An internal CSIRO report – built on the survey responses of more than 1,200 staff – has confirmed the dire state of morale at Australia’s premier science organisation as it struggles to cope with unprecedented cuts to funding, staff and research.
The survey – commissioned at the request of the CSIRO Board – was conducted in August and September with the stated purpose of tracking the impact of internal restructuring, Government budget cuts and falling external investment.
A Federal Government funding cut of $115 million was a feature of May’s budget. More than 700 jobs at CSIRO are forecast to go by the end of the financial year.
Staff Association Secretary Sam Popovski said that the report results revealed that the CSIRO workforce had suffered a dramatic loss of confidence in the senior leadership of the organisation.
“This disturbing report – while both candid and credible – paints a picture of a dedicated workforce that has been demoralised by a year of constant cutbacks,” Mr Popovski said.
“It underscores the size and gravity of the problem that incoming Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall must immediately address when he takes the reins in January.”
“In the meantime we’ve raised the issue directly with senior managers at CSIRO’s most recent consultative council meeting.
“Staff need real changes to boost morale, not just ‘spin’ and business as usual leadership” he said.
Loss of faith in senior management
No more than a third of staff believed that senior management have a clear vision for CSIRO’s future or the capacity to clearly communicate a clear direction, down from more than 50 percent who expressed confidence in their leaders in 2012.
Communication of decision making and consultation also tanked, with only 30 per cent agreeing that senior management consulted well, representing a similar drop in confidence over the past two years.
“The results are even worse when compared against international benchmarks where an average two-thirds of staff expressed confidence in the vision and competence of senior leaders,” Mr Popovski said.
The report also found that staff conveyed “a strong sense of disappointment… regarding the adequacy of CSIRO’s engagement with external stakeholders, primarily Government, to secure funding.”
Staff feeling uncertain and threatened but are sticking together
The report found that more than half of staff who were surveyed felt they had been impacted ‘quite a bit’ or ‘a great deal’ by the changes.
“The personal impact of the changes were generally appraised negatively, with the majority of respondents feeling challenged, threatened and uncertain about the current environment in CSIRO,” the report states.
While it was obvious massive job cuts were taking their toll on morale and wellbeing; it appeared that staff were continuing to support each other, Mr Popovski said.
“Nearly 60 per cent of staff said they felt they had the support of their immediate supervisor and could maintain good interpersonal relationships with co-workers. That level of solidarity between staff during tough times is encouraging,” he said.
Still dedicated to science and public service
Despite the climate of cuts and closures, CSIRO staff remain devoted to the organisation and passionate about performing science in the national interest, Mr Popovski said.
Some 80 percent of respondents stated that they remained strong believers in the goals and objectives of the organisation. Similarly, 81 per cent of respondents said they were willing to work beyond what is required to help CSIRO succeed.
However it appears CSIRO’s reputation as an attractive workplace has been tarnished, with only 58 per cent of staff surveyed agreeing to recommend the organisation as a good place to work, down from 77 per cent two years ago.
CSIRO Staff can view the report in full on the CSIRO intranet.
To arrange an interview with Sam Popovski call 0410 330 764 or email firstname.lastname@example.org