A Guide to Staffing your Clinical Lab
A Guide to Staffing your Clinical Lab

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Finding a great employee begins with attracting qualified candidates.

Whether they stay depends on their fit within the team and the employer’s efforts to motivate and retain them.

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Attracting Qualified Candidates
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Job Description

Begin the process with a clear written description of the open position, including your expectations as well as what you offer the candidate. Identify ongoing responsibilities, and what skills and qualifications a candidate must possess to be able to perform the job. Determine priorities, and break down how much time this individual will have to devote to various aspects of the position. It is also valuable to consult the human resources department for compensation and job classification information.

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Informal recruitment by word of mouth is a simple way to begin the recruitment process, and consulting with current employees may yield recommendations. Networking events, conferences, and seminars are also great places to meet potential candidates who likely have the desired qualifications.

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Formal recruitment options include posting the position on the laboratory website, advertising in industry publications, or enlisting the help of a recruiter. Social media and professional networking sites also offer a platform to advertise the position.

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The ideal candidate may already be working within the organization. With the right combination of skills and experience, they may be able to transition into a new role. It may also be easier to promote them to this position and fill the one they are leaving behind, than to attempt to hire an external candidate for the more specialized role.

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Select the Best Candidate

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Take your time to conduct a thorough interview process, and interview several candidates — avoid hiring the first qualified candidate you meet. Often one interview is not enough to ensure the candidate is an ideal fit for the lab. Do not hesitate to offer multiple interviews, and include human resources personnel and direct supervisors to ensure they will form a good working relationship with the candidate.

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Keep in mind that certain skills are essential, while others may be taught. The right candidate must have the appropriate qualifications and skills to be able perform the requirements of the position. However, it is also important to look for candidates that are eager to learn. If the candidate is missing a certain skill that is easily taught, but is otherwise an excellent fit for the laboratory, it may be worth considering investing some time to teach them additional skills.

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Ask Why

What is their “why?” Discuss why the candidate is interested in the position. Is it rooted in a passion for clinical research or a desire to help patients? Or is it based primarily on salary, benefits, and hours? Understanding their reason for wanting to work in a clinical lab will also help with motivation and retention.


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Candidate Questions

Switch gears for a moment and provide candidates an opportunity to ask questions about the position, the laboratory, and organization. This may also be a chance for them to determine if their priorities and goals align with those of the organization.

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Employee RetentionWhy Clinical Research Associates Leave

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Too much travel between sites, multiple protocols, and duties in addition to monitoring.

Dedicated researchers are detail-oriented and take pride in the quality of their work. Unrealistic demands and an overwhelming workload cause the quality of their work to suffer and motivates them to seek change.

Extrinsic rewards including higher base salaries and bonuses motivate some to leave for a similar role with another organization.

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Retention Strategies

Employee retention is important, as turnover is associated with additional costs including recruitment and training. Numerous factors influence retention rates, and implementing retention strategies may help to reduce these costs and ensure a quality laboratory program.


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Job Satisfaction

Job satisfaction may be related to recognition, responsibility, and the potential to advance within the organization, among other factors. Employers may aim to improve job satisfaction by offering performance incentives or rewards, or offering opportunities to take on additional responsibilities or specialized roles.

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Laboratory Culture

Employees that fit well with the laboratory or organization’s culture often perform better and are more likely to stay. The culture of the laboratory may be defined and created, or may occur naturally over time. It is essential to consider workplace culture when hiring, to ensure new hires are entering an environment conducive to their success.

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Employee Involvement

Fostering a sense of belonging within the laboratory may also contribute to retention. Studies have shown involving employees in various decision-making processes increases loyalty and retention. This may be achieved by asking questions and gathering feedback, demonstrating that an employee’s judgement and ideas are valued.

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Motivating Laboratory Staff
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Everyone is motivated by different factors, and these may change over time. Operating a productive laboratory requires a motivated team, and there are many ways managers can engage with employees to increase motivation, thereby reducing turnover and improving performance.

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Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation

Determining whether an employee is intrinsically or extrinsically motivated can help guide the course of action to improve motivation. An extrinsically motivated employee may respond well to rewards, such as financial bonuses, flexible scheduling, praise, and promotions, whereas an intrinsically motivated employee may thrive on meaningful work, greater choice, or an improved sense of connection with others in the laboratory.

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Simple Acts

Motivating staff doesn’t have to be complex! Simple things like making time to speak with and listen to staff members, offering quality feedback, keeping everyone informed, and providing employees opportunities to learn and develop new skills go a long way in keeping people motivated.

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Monitor Motivation

Managers should also note indications of low motivation among employees. Absenteeism, decreased productivity, conflict among lab members, and disengagement are all signs of poor motivation. Decreased motivation may be addressed by first determining the underlying cause and discussing the issue with employees. Next, managers and employees should work together to develop and implement a strategy to address the problem.

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There are many factors to consider when staffing a clinical lab. Investing time and resources to identify the best candidate during the hiring process, and taking steps to motivate and retain employees will go a long way to ensuring a happy and productive team.

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