Whether you’ve been in the lab for one year or for thirty, you are probably all too familiar with working “short-staffed”. For years, the laboratory workforce has been in decline as laboratory education programs close and baby boomers retire. For those of us in urban areas, we have not really felt this impact quite as much as other parts of the country, where finding trained laboratory professionals to fill open positions grows increasingly difficult. For urban areas where laboratorians are aplenty, competition can be fierce, as we often find our employees looking elsewhere and leaving the job to move to greener pastures in the neighboring hospital system. Working “short-staffed” is the new normal. In these days of fierce healthcare competition, constant budgetary restraint, the threat of mass retirements, retention is key to a laboratory’s success.
The importance of retention is multi-faceted. Perhaps first and foremost to Lab Admin is the bottom line. Retention helps to increase the bottom line. Recruiting, hiring, onboarding and training is a costly process. The cost of employee turnover is staggering. Estimates vary, but can average between 50% and 125% of the employee’s salary. This means replacing an employee who made $50,000 may cost between $25,000 and $75,000 to find and train their replacement. Ouch.
Retention is important for morale. It can be very discouraging to watch employees and coworkers move on. The effects of low morale can be detrimental in the laboratory: poor productivity, absenteeism, increased dissatisfaction, and eventually — more turnover.
Retention is important for stability and quality. Lest we forget our mission as laboratorians, quality is paramount to providing accurate and reliable patient results. The quality of work can decrease as our team becomes unstable, as we work too many shifts covering for short-staffing, and as we are constantly covering a bench while training new employees. Retention provides the stability we need to maintain high-quality testing in our laboratories.
So how do laboratories focus their efforts on morale and improve retention? Many consider this to be one of the manager’s most important tasks.
What has kept you at your job for so many years? What are some of the things you encounter at work that have you surfing the job boards?