Science Matters: Are You Helping or Hurting Employee Morale?

Last year I wrote a column about how “soft skills” are required to succeed in virtually every business today. Even in the sciences, a career path that has traditionally allowed insular personalities to thrive, soft skills are more important than ever.

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Last year, I wrote a column about how “soft skills” are required to succeed in virtually every business today. Even in the sciences, a career path that has traditionally allowed insular personalities to thrive, soft skills are more important than ever.

The new workplace reality of the sciences, in fact, demands these soft skills, because of its cross-collaboration between organizations and business model that increasingly relies on relationships, networks, and knowledgesharing to get things done. Scientists and anyone else working in the science industry today rarely work effectively without soft skills.

But while managers may tend to focus on an employee’s ability to adapt to company culture and successfully interact with others on a social level, it’s worth analyzing whether one’s own management style is helping or hurting the cause.

A good manager has the power to exponentially raise morale among workers— and that’s reason enough for leaders to brush up on the kinds of skills that allow them to relate to people on a more human level in the workplace. One of the most pragmatic reasons, however, is the bottom line, and it should convince any manager of the necessity for developing a better management style.

Exhibiting soft skills on the job, after all, isn’t just about an investment of good will toward employees, but a financial one as well. The most successful labs and organizations, whether small or large, recognize this fact and are able to enjoy the rewards. Propped up by employees who feel that their managers value their time and worth, these companies tend to send products to market on time and on budget. They meet their customers’ needs quickly and efficiently. Customers continue to do business with them. More business flows in as a result.

Unfortunately, businesses that don’t understand this connection between good management and performance will suffer, and the opportunities that highly skilled workers have at their fingertips today is a big reason why.

Both employees and employers in the sciences are embracing a more free-agent work style in which highly skilled workers are hired on a contingent basis. The result is an environment in which scientists have more opportunities—and more choices— in terms of employment. They also are able to acquire many specialized skills as well as versatilability™—the ability to adapt quickly and hit the ground running on any type of project with very little training.

A company’s ability to attract this type of highly skilled talent will be a critical sticking point when it comes to successfully completing complex projects. But if a company can’t make certain projects attractive through a combination of meaningful work and a meaningful work culture, these potential employees could very well choose to work somewhere else.

But what if, once you recruit the talent you need for a specific project, you are unable to retain that talent? Personal management style can also dictate which employees—even the contract ones—are willing to stick around for the long haul as well as for future projects. And in an age when knowledge retention is so critical for scientific companies, a failure to retain the best workers could mean a hit to a company’s bottom line in the future.

There is no doubt that scientific companies expect their workers to have a range of skills, both technical and soft, to get the job done. But managers will have to hold themselves to the same standards as the workplace transforms, realizing that the way they relate to their workers is an invaluable investment in every aspect of an organization’s goals.

Alan Edwards is vice president and science product leader, Americas Products Group, Kelly Services®. Kelly Services, Inc., a leader in providing workforce solutions, is headquartered in Troy, Michigan. For more information, visit kellyservices.com. Alan can also be followed on Linkedin® and Twitter®

Published In

Is the Rollercoaster Ride Over? Magazine Issue Cover
Is the Rollercoaster Ride Over?

Published: March 1, 2012

Cover Story

Is the Roller Coaster Ride Over?

The laboratory industry enjoyed several years of robust growth from the late 1990s until 2003. Record research and development (R&D) investments by the biopharmaceutical industry, in combination with the doubling of the U.S. National Institutes budget, allowed for continual double-digit growth rates.