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Build your own career ladder.

A major contributing factor to the growing exodus from our profes sion is the chronic lack of chance for upward mobility. That con cern usually tops the list of com plaints in surveys on job dissatisfaction and turnover in laboratories. This has been a frustrating problem for those of us trying to staff a lab because it seemed we could not do much about it.

By their nature, medical labs do not lend themselves to upward mobility. The most prevalent career structure for technologists is three-tiered: bench technologist; then for a few, supervisor; then possibly manager.

Even though lab jobs don't lend themselves easily to the concept of a career ladder, why not form one? There is no rule that all employees with the same title have to be at the same level. Try to develop a multi-level structure through which technologists can advance.

How far an employee climbs up the career ladder should be a function not only of time in the job but of performance as well. Criteria for advancement should strike a balance. Advancing should not be so easy that it becomes automatic. If that happens, pretty soon you'll have a laboratory full of chiefs and an inflated payroll.

The optimum career development plan should take into consideration three qualifying areas: longevity in the job, performance, and continuing education.

*Longevity. I feel that an employee should demonstrate a commitment to the organization before being considered for promotion. An employee should put in a certain amount of time, say one or two years, before being eligible to climb the career ladder.

Time spent on the job should only be a qualifying factor, not an important determining factor.

*Performance. Any good employee development program must be based on performance over an extended period of time. To avoid challenges to the promotion process, the perform ance component must be well-documented.

Documentation might include the annual performance appraisal and more informal items, such as written commendations for outstanding service.

* Continuing education. A critical component in an effective employee development program is continuing education. In order to climb the career ladder, the employee should participate in a specified amount of continuing education. This education can be in the form of advanced college credits or merely continuing education units acquired through workshops or seminars related to the employee's field of expertise.

To encourage some degree of diversification, however, the program should ask employees to gain knowledge in a different, but related area of the lab-e.g., management or computerization.

Continuing education need not necessarily be acquired in a formal classroom or seminar setting. Teleconferences and taped programs now make CE available to everyone on all shifts.

Properly administered, the employee development plan should result in a win/win situation for both parties. The employee receives recognition with a new title, corresponding salary increases, and increased prestige. The organization benefits from a more stable, better educated work force.

While we should encourage growth, not every employee will-or should-qualify for advancement. Managers should not view an employee's lack of advancement as a lack of performance. Some employees are comfortable, and function well, at a lower level of responsibility.

We owe explanations to employees who would like to advance and do not. First, tell them why they were not promoted, then work with them to develop a plan by which they can qualify.

Remember that a career ladder doesn't necessarily culminate at the supervisory or the managerial levels. Since some people do not have a talent or interest in supervision or management, your employee development program will need to have different tracks, one recognizing technical performance and one recognizing administrative ability.

We need to creatively develop career goals for laboratory employees to advance toward. This way we can obliterate dead-end jobs in the lab that lead to employee dissatisfaction and turnover.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Maratea, James M.
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Article Type:column
Date:Mar 1, 1989
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