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

Stakeholder Engagement



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:

  • Quarterly, the Operational Excellence Survey solicits staff member input in the areas of engagement, leadership, and safety. The quarterly surveys are designed to gather feedback about the operational culture at PNNL.
  • 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, etc.). 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 aligned with PNNL's strong safety and operational culture.
  • Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) VPP Safety and Operations Mixers provide an opportunity for 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 were 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 promotes problem resolution by direct communication, clear understanding, and development of trust.

Key Topics and Concerns

PNNL's 2017 Operational Excellence Culture Evaluation provides an analysis of the Laboratory's operational culture and performance during calendar year 2016.Strengths and opportunities for improvement were identified in the annual Operational Excellence Culture Evaluations, as summarized below.


Strengths include improvement initiatives such as the Safe Conduct of Research (SCoR) Improvement Team, management involvement in Lab Work Planning Assessments, and continuing maturity of leadership development programs. Ongoing improvement actions are associated with improving management's visibility in the workplace, leadership involvement with new staff, and continuing to mature the SCoR role.

Risk Management

Improvements were made to strengthen project management elements including work in non-IOPS spaces and high risk work activities. Continuous improvement was also noted in the implementation of the foreign travel and industrial hygiene programs. Proactive actions were taken to manage risk as demonstrated by the VPP subcommittee on slips, trips, and falls, and the establishment of the avoidable injury index.

Continuous Improvement

Results show evidence of a learning culture and process improvements. Examples include the process for integrated improvements are managed via the integrated Management and Operations portfolio with active oversight, beWell Wellness Program, VPP Safety & Operations Mixers, and the critique process as discussed under the continuous improvement section.


Results show evidence of genuine care and support of others. Examples include the VPP depression awareness campaign, integration of DSOCs and VPP, improving trust with beryllium-affected workers. Efforts are underway to increase engagement of scientists through the recently launched QuickStarter program. Additional effort will be made to promote and strengthen DSOCs and continue integration activities with VPP.

PNNL Response

Continuous improvement actions initiated during 2017 were:

  • Leadership opportunities for improvement: increasing personal communications and interactions from Laboratory leadership and providing guidance to leaders on conducting quality conversations.
  • Risk management improvements: addressing weaknesses in work planning and control in laboratory workspaces such as improving Lock-Out/Tag-Out implementation.

PNNL Sustainability