American Institutes for Research Reviews | Glassdoor

American Institutes for Research Reviews

Updated July 24, 2017
259 reviews

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Pros
Cons
  • Some sections of the organization struggle with work-life balance (in 30 reviews)

  • SVPs are generally hard-charging and unwilling to compromise with their direct reports and the management-level staff actually leading the work (in 11 reviews)

More Pros and Cons

  1. Helpful (7)

    "Good company that is now poorly managed"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Researcher in Washington, DC
    Current Employee - Researcher in Washington, DC
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I have been working at American Institutes for Research full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    There is a lot of interesting work at AIR on many topics. You can learn a lot, and company does help you go to school.

    People you work with are great and they want to do a good job.

    Cons

    Company structure keeps changing with no benefit to getting work done. There seem to more managers and support jobs every month.

    Senior managers are very remote. Middle managers care more about pushing staff to get new business than making sure work is done well. People now fear they won't keep their jobs unless they work crazy hours. There was a big layoff last year. Morale has really fallen.

    Advice to Management

    Talk with people and figure out what support they need. Meet with staff. Improve communication!


  2. Helpful (5)

    "Researcher"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at American Institutes for Research full-time

    Pros

    It's a great place for a career in social sciences research because your colleagues are very accomplished and the company is interested in hiring great talent to support project work. Researchers/colleagues are generally great, hardworking people. There are many opportunities to work on a variety or specialized set of projects.

    Cons

    Compensation is not a livable wage for the amount of work demanded and in order to move up the career ladder. Some of their leadership practices are lip service at best.

    Advice to Management

    Listen to your employees on the ground and pay fair wages to your researchers not just your C-suite.

  3. "Review on AIR"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I have been working at American Institutes for Research full-time

    Pros

    Good working environment, and nice people

    Cons

    Too much focus on details


  4. Helpful (10)

    "Ineffectual and indifferent management, poor work-life balance, losing clients and quickly becoming uncompetitive"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Researcher in Washington, DC
    Current Employee - Researcher in Washington, DC
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I have been working at American Institutes for Research full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    Smart and knowledgeable co-workers, many of whom share information about other opportunities at competitors as it becomes more clear that long-term employment here is untenable. Bagel Wednesdays are nice.

    Cons

    Increasingly poor work-life balance, staff are expected to put in nonbillable hours on projects, management is unresponsive to requests for advice on advancement and development. There is a hidden CYA mentality among mid-level management that speaks volumes about upper management and their goals.

    Advice to Management

    View non-management staff as your most valuable asset and realize management staff exists to support staff. AIR is becoming little better than an incubator for our competitors, and the company's reputation is rapidly declining.


  5. Helpful (3)

    "Remote work"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Principal Project Specialist in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Principal Project Specialist in Washington, DC

    I worked at American Institutes for Research full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    Has one of the most progressive approaches to teleworking with options to work in different locations or work from home. Have great systems to support employees to work from home.

    Cons

    Some staff didn't like having tracking software on their phones and laptops - but I think it was a great for keeping everyone accountable about their remote work hours.


  6. "Decent job"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Client Service Representative in Columbus, OH
    Current Employee - Client Service Representative in Columbus, OH
    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I have been working at American Institutes for Research full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    Decent starting pay. Flexible hours. Benefits are decent to be for starting employees. The environment is very conducive to making friends. There is a real sense of comradery among your coworkers

    Cons

    Not much upward mobility potential without switching departments. For a company based around research, there doesn't seem to be any incentive based program to go back to school.

    Advice to Management

    Have potential for starting employees in the Call Processing Centers to have a clear path to move up, or move to different areas in the company, to experience true upward mobility in a company


  7. Helpful (9)

    "Organization Lacks Direction"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I have been working at American Institutes for Research full-time

    Pros

    Great benefits including healthcare, 403b (retirement), parking/transit, office parties/happy hours, and "bagel Wednesday."

    Great people - staff overall are really passionate about their work to improve people's lives in education, healthcare, social development, etc. and are generally great to work with. Everyone is extremely hard-working.

    Offices all over the U.S. allow for staff to move locations and travel and newly opened offices are very nicely designed, with lots of natural light, fun furniture, and bright colors.

    The work is also great - lots of projects have real impacts on schools, teachers, students, patients, seniors/elderly, families, etc. AIR also generally doesn't have a corporate-style dress code.

    Cons

    Beware, AIR is not a nonprofit. It is a corporate, not-for-profit organization that basically does consulting work with a large emphasis on research. It is a corporation that doesn't pay its board. Office atmospheres are more laid back than traditional corporations, but the structure, rewards/pay, and culture are all reminiscent of a large corporate consulting firm. Note: the professional services division is more laid back than the assessment division.

    AIR lacks a strategic vision and the leadership necessary to realize that vision. Senior Vice Presidents create their own fiefdoms, which are often in conflict with each other's goals and occasionally with the goals of the organization as a whole. SVPs are generally hard-charging and unwilling to compromise with their direct reports and the management-level staff actually leading the work. There seems to be a complete lack of appreciation for input from the rest of the staff at the top of the organization, as if leadership knows everything about the work, even though they're not actually staffed on projects or working with clients (mainly because they're too expensive).

    AIR is top-heavy, and like many corporate organizations, the top 1-2% seem to make about 50% of the money. The organization recently promoted a group of high-level, high-earning staff to Vice President, without seeing any current VPs or SVPs leave the organization - which means their expenditures on staff went up without also rewarding mid-level and junior staff. It seems like the top people are the only ones who are rewarded with pay.

    Many VPs lack appreciation for work-life balance, which trickles down to even the most junior staff. And while some of the VPs are very entrenched in and knowledgeable about the work of their groups, some are completely clueless but don't feel the need to learn about their staff and what they do.

    The CEO lacks trust for most employees outside his immediate circle and regularly criticizes AIR's work in large internal meetings, including hardworking employees on both the project and infrastructure/overhead teams. He seems to be against social/technological advancement (unless it applies to quantitative research).

    Hardworking and talented employees are only rewarded with more work and not necessarily with promotions or decent raises, which makes them more likely to burn out. The promotion process is not transparent at all. Very few people in the organization seem to understand how an employee can work for a promotion or salary increase, aside from being put up for one by their staff manager multiple times. Most mid-level promotions seem to take about 2-3 years from planning to completion. There are hardworking staff who have been at the same level for 5+ years. Yet there are very few supports for career development.

    Although AIR encourages work-life balance, many junior and mid-level staff still feel pressured to work nights and weekends, answering emails when their superiors contact them in off hours. Many times this lack of regard for work-life balance is actually rewarded, especially at the top.

    Because AIR refuses to invest in infrastructure, administrative staff is stretched way too thin. Most junior and even some mid-level staff are given administrative responsibilities on projects, instead of valuable learning opportunities to grow their careers in research and technical assistance. Almost everyone in the organization is overstaffed, and almost all infrastructure teams are too small.

    AIR really needs a CEO and leadership team who can manage a bunch of strong-willed people with strong personalities, and keep them working together to move in the right direction. They also need to start embracing the 21st century when it comes to communications and business development, including investing in business strategy, sales, and marketing.

    Advice to Management

    Listen more to your employees and don't be afraid of constructive feedback, including from junior and mid-level staff. Make ALL employees feel valued, no matter what level they are.

    Please start thinking about new and innovative techniques for business development. The world is over-saturated with information - please stop believing that just putting good research out there will guarantee new clients.

    And please stop rewarding behavior the organization claims to be at odds with (lack of respect for work-life balance, creating a culture of intimidation, etc.).

  8. Helpful (7)

    "Smart people, lousy management"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Senior Researcher in Chicago, IL
    Current Employee - Senior Researcher in Chicago, IL
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at American Institutes for Research full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    You will work with some very smart people. The work is varied, and there are policies and procedures in place that are invaluable.

    The new office space in chicago is lovely, and the facilities are well-maintained. At other offices, YMMV.

    You can also work from home, which is nice.

    Bagel Wednesday, as others have mentioned, is nice too.

    Cons

    The mission of AIR is all about "business development", less about "public interest". No one cares if the work doesn't benefit schools or districts. It's all about bringing in money.

    Many senior staff will write proposals that, for example, have completely unmeetable deadlines or are wicked understaffed. But since the proposal writers are often different than the project team, who cares?

    There was very little useful onboarding. I was kind of thrown into some complicated, high-profile projects and difficult clients, with no support from senior staff. My staff manager was pretty much MIA for my first six months, which really did not help.

    There is a major, major problem with the culture here. It's all about CYA, not about doing good work. I've spent months of my time covering my butt in one way or another. This is explicitly encouraged by senior staff, and people are genuinely anxious about making sure their butts are, indeed, covered.

    The work-life balance is sort of iffy. It's not that bad if you can say no and/or have a project director who believes in it. But I have experienced some truly inappropriate encroachments into my personal time.

    The PTO is extremely limited compared to a university. When you start, you get 3 weeks PTO, which includes sick time. It increases in subsequent years, but I miss being able to take time off for the flu AND (gasp) take a vacation.

    Advice to Management

    Make sure staff are trained and supported, especially in the first year.


  9. Helpful (7)

    "Great place for researchers, less so for the rest."

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Technical Service Specialist in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Technical Service Specialist in Washington, DC
    Doesn't Recommend
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I worked at American Institutes for Research full-time (More than 5 years)

    Pros

    Filled with smart talented people across all departments. Competitive salaries and wide range of benefits despite being a non-profit. Flexible work hours, Teleworking encouraged, and no dress code.

    Cons

    Organization preaches work/life balance and embracing diversity, but they fail to do either. Everyone is expected to work long hours with little recognition or reward. Management in my area did more to discourage me than to encourage me. They also were unable to deal with different personality types very well. Specifically when dealing with more introverted people.

    Advice to Management

    Practice what you preach. Embrace teaching opportunities with your staff. Every time I had a genuine learning experience it later turned out that I was penalized for having to be taught or guided through the process.


  10. Helpful (6)

    "Leadership"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I worked at American Institutes for Research full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    1. Huge intellectual capital
    2. Great benefits, perks and fair salary for nonprofit
    3. Lots of social opportunities
    4. Laid back office culture (in terms of dress and office hours)
    5. Contributions to many fields are progressive and positive. A place to make a difference.

    Cons

    Almost all of the Pros are undermined by:
    1. A culture of blame and finger pointing when collective mistakes are made (leaders blaming field staff, field staff blaming leaders, everyone blaming clients.)
    2. Very slick "Forest" people who leave it to the "Tree" people to deliver too-good-to-be-true promises and client pitches.
    3. An employee review process that is less about self improvement and more about creating goals that present the perception of performance vs actual, day-to-day performance.
    4. A circling of the wagons (backstabbing, rumors, sabotaging) around employees who are different.
    5. Not walking the talk regarding work-life balance: it's never a good sign when a project leader "jokes" about being too dedicated to take vacations, e-mails during his/her PTO and late at night, brags about working late at night and on weekends, and then claims family first.

    Advice to Management

    Encourage a culture of not only owning up to mistakes but being free to learn from them. Leaders: Be brave, honest, humble, and self-critical. Don't point blame when everyone, including you, is making mistakes. When people and things aren't performing as expected, ask everyone questions. Be curious. Don't accept at face value what project managers, directors, or senior leaders say. Some are too afraid to admit they are struggling. Also, temper client expectations.


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