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Sustainable PNNL - Balancing social, environmental, and economic needs for a more sustainable future

Stakeholder Engagement



This section will be updated when FY2017 Operation Excellence Culture Evaluation is completed.

Primary Feedback Mechanisms

We use several staff member feedback mechanisms throughout the year to characterize the level of engagement and satisfaction with the PNNL work environment:

  • The Operational Excellence Survey solicits staff member input in the areas of leadership, risk management, continuous improvement, and engagement.
  • The Research Productivity Sentiment Survey focuses on assessing how well the tools, processes, and services enable research (e.g., facilities, equipment, travel, acquisitions, training, project management, business development). The survey is given to each research staff member annually, with 25% of staff members surveyed in each quarter.
  • Focus group interviews are conducted annually with small groups of staff members sharing some point of similarity that is a variable of the assessment. Typically, focus groups are used to obtain additional information and context for survey data and therefore change depending on survey responses.
  • Directorate Safety and Operations Councils (DSOCs) serve as open forums for employees and managers to raise concerns, provide suggestions, and recognize staff for behavior that align with PNNL's strong safety and operational culture.
  • VPP Safety and Operations Mixers provide an opportunity for student interns, postdoctoral researchers, visiting sciences, and new hires to have face-to-face conversations with various subject matter experts on environmental, safety, and sustainability topics.
  • Staff members participate in efforts to improve our triple-bottom-line of environmental, social, and economic performance. Some of the ways in which employees engaged in PNNL’s sustainability efforts include flexible work arrangements, alternative commuting, and Sustainability Pays, which solicits and funds ideas from employees to contribute to sustainability.
  • Two hotlines are available to our staff members: the Employee Concerns Program (ECP) and the DOE concerns hotlines. The ECP is available for staff members to raise issues and concerns without fear of harassment, retaliation, intimidation, discrimination, or disciplinary action. The program is designed to promote problem resolution by direct communication, clear understanding, and development of trust.

Key Topics and Concerns

PNNL's 2016 Operational Excellence Culture Evaluation provides an analysis of the Laboratory’s operational culture and performance during calendar year 2015. In general, positive feedback was received from staff members through our feedback mechanisms. Strengths and opportunities for improvement were identified in the annual Operational Excellence Culture Evaluations, as summarized below.


The analysis of survey results, interviews, observations, and Laboratory-level indicators shows continued strong operational performance while identifying ongoing improvement actions. Strengths include senior leadership behaviors to build a strong culture, management’s visibility in the workplace to encourage engagement, and intentional assignments to promote development of future leaders. Data also identified opportunities for improvement associated with inconsistent enforcement of policies and follow-up to concerns.

Risk Management

Strengths include improvements to communications, contingency planning associated with foreign travel and emergency preparedness processes, infrastructure investments in engineered controls to mitigate hazards, more effective R&D work planning assessments, and better consistency in performance management.

Opportunities for improvement include decreasing injuries and accidents associated with routine activities, managing risks associated with limited-term employees, ongoing initiatives to improve the industrial hygiene program, and development of processes to consistently identify and control risk for activities conducted outside of laboratory spaces.

Continuous Improvement

Strengths in continuous improvement include the ergonomics program’s role in mitigating injury, the VPP Safety and Operations Mixer as an introduction to the Laboratory’s safety culture, and actions to improve research productivity.

Continued attention to the critique process and monitoring transition of the wellness program are identified as opportunities for improvement.


Evidence of growth in staff engagement was noted by staff citing the following as strengths: the introduction of new programs that support staff growth and development, the benefits open enrollment campaign, and the opportunities for staff participation in addressing cross-cutting safety issues. Despite these positive indications, feedback from staff members on the operational excellence survey and focus groups indicate there are opportunities to improve engagement in DSOC activities and the beryllium-affected worker interface with the Occupational Medical Program.

PNNL Response

Continuous improvement actions initiated during 2016 include the following:

  • Further evaluate data associated with the limited-term employees, inconsistent communications, and enforcement of safety practices to identify commonalities that may be indicative of subcultures within the Laboratory
  • Establish a subcommittee to develop and implement a campaign to increase awareness and reduce complacency for staff performing routine activities
  • Work with management to improve staff awareness of the critique process and to look for improvement opportunities.

PNNL Sustainability