There are some well-known expensive ways to make scientists happy: buy them lots of equipment and put it in fancy new buildings, pay them lots of money to work there. Come to think of it, that works on just about anyone. But there are some cheap ways to make them happy, too, and companies are really hurting themselves if they don’t pick up on them.
Recognizing what the people in the lab do doesn’t cost very much. Odds are excellent (odds are downright overwhelming) that the people downstream in regulatory affairs and marketing have no idea of who the people were that came up with the latest drug they’re trying to get over the top. Some of them, in a large company, may have only a rough idea of where it came from at all.
Let ‘em know, but do it the right way. Company newsletters get thrown away, mass e-mail get deleted. No, next time there’s a department-wide meeting over there, give ten minutes or so to bring up some of the people who discovered and worked on the current hot compound. If one of them is up for it, have them say a few words. Seeing the hordes of people working on their compound will cheer up the scientists, and seeing where the compounds came from will be a new experience for marketing. Human contact is good; it’s harder to let people down after you’ve met them and seen them.
You can run this in a negative sense, too, naturally, if you’re so inclined. Get one of the higher-ups in the company to mispronounce the name of a discovery project or two during a big speech, and watch what happens. I’ve seen it myself – it works like bug spray on morale, and one of the reasons is that everyone knows that it’s such an easy mistake to avoid.
Not being a hard case about time is another one. You’d think that this would cost money, as people abuse your generous spirit, but for the most part, it’s the opposite. I knew a lab at a former company where the lab head immediately swiveled to look at the wall clock whenever an associate arrived in the morning, or left in the afternoon. This person couldn’t seem to help it. They had to check to make sure they were getting their full day’s work out of the underlings. Morning, evening, check that clock. What did this buy them? A lab full of people who made sure to never set anything up that would take them one minute past Official Quitting Time, and who made the absolute most out of any sanctioned opportunity to not be in the lab with their boss. Not the outcome you want. The same goes, on a larger scale, for vacation days. Slip people a day here and there when they need it, and they’ll work when they’re there.
Keeping people informed isn’t that expensive either. I’ve worked in places where, once a compound went off to the clinic, it vanished off the edge of the earth as far as the people in the discovery labs could see. There was one time when a drug that had been years in development was canned, and chemists who had spent many of those years only heard about it by third-hand rumor. That’s just not right, and it sure didn’t improve anyone’s mood. Losing a drug from the clinic is never a happy occasion, for sure, but you don’t want to add to the pain. . .