This is one of several interviews in a series about the changes we can expect at the Lab during 2024.


The HR Division provides people programs to support Lab employees at every stage of their employment cycle, from anticipating talent needs, helping attract and hire the best, supporting professional and personal growth, and maintaining an engaged and supportive work culture. Chief Human Resources Officer Michelle Lee leads this division of HR strategists who partner and counsel others to deliver the Lab’s team science mission and enable the Lab’s People Stewardship values. 

When reflecting on her 13-year career at the lab, Michelle notes how the pandemic brought the most significant challenges the HR division faced, given the unplanned organizational pivot to establishing flexible work modes. But this work is also a key accomplishment Michelle is most proud of, as the division stepped up to give the Lab community the guidance to navigate and thrive in our current collaborative hybrid environment. 

In this interview, she shares what HR is focusing on in 2024.

Q: Michelle, what are the major HR projects for 2024?

A: HR is focused on several key initiatives this year based on our three pillars: People Success, People Support, and People Engagement. For this year, we are focused on recruitment and retention initiatives. These include counseling on workforce strategy planning to address talent gaps and future needs, assessing the current Scientist and Engineer Policy and Performance Management Program for future changes, and enhancing the recruitment websites and talent acquisition resources. These projects are in progress with partners from across the Lab, particularly Learning & Culture, IDEA, Career Pathways, IT, and Strategic Communications, as fellow Employee Experience working group members. 

Another priority is optimizing HR internally so that we can streamline internal processes and service delivery to the Lab community. One project related to this HR Optimization initiative is implementing a new case management solution which will help our HR Shared Services team to be more efficient and effective, which will have downstream benefits to the whole Lab. 

HR has also been partnering with Aditi Chakravarty, Chief Culture Officer, on the Labwide culture survey. We look forward to the results and actions that can be taken to aid in employee retention and recruitment.


Q: How will these projects advance the Lab’s research mission? What excites you about these projects?

A: Focusing the primary aspects of our strategic initiatives around recruitment and retention will play a vital role for the Lab, as both are equally important in maintaining productivity and growth today and into the future. 

What excites me most about these projects and priorities is how they highlight HR’s contributions and partnerships that inspire and empower leading-edge science with the goal of positioning Berkeley Lab as an employer of choice.

Additionally, the opportunity to collaborate on essential projects such as recruitment communications will bring the Lab’s mission into the future in how we look and showcase ourselves to potential employees, and the culture survey will provide us with insight into employee engagement.


Q: How does HR partner with the research on large and small projects? 

A: It is important for HR to partner with research on all strategic initiatives, regardless of the project size. Essentially, it’s about sharing what HR has planned and partnering with them to help define what they need from HR to ensure that we are aligned. For example, before the winter shutdown, HR met with Associate Lab Directors and Deputies individually to share HR’s three-year strategic plan and provide an update on our plans to optimize HR internally in a phased approach. The dialogue allowed HR to share, first and foremost, our top priorities for this year and hear from leaders what they have planned. We will continue this roadshow this quarter by scheduling meetings with Division Directors to align with them and their needs. We want to address the Lab’s most significant challenges through partnerships and collaboration and evaluate where we can improve and streamline internally.


Q: Last question for you, what will 2024 have in store for you?

A: Due to unforeseen family circumstances, I am retiring this year in June. Between now and then, I am dedicated to ensuring a smooth transition for this role and HR’s priorities overall. After that, I look forward to spending and treasuring my time with my family.