Staff is the backbone of laboratories and is essential to unlocking performance and improvements in these settings. Recruitment, retention, and performance management are key processes for managing staff, which is why lab managers need to bring in the best candidates, and train and develop them for growth within the lab.
A talented staff drives the success of any lab and lab managers should know how to recruit promising candidates and conduct effective interviews, as mishires cost a lab more than an individual’s compensation. One needs to recognise that technical skills are less important than attitude. Find important traits in candidates and identify effective ways to structure interview questions to ensure successful recruitment. Let us not forget process improvement.
Intellectual capital is the unique knowledge and skills that a company’s workforce owns. A certain amount of staff turnover improves the health of the lab and infuses new energy and innovative ideas. But the turnover among value staff is costly, disruptive, and has negatively correlated with customer satisfaction.
Today’s successful businesses win with innovative ideas, products and services that originate in the knowledge and skills of staff. Staff who are satisfied with their work and company are more likely to create satisfied customers. Furthermore, when staff members feel an attachment to the workplace, they are more likely to share their positive impressions and feelings about the workplace with customers.
Nowadays, technology development and globalisation have helped people be more connected than ever. Therefore, the workplace has become increasingly diverse in terms of culture, sexual orientation, experience, personality, and more.
“One-size-fits-all” strategies for keeping good people simply do not work any longer. Companies can best improve their retention rates by crafting creative, specialised strategies for each major segment of the workforce. Younger staff are particularly interested in defining their career paths and taking jobs that will help them advance to their next jobs. They are also more comfortable with rapid change than older staff.
Older staff, despite moving closer to retirement each passing year, have extensive knowledge and rich business experience that are crucial for the lab. Thus, the lab needs to ask what they need, support flexibility, and make their work interesting.
There are many strategies for improving retention such as hiring the right people, having a good system for evaluating performance, tracking levels of retention and overall staff satisfaction, and training managers and supervisors in good communication skills so that expectations between staff can be openly established. It also helps to offer staff a career path and a career development plan, have a recognition programme that celebrates staff with excellent performance, and customise benefits and work expectations for individual staff as much as possible. However, not all staff have equal value. Performance evaluations make it possible to show the staff who adds the most value.
Performance evaluation and building development plans for staff to be ready for greater responsibility in the future is the lab manager’s responsibility. They need to clarify how lab staff contribute to its success and ensure they understand what is expected of them. Clearly defining expectations is critical to success.
Lab managers also need to know how to clearly define roles and responsibilities, key objectives for each member of staff, select the most important aspects of a staff member’s position, develop effective roles and objectives documents, and identify and integrate objectives into individual goals.
Addressing staff performance is a key role for all supervisors. Clear performance feedback for the staff to help them grow and develop is critical to the lab’s success. Lab managers need to design and create effective performance review conversations, figure out key strengths of staff members, and create proper development plans to grow high performance and repair deficient performance.
Established in 1888 by H.M. King Chulalongkorn, the Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital at Mahidol University is the first medical school and the largest teaching medical center in Thailand. Currently, Siriraj hospital has 2,200 beds and 10,000 outpatient visits per day. Department of Clinical Pathology, Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University consists of four units including phlebotomy unit, central laboratory, molecular pathology laboratory, and special immunology laboratory. Currently, department of Clinical Pathology employs about 160 people.
The annual turnover rate is around 3 per cent. Because of the ageing population, workload has grown. Since 2018, the annual test volume has increased to seven million tests. Sadly, our lab’s yearly test volume has declined since the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, but this year it has increased to seven million tests, as it did before the outbreak (figure 1). Total lab automation has been implemented in the central laboratory since 2020 (figure 2). However, after the COVID-19 epidemic, the staff satisfaction survey score has dropped. (figure 3). Our staff will take two courses this year on stress management and effective communication.
Since 2005 and 2009, respectively, our lab has been accredited to ISO15189 and ISO22870 standards. We recently received a College of American Pathologist (CAP) accreditation, which take effect since September 2022. Our lab was the first university hospital lab in Thailand to receive CAP accreditation. We appreciate our team’s efforts in achieving this (figure 4).
Prof. Kanit Reesukumal is the Assistant Professor at the Department of Clinical Pathology, Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand and will be speaking at the Laboratory Management conference at Medlab Middle East 2023.