What Skills Are Important for
a Laboratory Manager?
Laboratory managers play a crucial role in managing laboratory operations. They are responsible for using managerial skills and knowledge to ensure that the laboratory's routine procedures are safe and efficient.
A laboratory manager’s role includes scheduling staff, approving supply orders, and ensuring safety standards are upheld within the lab at all times. Since most laboratory operations are sensitive, the expectation on managers to oversee these procedures is high.
The following are some of the most important skills that are crucial to the role of a laboratory manager:
1. Budget Management
In most instances, every laboratory has its procedures to help managers stay in control of their budgets. These methods typically focus on tracking spending against time. A great spreadsheet application will help you do this. The software can track monthly spending to keep all projects and activities within a budget.
However, the relationship between time and spending is not always linear. Some spending may not go according to plan because of project milestone deadlines, reassignment of project members to other duties after completing their milestones, and bringing new staff or consultants on board to enable the attainment of milestones.
For instance, imagine a situation where no one in the laboratory is capable of achieving a particular milestone in a project. A competent lab manager should time the hiring to ensure that the individual is brought on board early enough to work productively on the project milestone.
When new managers are hired, they often inherit the budget plans of their predecessors. However, the new lab manager needs to develop a team to create suitable budgets for the next financial year.
2. Managing R&D Projects
A laboratory needs to keep records of all its operations, whether tests, research, invoices, or other daily tasks. Therefore, a laboratory manager can accomplish this with R&D project management software or Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS). It can improve the laboratory’s overall productivity by efficiently managing samples, test results, and other associated data.
While providing total control, the software can standardize procedures, tests, and workflow. It also enables the integration of instruments to support automatic test data collection. However, the staff needs to be trained to operate and calibrate the instruments.
Most R&D management software promotes cooperation and communication between parties involved in outsourced analyses. Apart from supporting the automatic loading of data from third-party entities into the system, it also initiates safe transfer or entry from these entities.
Additionally, such software allows labs to pre-plan tasks or samples. When required, a sample is automatically created in the system. It then notifies technicians that the samples are ready for collection and further processing. This feature is especially vital for laboratories that make samples regularly.
3. Communication Skills
Proper communication skills are essential for lab managers. Informal and formal communication skills ensure excellent team morale and promote a thriving working environment. A laboratory manager needs to communicate effectively with technicians, scientists, and other staff at all levels of operations.
A lab manager also has to collaborate with other stakeholders and executives to guarantee that they attain specific goals. They are also tasked with scheduling in-person meetings with staff to iron out any issues before they evolve into problems. They must therefore sharpen their skills and aspire to be excellent communicators.
It is the responsibility of the lab manager to create a positive environment in the lab, encourage subordinates, and be approachable. Having positive formal or informal communication will make the staff feel valued. This can have a positive impact on their productivity and their overall welfare.
Planning Effective Meetings
Meetings often demand intense planning and follow-ups to be an effective management method. While still in the initial planning stages, it is vital to outline the meeting objectives and the outcomes you expect. This involves laying out the steps necessary to make the meeting successful.
The next step is putting together a meeting agenda that will accomplish your targets. You can also use the agenda to determine the meeting’s attendance list. If you want to hold an interactive session, you should send copies of the agenda requesting the attendees' input a few days before the meeting.
The meeting's objective should feature first on your agenda. It plays a crucial role in preparing attendees adequately to be in a position to offer helpful input. You may sometimes need to seek the services of a meeting facilitator. These facilitators can help keep the meeting focused and on schedule by pointing out overlooked topics or areas.
Before the meeting, it is also vital to determine the right technology for the meeting. For instance, you can decide whether you will use LCS projectors, whiteboards, or flip charts. You may also opt to prepare the meeting minutes yourself or appoint someone as a scribe. Most people also prefer holding meetings on online platforms such as Zoom instead of physical sessions.
5. Developing Relevant New Skills
Most companies require new laboratory managers to undertake additional courses in management techniques. This practice is not, however, prevalent in smaller firms. Also, most companies scaled down their training programs during the coronavirus pandemic and have not restored them yet.
In most cases, the courses are not customized for laboratory managers. This means that you have to employ a creative application to the taught skills. What are your options in the absence of formal training programs? The best choice would be to use your manager as a guide and mentor. You can also consult other newly promoted managers to share common challenges and find solutions.
You need to continue learning and growing even if you understand your current duties. Constantly take on assignments that improve your abilities and knowledge about the laboratory and the industry it operates.
A career in laboratory management can be challenging. You will be tasked with important duties that require focus and integrity. However, the skills mentioned above will make the task easier and help you perform your duties effectively. You should always maintain great relationships with your superiors, peers, and subordinates to have a successful laboratory management career.
About the Author
Cristina Par is a content specialist with a passion for writing articles that bridge the gap between brands and their audiences. She believes that high-quality content plus the right link building strategies can turn the tables for businesses small and large.