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  • Christy Kenny

Sustainable Workplace Policies for the Future Nuclear Workforce

Updated: Sep 21, 2020

The Case for a more Flexible Nuclear Workplace

As an HR professional for Nuclear I have heard from numerous women who are working mothers looking for more flexibility in their work schedules. In brokering new arrangements, some managers have been creative and forward-thinking while others could not get over the “out of sight out of mind” mentality and in-person culture that has been present at many nuclear sites for decades.


I imagine most of us have had our own version of the 7 am team “call” requirement where everyone sat in person around a conference room telecom. Whether it was 7 0r 7:30 or 8 or 8:30, there has usually been an early morning meeting that is in person. Additionally, one of the best ways to catch people for hallway alignment conversations has happened right after that meeting. I myself used those meetings to beeline to the CNO and get alignment and excitement for some of my own initiatives. Notably, I was able to navigate this successfully because I could find and afford a babysitter to take the 6:30 am – 9:00 am shift at my home. For other people though, and many working mothers, that morning obstacle alone forces them out of the industry altogether to opt for a more flexible start time somewhere else.

COVID-19 pushed the envelope for Nuclear on what was possible in terms of flexible work schedules for those who could work remotely. It made us rethink who could do work from anywhere; whereas pre-pandemic everyone was thought to be needed onsite, in the conference room, and at the meetings, the pandemic forced upon us a scenario where – overnight – not everyone was needed in the room, and somehow the meetings and calls still went on with their participation.


When we think about sustainability of the nuclear industry, attracting and retaining talent is a critical part of that picture. If we can continue to push the envelope and maintain and support more virtual work, at least for those positions that are able to do so, such as corporate oversight and support positions, we widen our talent nets to include diverse talent. In an industry that at times fights for each other’s talent and struggles to attract and retain a diverse workforce, think about the possibilities. The nuclear fuels expert you would like to attract is now interested because he does not have to move his family. The anxiety over attracting an electrical engineering pipeline with new graduates out of universities is mitigated with a new, modern flexible arrangement perfectly molding to Gen Z’s expectations.


According to research by Claudia Goldin, an economist at Harvard, flexibility and having control over the time and location of work is the key to closing the gender gaps.

See: https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/goldin/files/goldin_aeapress_2014_1.pdf

also see https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/15/upshot/employers-flexible-work-america.html


There are benefits to other talent pools as well – millennials, those with elder care issues, fathers with kids in high school, people with disabilities. The list goes on. A Gallup poll in 2017 found that half of workers would leave a job if they were offered another one where they could adjust their schedule if needed. https://www.gallup.com/workplace/238085/state-american-workplace-report-2017.aspx


So how do we make this happen?

Careful consideration and planning in making this transition is needed so that a move toward flexibility does not have an unintended consequence of excluding remote workers.

This page is meant to further the conversation and provide a platform for sharing resources to move the needle on sustainable work practices. Below you will find advice, tools, and resources for benchmarking. Comment below, join the conversation, and share.


Tips & Advice for Nuclear leaders: Ways to Foster a More Flexible Work Environment

Commit to a culture change that rejects the false dichotomy of office work as automatically productive and remote work as not productive.

  • Have fewer meetings. Ask yourself whether something really requires an in-person conversation.

  • Always include a dial-in number or video conferencing link in calendar invitations to include people who are working remotely.

  • Consider job sharing assignments on part time or alternative schedules. Train employees to do other jobs so they can fill in for one another. Assign teams to cover clients, and tap recent retirees as substitutes.

  • Keep part-time employees on the advancement track for promotions.

  • Make flexibility a formal, structured part of work, not something given on an individual basis.

  • Ensure that everyone takes advantage of it — including senior managers, men and people who aren’t parents.

  • Use virtual, video or text message platforms.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/15/upshot/employers-flexible-work-america.html


Running performance evaluations in a remote environment



Mid Year Conversation Guide for Employee
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Download • 216KB


Mid Year Conversation Guide for Managers
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Download • 826KB


Tools & Benchmarking

In the spirit of nuclear benchmarking and sharing (something I think the industry does best), I’m including links to some template guides and policies for others to consider in making their own in their places of work. I also invite others to share what they are doing in the Comments section below.



Flexible Work Option Example
.pdf
Download PDF • 686KB


Articles for consideration:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/15/upshot/employers-flexible-work-america.html


https://medium.com/@rakantrowitz/childcare-and-covid-19-what-parents-are-facing-and-what-employers-can-do-about-it-2f22f6b3add3


https://www.forbes.com/sites/laurelfarrer/2020/02/12/top-5-benefits-of-remote-work-for-companies/#5a9c09416c8e


Also see:

https://www.cbsnews.com/video/how-ai-could-help-close-gender-equity-gaps-in-remote-work/




#FlexibleWorking #WorkplacePolicies #PerformanceEvaluations #Sustainability #NuclearBenchmarking

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