While our role is in being an industry-specific IT consulting company, we end up getting to know all aspects of the labs we serve. Among the many hidden challenges is turnover. Too often I see managers caught up thinking only of their customers and clients, neglecting the importance of building a strong, experienced staff and retaining it. According to LinkedIn, an average of 10.9 percent of employees across all industries leave their organizations each year. In looking at what is happening at hospitals and labs, that number for us is likely between the high teens to as high as 30 percent. Whatever it is, it is disruptive, costly, and can damage morale. But there are things we can do to minimize it and build a corporate culture that makes for a more effective, efficient work environment. Most of these eight points don’t cost anything more than being cognizant.
But let’s start with two things that do cost.
1: Pay. Salaries must be competitive. While surveys show pay as high on the list of what makes an employee stay, for our industry it must be the starting point. I’ve seen labs fight over talent and actively recruit workers at competing labs. Have your HR professional stay on top of what salaries are in your market and make sure you don’t fall below it. From College of American Pathologists Newsletter (CAP Today):
When Monica Rocheford and colleagues at Allina Health Laboratory first began digging into rising turnover rates at various locales within the system, the effort carried a whiff of concern, if not urgency. One hospital site had jumped from a 10.8 percent turnover rate in 2016 to 44.9 percent two years later. At another site, turnover reached 49 percent in 2018, from 24 percent the year before. The culprit was pay.
2: Benefits. Benefits must be a source of comfort, not stress. It is absolutely maddening what is going on in the health insurance market for small- and medium-sized businesses, but there are creative ways to stabilize costs and benefits. For example, consider self-funded plans. What you don’t want to do is jump around to different plans every other year where employee costs and co-pays go up, benefits go down, and employees are told “oh – sorry, your doctor is not in this new network.”
3: Forge a Career Path. Satisfied employees are on a path with goals, so career mapping is a great tool. Steve Hurst of Randstad Technologies, a staffing company, defines career mapping as: “A combination of personality profiles, formal education requirements, leadership qualities, and capabilities to fit with different positions and levels.” It is proven to increase employee retention and grow talent. When management takes an interest in everyone and there is a clear roadmap for advancement, it leads to more dedicated employees.
4: People Not Machines. In that same CAP article, there’s this:
In the most stable labs, Dr. Novis [explains that] everyone understands that people are “the most important pieces of the machinery.” These labs aren’t trying to extract every last bit of work out of their employees; instead, they invest in, and show appreciation for, their employees. “You need to make everyone feel like they’re part of what we’re doing in the lab.”
Don’t ever let your employees feel like they are mere cogs, but key to the overall success of the organization. Be generous with compliments and recognize their accomplishments publicly. Make sure they feel appreciated by soliciting their opinions. Share successes as well as failures.
5: The Right Engaging Work, in the Right Amount. Matching skill sets to job duties has to happen from day one. You want workers to be engaged and challenged, but not so much they are overwhelmed. People want work that piques their interest and makes the most of their technical and interpersonal skills. Be cognitive that there are those who outgrow their responsibilities and need more. And never forget that if an employee feels too overworked for too long, they will leave.
Organizations with the best employee engagement levels offer better customer engagement and are more productive. Workers allowed to “phone it in” are more likely to make more mistakes that can lose clients and cut into profits. Hire well, and then respect them enough to not micro-manage. Almost everywhere I go, I see lab employees with autonomy on the job doing better and sticking around longer.
6: Maintain an Inclusive Work Culture. All employees thrive in a positive, welcoming work culture. We’re all sensitive during these #MeToo times, but be pro-active in creating an environment free from discriminatory comments or behavior – including “jokes.” There’s an excellent article on this at the Society for Human Resource Management. “The challenge is having a culture where all employees feel included,” says its president and CEO Johnny Taylor. “It’s a major investment to bring talent into your organization, so why bring them in if they’re not happy when they get here? You’ve got to get the inclusion part right.”
7: Empower Employees. Give your employees the power to initiate change, whether it’s an idea for a major product feature or a small workplace improvement. Not only will they feel they are making a difference in the company, you may find some great ideas come out of it. And this empowerment should include open, honest communication with management. An employee feels value if they know management is open to their feedback, and will feel empowered when they see changes based on their input.
I believe our people are our most valuable resource, and our number one job is to take care of them professionally. Am I proud that our people have over 20 years of experience? Yes. They are the best in the business, and I make sure everyone knows it starting with them. Put your people first, and your profits will follow.