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Project Managing Your Human Capital

Smart leaders and managers at all levels must realize that because talent is fluid, their most critical responsibility is the retention of key talent throughout a project.

Mark Lanfear

People who know me know that I love football. I’ve always been fascinated by how some teams are better than others at retaining their key players, while still others always seem to be searching for talented athletes to join their roster.

We’re seeing this happen in the world of life sciences as well. Taking a page from the new book Lead the Work: Navigating a World Beyond Employment (co-written by John W. Boudreau, Ravin Jesuthasan, and David Creelman), getting things done once meant just assigning tasks to employees and “project managing” them forward to success. Today, smart leaders and managers at all levels must realize that because talent is fluid, their most critical responsibility is the retention of key talent throughout a project.

Previously, project assurance, and therefore project management, were based on established techniques to ensure milestones were met or deliverables came in on time. Now, because critical talent can quickly move out of organizations, responsible leaders and PMs must focus on mitigating HR challenges and maximizing retention of human capital. Those who don’t probably won’t be winning any workplace “championships” anytime soon.

Related Article: How to Retain Key Employees

At Kelly, our research shows that roughly two-thirds (63 percent) of life sciences workers will actively look for a new position within the next year, significantly more than the global average. More than half (54 percent) feel they are in a position of high demand in the marketplace. Over three-quarters (76 percent) say they’re willing to move for the right job, versus the 70 percent global average.

As Dr. Boudreau notes, “Long-term employment has given way to medium- or short-term employment.” Clearly, talent is now seeking different types of advancement from their work experience, and a good position with comfortable pay isn’t all that’s required to keep them onboard. These days, “What experience or development am I getting from being a part of this project?” carries a lot of weight.

In fact, talent at all levels is intent on achieving personal growth through their work experiences and checking off their own personal milestones of contribution and recognition. This is a paradigm shift from what previous generations would have called “a good job.” And if your talent feels they aren’t reaching these goals, they’ll look somewhere else for the experience.

Kelly’s research supports this. Even when happy, nearly half (49 percent) of life sciences workers were actively looking for new positions. While one-fourth felt their employers had clear career path options available, significantly fewer felt that traditional “competitive” work arrangements are ideal, and over three in 10 would leave their jobs due to poor work/life balance or current management. If you want success in the future, your game plan should be clear: you need to pay extra attention to taking care of your valued team members beyond just paying them a good salary.

Related Article: Cultivating Long-Term Loyalty

So what’s the takeaway? The best techniques to ensure that you are meeting your productivity goals and that your milestones will be delivered on time, I would suggest, are embedded in your HR practices, workforce planning, and ultimately, your project management. Personal growth and creativity—the kinds of things that talented people can share on social media—are today’s real benefits. So keep your parking spots and office views, but remember how important adventures and experiences are for your employees (even in our geeky world of science folks!).

Successful project management begins with properly managing the talent involved with those projects and keeping them with you throughout the project. Let me know what you think about how to best keep top talent retained and engaged … get in touch @MarkLanfear1.