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NASA Lessons Learned: Workforce/Integration of New Personnel/Stress Levels

Status Report From: NASA Public Lessons Learned System (PLLS) Database
Posted: Wednesday, October 1, 2003

PLLS Database Entry: 1171

Lesson Info

  • Lesson Number: 1171
  • Lesson Date: 01-feb-2001
  • Submitting Organization: HQ
  • Submitted by: David M. Lengyel

Subject/Title/Topic(s):

Workforce/Integration of New Personnel/Stress Levels

Description of Driving Event:

Reduction in NASA Knowledge Base Due to Loss of Experienced Employees and Hiring of Inexperienced Employees

Lesson(s) Learned:

NASA's recent hiring of inexperienced personnel, along with continuing shortages of experienced, highly-skilled workers, has produced the challenge of training and integrating employees into organizations that are highly pressured by the expanded Space Shuttle flight rates associated with the ISS. There is no systematic effort to capture the knowledge of experienced personnel before they leave. Stress levels within the workforce are a continuing concern.

Recommendation(s):

12a. Provide active mentoring and other career development incentives to bring new employees to full productivity as rapidly as can be accomplished with safety remaining paramount. Expand resources and delivery methods available to Agency level training programs to enable greater participation at Center and program levels.

12b. Continue efforts, in partnership with NASA contractors, where appropriate, to provide hands-on experience.

12c. Establish processes that capture the knowledge of experienced personnel before they leave or retire.

12d. Help employees deal positively with work-related stress.

12e. Implement an evaluation of the processes used to develop new hires into productive members of the workforce.

Evidence of Recurrence Control Effectiveness:

Code M - Concur: NASA and its contractors have made significant enhancements in the employee training and development arena. NASA civil servants now have individual career development plans tailored to meet their specific needs, including both hands on experience and appropriate training and education. Significant emphasis has also been placed on employee development with an Agency wide Leadership Development Initiative, a more systematized mentoring program, and increased usage of computer based training. The need to monitor stress levels and provide coping strategies has received considerable attention in all organizations, with significant progress made in this area. NASA has also recognized the importance of capturing the corporate knowledge in our aging workforce and transferring it to the next generation.

Code F - General Response: NASA concurs with the recommendation(s). NASA and its contractors have made significant enhancements in the employee training and development arena. Several NASA Centers have implemented individual career development plans for their workforce, or for specific segments and occupational categories. These work plans enable management and employees to plan and implement formal training initiatives, career development assignments, and job rotations, which enhance current and future performance. Many Centers have also examined their need for leadership development, and have implemented new training initiatives designed to address these needs and requirements. More systematized mentoring programs and increased usage of computerized training have been implemented within the Agency. The need to monitor stress levels and provide coping strategies has also received increased attention across the Agency, with significant progress being made in this area.

Code F - 12a: NASA concurs with the recommendation. As a result of beginning to hire new employees and fresh-outs, the NASA Centers have instituted, or have begun to revitalize, various orientation and other training programs designed to assimilate new employees into the workforce and provide mentoring and career development guidance. Many programs also include the requirement for specific types of training (e.g., technical or administrative), and include both on-the-job and developmental experiences over a period of time. Components in many Centers' training programs also provide for guidance to supervisors in designing a training plan or individual development plan, providing mentoring and coaching, and evaluating work products and progress. The goals of these programs are to aid in the smooth and effective integration of new employees into the Center and Agency workforce by: providing a continuing and accelerated learning process; providing employees a way of identifying with the Center by understanding its mission and values; providing interaction with more senior staff and leaders; and providing opportunities to develop relationships with peers. At the Agency level, efforts are being initiated to establish a network of experienced practitioners who can provide mentoring and access to expertise in project management.

At the Agency level, resources have been requested to enable NASA to expand the delivery methods being utilized to develop the workforce. Specific emphasis will be placed on the development of e-learning alternatives that can be accessed at all locations and levels, and increasing the ability to expand participation levels across the Agency. In addition, new capabilities are being developed to facilitate learning within intact teams, delivering tailored content directly to a project team at the point in time specific training is needed. In addition, some Centers have also increased their resources available for training, and are instituting Center specific initiatives based upon Center needs. In addition, learning organization tools and methods being introduced in pilot projects within NASA are increasing organizational understanding, motivation, buy-in, and results. Examples of new initiatives include web-based course delivery and partnerships with universities for academic training.

Code F - 12b: NASA concurs with the recommendation, and a primary emphasis in developing the workforce will continue to be reliance on valuable on-the-job experience. In addition, the NASA Academy of Program and Project Leadership is in the process or revising its career model to enable an expansion of the identification of experiential development. NASA's Professional Development Program also provides a combination of formal training, briefings, and developmental assignments within and outside the Agency.

Code F - 12c: NASA concurs with the recommendation. Several efforts are underway to more effectively capture the "lessons learned" from experienced personnel nearing or at retirement. In addition, the NASA Academy of Program and Project Leadership has initiated a series of "Knowledge Sharing" forums and has initiated an area on its website for knowledge sharing and lessons learned. An emphasis is being placed on making maximum use and sharing of the experience of employees and managers both while they are still at NASA and after their retirement. Various avenues are being explored for access to this expertise both within NASA and gaining access to the knowledge base of those who leave the Agency. With regard to sharing knowledge within the Agency, NASA has also revised its Fellowship program to include a planned reentry requirement. The reentry plan requires individuals returning from longer-term University programs to identify with their management how their new learning will be shared within the Agency and how it will be applied strategically.

12d - Code AM: The NASA Employee Assistance Program (EAP) a voluntary element within the overall Occupational Health Program whereby employees can receive professional counseling for multiple problems is aggressively marketed to all employees. EAP utilization, a mark of employee confidence, increased by 31.3% between 1997 and 2000 despite an approximate 10% decrease in the base population.

In early 1998, after monitoring EAP utilization, additional resources and training were provided to all NASA Centers. This training was designed to enhance the skills of the EAP counselors, personnel officers, and equal opportunity representatives who serve as front line resources for employees dealing with stress. The training was repeated upon request as a number of NASA Centers the following year.

In 2000, to further augment available resources, a 24-hour EAP Hot Line was established through the Minnesota After-Hours Crisis Connection complementing the earlier addition of a 24-hour Telephone Depression Screening Survey. Other positive actions include the development of a web-based training for supervisors on how to identify and manage stressed employees. Another web-based module was developed specifically to assist individual employees in managing personal stress and a third module expanding on EAP services is under development. The Occupational Health Program has contracted for the development of a survey instrument to assess pre- and post-intervention methods for stress reduction. Regular, periodic Information on mental and physical health practices are posted on NASA's award-winning occupational health web site at http://ohp.nasa.gov/. In October, at the first meeting of NASA's new Health Council, the Administrator directed that each Center Director send a communication to each employee and their family. This communication was sent to employees at home reminding them of the myriad of health programs available, including EAP and encouraging them to freely participate.

And finally, to ensure the professional competency of those providing EAP services, continuing education is provided through the Annual Occupational Health Conference, periodic ViTS, and support of other professional training opportunities.

Code F - 12e: NASA concurs with the recommendation. Centers will be evaluating systems and processes for developing their new hires, assimilating them into the workforce and sharing best practices.

Applicable NASA Enterprise(s):

  • Aeronautics & Space Transportation Technology
  • Human Exploration & Development of Space

Applicable Crosscutting Process(es):

  • Communicate Knowledge
  • Generate Knowledge
  • Manage Strategically

Additional Key Phrases:

  • Administration/Organization
  • Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel
  • External Relations
  • Human Resources & Education
  • Policy & Planning

Approval Info:

  • Approval Date: 18-mar-2002
  • Approval Name: Bill Loewy
  • Approval Organization: HQ
  • Approval Phone Number: 202-358-0528

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