Introduction

Creating a supportive environment in which statisticians and programmers can thrive is intrinsically linked to the quality that the team can ultimately deliver.  Proper investment in staff development assures better outcomes for employees, the organisation, and its customers. Beyond this, nurturing our employees will benefit the broader life science community by equipping the next generation of talent with the right outlook and skills to tackle the challenges of the future.  In this blog, we lay out the six fundamental building blocks of a positive workplace that we strive to put in place at Veramed to help our teams thrive. 

1. Recruit with values in mind

At the outset, we believe that it’s crucial to hire people into the organisation who share our cultural values as well as match the technical requirements for a particular role.   

At Veramed, we typically look for people who are motivated to develop themselves and who we believe will fit well within our open, quality and customer-focused culture.  Our organisational culture has cascaded from our founders, who remain very hands-on and active within the business, at all levels of the organisation. At the hiring stage, we are looking for people who see a unique opportunity to join an exciting environment and positively buy into Veramed, its values, and the way that we support our staff. 

2. Promote a culture where questions are encouraged

Providing the freedom and space to both ask and answer questions is one of the most important commitments we can make as a company and is a vital element in building organisational trust. One of the points we emphasise when onboarding new graduates, in particular, is that within the education system, studying at an undergraduate and post-graduate level, you are often in intense competition with your colleagues.  When entering the workplace, we need to step away from that mindset and adopt a more collaborative, open approach to promote the success of the team as a whole. We need to retrain ourselves to realise that the act of asking questions is not a weakness and in fact, benefits both the asker and the respondent.   

Ultimately, we want to create a work environment that gives people the space to share the knowledge they have and encourages them to support their colleagues’ work as well as their own. It’s a careful balance because, at the same time, we don’t want to discourage people from creating solutions for themselves.  Indeed, as we all know, programmers and statisticians often have a deeply ingrained problem-solving approach to their work and will take the time to grapple with an issue before asking for input. Nevertheless, it’s beneficial for all to create an open culture whereby if a team member is stuck on a task, they know that they can turn freely to experienced people around them to help get to the answers that they need.

3. Embed mentorship at the heart of the organisation

A mentorship program is particularly valuable for graduate entrants and helps to formalise a route for asking questions.  An assigned mentor is usually a few years more experienced than the mentee and acts as a reliable, friendly source of support as well as a role model and inspiration for the mentee’s future development. For more seasoned team members, mentorship may come more informally through relationships with a line manager, project lead or even associates from the wider industry.

As part of a mentorship framework, it’s also essential to make sure the integral role of the line manager is clear to everyone – they are not just in place to sign off timesheets or approve annual leave.  A line manager is also a coach and advocate who helps their team members reach their full potential and take their careers in the most fulfilling direction.

4. Put skills development in the hands of your team.

Skills development is not a one-size-fits-all and needs to adapt in line with individual employees’ needs as well as those of the organisation. By sharing a skills matrix that details the capabilities required for all roles, we can empower any team member, no matter their level to proactively manage their skills development and address any gaps.  This approach assures transparency for careers planning and puts progression into the hands of the employees themselves. Our talent development strategy should provide the scope for those that want to progress through a traditional management career path while acknowledging that others may prefer a more technical route. We need people at all levels within the organisation to perform well and should provide the right tools to develop individuals in a way that is best for them.   

5. Invest in a range of training

Investment in ongoing training for technical skills, company-specific methods, and soft skills is essential for personal and organisational growth.  For example, at Veramed, we have created a continuous training programme that encompasses a range of aspects. For technical training, we organise specific sessions that break down the various elements of routine statistics and programming tasks, as well as training in client and Veramed standards.  For soft skills training, we regularly bring in external experts which complements our internal programmes and further support our employees by encouraging attendance at industry conferences and single-day events. As important as the content of the training on offer, is the fact that we enable employees to take time away from their day-to-day work and participate in these learning programmes.  Commitment to learning is an essential building block in ensuring the quality of both our deliverables and client interactions as the company grows. 

6. Ensure continual feedback

Whether positive or constructive, there should be regular, open feedback to build trust, and allow for ongoing improvement.  While formal rewards programmes have a place – and at Veramed, we take the opportunity during our summer get-togethers each year to present official employee awards- everyday recognition from peers and managers is also critical.  In fact, in our experience, the latter is often more instrumental than traditional awards in shaping an individual’s feelings about the workplace.   

For example, when a client shares feedback about a good piece of work that one of the team has done, we should aim to pass that through swiftly to the colleague involved.  On the other hand, even if the feedback is more constructive, it should be shared equally promptly to avoid situations where less than positive comments come as a surprise at appraisal time.  Feedback is vital for an employee’s continual development throughout the year and should not be confined to the annual review process. Following these steps with commitment creates a culture of goodwill in which people are happy to go the extra mile for customers and have the opportunity to reach their full career potential depending on their own goals.  No less importantly, it also helps to make the workplace a vibrant and enjoyable environment. Work is a place where we can learn, enjoy each other’s company and have fun while applying our knowledge and expertise to help advance drug development and improve patients’ lives.