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Lab Manager Academy: Getting Employees to Give Their All

Do your employees simply show up for work or are they committed to making a difference? Your employees’ passion, ideas, feedback and enthusiasm are your lab’s greatest asset.

Do your employees simply show up for work or are they committed to making a difference? Your employees’ passion, ideas, feedback and enthusiasm are your lab’s greatest asset. Focusing on numbers does not increase your profitability, but learning to motivate, monitor, measure and manage productivity and change does.

Research reveals that only 17 to 29 percent of the U.S. workforce is engaged, a fact that can devastate a lab’s bottom line. Just getting the job done to collect a paycheck is not the level of commitment necessary for a high performance work team. While performance reviews can be effective, the feedback must be more immediate than a quarterly evaluation. Giving feedback months after the fact is like expecting your dog to stop piddling on the carpet when you reprimand him a week after the incident. There is no value to delayed feedback for either dogs or humans, nor will it correct or change their behavior.

It is essential to unleash the other 93 percent of your workers’ untapped potential. Research reports that organizations with highly engaged employees outperform those with a less engaged workforce in their innovation, productivity, and profitability.

Southwest Airlines, one of the more profitable airlines, hires people with a positive attitude and trains for the necessary skills. Trying to change a Negative Nellie into a Positive Polly may be like trying to push a river.

People who are passionate about research and the discovery process are not in the lab doing their best to wear the “employee of the month” button. They are in sync with their instincts and are clear on their purpose and mission in life and are unstoppable. They are driven from within and compelled to express their inner genius and vision just as Michelangelo was when he confessed: “In every rock of marble I see a statue; I merely chisel away so others can see what I already know.”

You probably have been given lists on what motivates a workforce, such as celebrating their wins withbells, balloons and bravos. However, we need to get beyond both the carrot and the stick. Yes, external rewards and clever, creative treats will work for many, but those for whom it does will never be your top producers.

There is a unique change management method, however, that will engage all employees, both the internally or externally motivated. Since people drop out and lose interest in any task if they are bored, you must implement the psychology of “flow.” It worked for Michael Jordan, and it will work for you as well. Optimal performance occurs when people are between a state of boredom and anxiety, as both of those extremes are dysfunctional. With high anxiety, your employees are so stressed out that mistakes prevail and decision making is seriously impaired by bad judgment. Oxygen to the brain is cut off and, like a car, humans cannot run well without a fuel supply.

However, when people are bored because of being overqualified or simply not interested, they slip into a state of apathy. They know the routine so well, they go on autopilot. Innovation and creativity do not occur in this disengaged state of mind, body and spirit. The natural and inevitable side effect of mastery is apathy. Thus, your most competent, experienced employee may have mastered all skills and checked out mentally years ago.

Beyond perks, parties and picnics, the true key to engagement and motivation results from managing the tension level of your employees. Too little tension and challenge can be just as counterproductive as too much tension. Doing more with less can be a stimulant and ignite a fire in the bellies of those who have been mentally snoozing.

To determine your group’s level of productive tension, intention and engagement regarding a specific task important to them, please contact me for a complimentary ChangeGrid assessment. It will predict if an employee will follow through on a task or activity and guide you in how to minimize negative possibilities and maximize positive outcomes. You will understand the choices they make and the actions they take from a new perspective. Performance, productivity, and progress can thus be more efficiently and effectively executed by engaging employees to give their all.

Be sure to attend Edie Raether’s Lab Manager Academy webinar, “Getting Employees to Give Their All… How to Create an Engaged Workforce in Your Lab,” on Wednesday, July 11th, or afterwards at: to watch the archived video.

Edie Raether, M.S., CSP is a Change Strategist. She is an international speaker, corporate trainer and bestselling author of seven books in several languages. Visit Edie at or contact her at and 704-658-8997.