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NIH Record

NIH Issues Itself Report Card on Quality of Work Life

By Alison Reinheimer

It's been almost a year since NIH kicked off its Quality of Work Life Initiative, which was launched by Secretary Shalala to improve HHS workforce productivity and morale. Each agency, including each NIH institute and center, was asked to develop a strategy for implementing the five major components of the initiative. They were asked how they planned to craft family-friendly work programs, improve communication with employees, promote diversity management, and enhance training opportunities and Internet access for employees. Recently, NIH submitted a comprehensive report to HHS highlighting some of the best practices adopted in response to the QWL initiative. Here's how the report card shapes up:

Improve Communication with Employees

Communication is the key to a successful workplace, and several ICs have devised some creative means for improving communication with their employees. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, for example, has developed a comprehensive orientation package for its new student employees. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has expanded use of teleconferencing to improve communication between its extramural program in Rockville and intramural program in Baltimore. The National Human Genome Research Institute has formed a group called the MOMs for employees to discuss child rearing issues and the demands of being a working parent.

The NHGRI MOMS support group was started to provide support for working moms. It meets monthly to discuss such topics as nursing, day care and parenting issues. The group began 3 years ago and is evolving to provide lists of kids' items for sale or giveaway, recommended reference books, lists of babysitters, and more. Gathering at a recent lunch are (seated, from l) Raman Sood, Portia Baker and Delphine Ally. Standing are (from l) Farahnaz Forozan, Denise Larson, Christiane Robbins and Michelle Southard-Smith.

Strengthen Work and Family Programs

With respect to implementing family-friendly work programs, four institutes are participating in job-sharing programs. Thirty-two employees at the National Library of Medicine are telecommuting at least one day a week. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has opened additional childcare facilities. Further, three institutes and the NIH Office of the Director recently combined resources to open the NIH Work and Family Life Center, which is devoted solely to providing employees with information on how to balance the demands of work and home.

Enhance Internet Access

Most NIH'ers have computer and Internet access available on their desktops. However, the Office of Research Services has many employees who work in shops, maintenance and other areas without direct Internet access. To address this issue, ORS has provided central computers so their employees can access the Internet.

Enhance Employee Training Opportunities

How are ICs increasing the investment in workplace learning for their employees? ORS, for example, negotiated the Montgomery College tuition agreement so all of its employees, no matter where they reside, can enroll in classes at Montgomery College at in-county tuition rates. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development sponsored an intensive leadership development course for its extramural managers and supervisors.

Strengthen Diversity Management Programs

NIH was one of the first agencies to recognize the strength of diversity programs. Many ICs have established Diversity Councils to provide or recommend training and strategies for diversity efforts within their organizations. For example, the Clinical Center formally established a core competency for all staff called Diversity Awareness and Communication. NIAID has developed a formal mentoring program for employees who want to help their colleagues achieve their career development goals.

For more information on what NIH is doing to improve the quality of work life year round, visit the Web site at:

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