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Practicing the two Rs.

Practicing the two Rs

As children in school, we made efforts to learn the three Rs: Reading, 'Riting, and 'Rithmetic. Today most of us in the lab concentrate on two other Rs: Recruitment and Retention.

In the good old days before the technologist shortage, recruitment efforts were limited to an occasional want ad placed in a local newspaper. Retention was given little thought beyond approving an annual cost-of-living increase. Now laboratory managers and supervisors find themselves pulled at both ends: first, they must locate and hire qualified individuals; then hold them from leaving.

Recruitment and retention of competent technical personnel is a critical component in maintaining a successful laboratory operation. While most managers and supervisors recognize this fact, few do more than lament the lack of money that could assure it. While reduced funding plays its part, we cannot allow it to stifle our efforts. Many useful techniques can be derived from common sense and at minimal cost.

[P]Facilitate interviews. How many potential applicants are turned away because we are too busy to interview them? Frequently, individuals planning to relocate to the area drop by for an unscheduled visit. Although these "drop-ins" may interrupt your daily schedule, make the effort to grant them an interview and give them a tour of the laboratory operations. If your schedule makes that impossible, ask someone else in authority to perform this duty. Carefully select the interview site to provide privacy and convey a professional image.

[P]Expedite hiring. We no longer have the luxury of waiting to choose among several qualified individuals. To avoid losing good candidates to other institutions, urge all parties involved in the hiring process, including personnel and administration, to speed up the hiring process.

[P]Recruit early and often. It's never too early to tap prospective candidates. Many schools sponsor co-op programs in which qualified college or high school students work in the laboratory for a modest fee, perhaps subsidized by the school. By working with students early, you will have the inside track when they are ready to join the work force.

Other activities that can aid recruitment and retention in your laboratory include: * Proactive salary surveys. Examining wages is relatively inexpensive. Why wait until you have problems attracting and keeping employees--when it may be too late--before you examine salaries? By surveying and, if necessary, adjusting salaries ahead of time, you can avert many problems and convey a message of caring to your employees. * Flexible work hours. This strategy is a low- or no-cost feature. An eight-hour, five-day work week is not a magic timetable. If working a longer day in exchange for a shorter week suits your laboratory and is desired by some staff members, consider allowing them to do it. * Morale boosters. Certain obstacle to lower turnover cannot be overcome: employees' desire to advance their careers, continue their education, and have children. You can, however, try to prevent staff members from leaving for avoidable reasons such as unfair management, inexperienced supervisors, lack of advancement opportunities, and poor physical working conditions. It costs very little, if anything, to correct these deficiencies, thus eliminating a significant source of turnover.

Many problems related to the two Rs could be corrected by adding a third R to the equation: Revenue. As it is, many institutions are treading on the brink of unprofitability. The 'Riting's on the wall, and we'd better Read it: We must use our common sense to do the best we can, enhancing recruitment and retention with creative strategies that mean a lot to employees but require minimal financial 'Rithmetic.

James M. Maratea, M.A. The author is administrator of clinical laboratories at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Philadelphia, Pa.
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Title Annotation:recruitment and retention
Author:Maratea, James M.
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Article Type:column
Date:Nov 1, 1989
Words:612
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