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Culture Confidential

As a manager in a lab environment, have you ever thought about changing jobs? Have you ever wanted a better opportunity? Have you ever wanted more satisfaction from the work you do every day?

by Mark Lanfear
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Of course you have. It’s only human nature for us all to be constantly searching, especially in our professional lives. It may not mean that we’re completely dissatisfied with our current position—but isn’t there always room for improvement?

This scenario is no different when it comes to your employees. If they’re good at what they do and if they’re dedicated to the cause, hopefully they will always want to do better—to go above and beyond. Accordingly, within the last year, 44 percent of life sciences professionals have changed employers, according to the Kelly Global Workforce Index 2013 Survey.

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Managers must always take this into account. They must always realize that good employees could potentially go elsewhere if a better opportunity strikes.

This makes the issue of workplace culture extremely important. As surveys have proven time and again, happiness at work isn’t about just compensation. It takes into account a complex array of factors that run deep, with workplace culture being critical among them.

In fact, the general environment at work can often mean the difference between an employee who wants to stay and an employee who wants to go, regardless of how great the job or the pay. In today’s job marketplace, where employees in the sciences in particular are hard to come by, who can afford the risk of losing their best workers?

This is why helping build a strong culture among your employees is a good first step toward ensuring that your workers at least have the opportunity to remain satisfied on the job even if not everything else (such as salary and other tangible workplace aspects) is perfect.

Fortunately, across all industries surveys indicate what the modern worker is looking for in terms of workplace culture, and it’s no different in the life sciences. One of the main points for managers to understand from the beginning is that advancements and the desire for progress are inextricably linked. Poor salary and benefits are certainly strong motivators for seeking a new job, but so is a lack of opportunity, and if your workplace is devoid of that, it could threaten to establish a culture where only cyclical, repetitive tasks are important.

So what can you do if these types of tasks really are what your lab is all about? As a manager, you can still help make the workplace more dynamic, because opportunity and progress for workers can come in many varied forms. Are there ways you could better connect your employees to the lab’s overall mission? Can you figure out how to more creatively track progress and then offer more meaningful rewards when your employees do an excellent job?

Ultimately, people want meaning from their work, and knowing that this means something to their employer will help create a strong workplace culture where employees feel valued.

Other things to consider on the journey to creating a better workplace culture include getting people into the right jobs (this may seem obvious, but how often have you realized that someone might be a better fit for another area of the lab—but haven’t taken the steps to change that?) and giving people the chance to work hard.

Yes, employees actually do want to earn their paycheck. After all, who would want to come into work every day with nothing to do? Employees consistently indicate they want on-the-job challenges, which can go a long way in creating a workplace culture where people know that the work they do matters. When people know they are truly responsible for the goals in a lab, they too are helping build a positive culture where the work itself is one of the most important parts of the lab culture.

Building a workplace culture will never be a one-size-fits-all proposition. But if managers are willing to keep learning about their workplace—and keep adapting to employees’ needs—then it’s a pretty good bet that their best workers will be willing to stay for the long haul.