04.08.19

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Only One in Six EPO Workers Trusts the Management, According to New Survey Skewed by Management

Posted in Europe, Patents at 12:57 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz


Summary: A new survey carried out by Willis Towers Watson shows that the António Campinos regime has not improved the atmosphere at the EPO (Campinos merely suppressed staff’s voices)

READERS who have a copy of the Willis Towers Watson survey are encouraged to send us a copy with additional remarks. It seems like António Campinos is ‘pulling a Battistelli’ already.

An anonymous post from around lunchtime yesterday said:

Only two thirds of EPO staff are proud to work at the European Patent Office. Four in ten say they face substantial obstacles to doing their job well. They have a very negative view of management effectiveness, with low confidence in senior management decisions, lack of clarity about direction, and insufficient contact between senior management and staff. Concerns are high about the Office’s commitment to quality, and about its reputation and service focus. The majority of staff have autonomy to do their work, but far fewer think it is safe to speak up, or feel encouraged to contribute new ideas. There is little evidence of a ‘continuous improvement culture’ in the Office.

These are the most important conclusions of ‘Your voice, our future: The EPO Staff Engagement Survey’. The results of the survey, carried out by Willis Towers Watson, were published in a report which was distributed among staff last week.

[...]

Some other striking results:

‘I have confidence in the decisions made by senior management (PD and above)’: 16 percent favourable (Europe norm 66 percent)

‘Senior management (PD and above) communicates the reasons for important decisions effectively.’ 13 percent favourable (Europe norm 56 percent)

‘Sufficient effort is made to get the opinions of staff in the Office.’ 21 percent favourable (Europe norm 59 percent)

‘It is safe to speak up at work.’ 27 percent favourable (Europe norm 66 percent)

‘The Office has established a good reputation for the quality of its services.’ 61 percent favourable. In 2011 it was 87 percent. (Europe norm 82 percent)

‘All staff are treated with respect here.’ 39 percent favourable (Europe norm 75 percent), 49 percent unfavourable.

‘The Office is effective in identifying the changes that are necessary for our long-term success.’ 20 percent favourable (Europe norm 56 percent)

‘Aspects of the EPO culture support well-being, but nearly 50% do not think that all staff are treated with respect. Further investigation is advisable on what lies behind this result, as it is also the most frequently mentioned topic in the comments about what would make the biggest difference to the Office as a place to work’, according to the survey.

We think that the entire (original) document should be in the public domain because the EPO isn’t a private institution and it has impact on billions of people.

People are already taking note of the glaring issues, e.g.:

the external reader should know that from one survey to the next the EPO is systematically making use of a different questionnaire. So no reliable benchmark possibly showing further deteriorations of already highly deteriorated indicators, can be produced.

Also a detail but technically speaking the EPO survey is not a psycho social risks survey like that organised by EPO’s main union in 2010, 2013 and 2016 (see https://suepo.org/results_of_the_2016_european_patent_office_staff_survey/d-43311).

It is thus doubtful that after 8 years of Battistelli and now close to 1 of Campinos — but with Battistelli’s minions kept at their very positions, atmosphere and well-being at EPO are matching the results published (answers always depend on the way question are designed). In any case about well-being, these results are not in line with feedbacks from the work floor which on the contrary show worried, tired, demotivated and sick staff.

Also not so sure that the soon to come new deteriorations of the work package — currently being prepared behind closed doors by Campinos et al. which will be announced in his “strategic plan” at the June meeting of the AC e.g. axing the current pensions and the like, are of a nature to foster well-being among staff (and obviously improve the quality of the work produced by strained staff).

After so much pain and suffering under Battistelli (suicides, depressions, burn outs, dismissals, force resignations you name it) and the same HR policies kept unchanged since Campinos’ arrival, SUEPO should consider a re-run of its survey.

The next person wrote: “…to see how such devastating results will be turned into even higher production targets for staff and juicy bonuses for EPO management..”

The latest one says “it is entirely misleading to conclude from the answers to these four questions that the staff at the EPO has a positive view about well-being.”

To quote:

The conclusion “Views are also positive about issues impacting staff well-being” is misleading.

In the questionnaire, there were 62 questions in 13 categories. According to “Appendix 1: Detailed Item Results” provided by the survey provider, exactly 4 of these 62 questions relate to “well-being”, namely:

Question 4: My work schedule allows sufficient flexibility to meet my personal/family needs.
Question 24: There is usually sufficient staff in my unit to handle the workload.
Question 38: People in my unit are attentive to each other’s well-being.
Question 54: My immediate manager cares about my well-being.

Regarding question 4: this question only relates to flexibility, not to the workload per se

Regarding question 24: the file stocks are rapidly decreasing in many technical areas of the EPO due to ever increasing production targets and examiners are quickly running out of work. This is why one would answer “yes” to that question. However, this does not indicate well-being at all – on the contrary, staff is afraid of being laid off as soon as the remaining file stock is exhausted.

Regarding question 38: this question only relates to one´s direct “unit”, NOT to the EPO per se. A “unit” is a small team of colleagues (for examiners, a few other examiners and one team manager). The question ONLY relates to that small team (“unit”). It is evident that people who work together closely on a day-to-day basis are attentive to each other´s well-being. However, this neither implies that employees regard the EPO as being an institution which is attentive to employees well-being, nor that there is a high degree of well-being at the EPO.

Remark: The “Appendix 1” compares the answers of the EPO employees to benchmarks of employees from other companies or organizations for most questions, but not for this question (“not available”). Thus, this question does not seem to be a default question (I do not know whether it was tailored specifically to the EPO). Furthermore, it is not possible to compare the EPO results with answers of employees of other companies (given the specific wording of the question, the results would probably be very positive in almost every company). However, this does NOT indicate at all that the employees have the impression that the EPO cares about their well-being. For a question worded “The EPO cares about my well-being”, the results would probably be devastating.

Regarding question 54: similar to question 38, this ONLY relates to the “immediate” manager (for examiners and formalities: “team managers”). “Team managers” were appointed only recently from the groups of examiners and formalities and thus used to be direct colleagues just a short time ago. They have no real managerial power, but only execute the instructions and orders provided by higher management. While the answers are positive for the “immediate” managers (former colleagues), I am sure that the answers would be much more negative for a question which also includes the higher ranking managers (which actually take the decisions at the EPO, not the team managers).

Thus, it is entirely misleading to conclude from the answers to these four questions that the staff at the EPO has a positive view about well-being.

We are sure insiders have a lot more to say. Without seeing the original, however, it’s hard for yours truly to say much.

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