Taking on the Transition: Going from Lab Tech to Lab Manager

LTS Health offers a management course that is specifically tailored to laboratories. The Laboratory Management Online course is developed by experienced laboratory professionals and was created in response to a growing need for laboratory-relevant management development. Feedback on this course has been remarkable; from the course rating of 94% by graduates, to success stories and graduate testimonials from clients and participants.

We asked our clients why they found the course to be so effective and their response was simple: to realise a return on investment from management training, you need to harness the all-important combination of capability and willingness in your managers. And that is exactly what the Laboratory Management Online course offers.

Why is it often so difficult to develop confident, motivated managers in the laboratory?

The best technical experts in the laboratory are promoted to managerial roles with the intention to recognise their efforts and ultimately retain them. Yet when the expectations of new managers don’t match the reality of the role, these key employees often become despondent. A study by Rice University found that junior managers were likely to have unrealistic expectations of management, including fewer deadlines, more money and less work in their new management role – and when a very different reality sets in, it’s no wonder that new laboratory managers feel overwhelmed by the position.

“We have found that new laboratory managers often ask to step down because it is a more demanding and sometimes unenjoyable job for them,” says Vasu Gounden, Autolab Manager at Lancet Laboratories. “We needed to address the challenge of equipping laboratory managers with the right skills – and ensure that we had people in our ranks willing and able to be effective managers.”

The key to developing staff in the laboratory – and managerial staff in particular – lies in ensuring that motivation levels match capability. Developing competent managers can start with training, and management training that is relevant to the laboratory environment ensures easier uptake of knowledge and skills. Practical examples and activities embed this information and instil confidence. This results in laboratory managers who are willing and able to create real value in the laboratory.

Keep learning relevant

The financial aspects of a management course can often be disconnected from the unique realities that laboratories face. Content is almost always focused on the inner financial workings of a for-profit business – yet many laboratory income streams and cost management efforts are driven by a mission to improve quality clinical outputs rather than ensure an increase in profit. Making a challenging subject such as finance relevant to new or junior laboratory managers can be a challenge.

A Stanford University study by Hammond et al found that a familiar environment or context has a significant impact on how well someone learns and recalls information.

A Stanford University study by Hammond et al found that a familiar environment or context has a significant impact on how well someone learns and recalls information.

The learning environment – which includes both the ‘classroom’ and the content taught – has a major impact on a student’s ability to learn and recall. In a Stanford University report, the environment was found to be one of three key factors that impact learning and development. John Dewey, the founder of the first laboratory school, even stated that “when education is based upon experience and educative experience is seen to be a social process, the situation changes radically. The teacher loses the position of external boss or dictator but takes on that of leader of group activities.”

Another study found that a learner’s memory is best when the context in which information is retrieved matches the context in which it was encoded. In short: familiar environments help people to be better at recalling what they’ve learnt. Aspiring laboratory managers would be much more effective at learning and recalling newly introduced management concepts when these were presented in the familiar laboratory environment.

Put learning into practice

A good case keeps the class discussion grounded upon some of the stubborn facts that must be faced in real life situations.
— Paul Lawrence, Harvard Business School

When industry relevant case studies and activities are used, it becomes easier to learn even the most challenging subjects. Studies have found that 98% of people learn more effectively through case studies. This learning is made concrete when coupled with relevant activities and when conducted with peers. At LTS Learning, our Laboratory Management in Practice program and Laboratory Management Online course does just that, ensuring that people can learn and develop through case studies and activities grounded in the relevant laboratory environment.

Generate a return on investment, as soon as possible

Ultimately, development is done with the bigger picture in mind: ensuring that the people who manage your lab have a positive influence on quality, turn-around time and cost management. To accomplish this, a training course should ensure knowledgeable, capable and confident managers. A laboratory-relevant course or program with peer activities and applicable case studies can prove to be exactly what is required to develop the future leaders of your laboratory. With the Laboratory Management in Practice program and Laboratory Management Online course, we develop the critical skills necessary for managers to make a valuable difference to the business of their lab.