NNSA encourage feedback from employees?
Answer: The Office of Personnel Management (provides HR oversight for all agencies in the federal service) conducts a Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) employee engagement survey annually. This survey tool does not specifically query employee’s feelings of organizational engagement; (e.g., passion, commitment, and involvement, OPM, 2020); however, it does measure those critical condition favorable for employee engagement; (e.g., effective leadership, opportunity for employee enrichment, etc.). At the conclusion of the survey, OPM performs statistical analysis and provides the results to each agency. Upon receipt, NNSA senior management coordinates with HR to communicate the results. At times, were established to resolve any problematic issues interfering with staff members’ ability to perform their jobs. Considering best practices in HR, those activities that promote staff motivation, knowledge, skills, abilities and increase employee contributions to the success of the organization (De Brito & De Oliveira, 2016) remains paramount to NNSA.
Taking into consideration the manager’s response to the questions posed, the recommendations include increased communication, training opportunities, and incremental employee feedback as opposed to limiting communication activities to annual presentations processed by OPM. While the benefit packages remain enticing, there exists an on-going challenge of successful management and employee interaction.
HRM remains vital to the success of any organization because HR specialists address the demands of an ever changing global environment by assessing numerous employee related factors (e.g., performance, problem solving) as a strategic resource (Gherman & Dincu, 2016). Aside from the organizational dynamic of employing highly intellectual individuals to achieve NNSA’s mission, HR staff continue maintaining a complex employment relationship through continual activities to hire, train, motivate a sustainable workforce thorough highly competitive benefit packages and employee satisfaction activities.
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