Discussing workplace culture and retaining talent in Maryland

Blog post by Whitney Harmel

Whitney Harmel is the Director of Strategic Partnerships at the Maryland Chamber of Commerce. Through her career history and past role as chair of the Emerging Leaders United Council, she has over a decade of sales, leadership, and relationship-building experience.

On September 26, I had the honor of moderating BioBuzz’s Lunch & Learn Panel discussing “How Top Companies Attract, Engage, and Retain their BioHealth Workforce.” The panel consisted of experts in the biopharma space: Matt Brady, VP, Scheer Partners; Ashley Nash, Director of Recruiting and Talent Engagement, Workforce Genetics; Ed Radwinsky, Head of People Operations, RoosterBio Inc.; and Yulia Sayegh, Senior HR Manager, Senseonics Holdings Inc. A sincere thank you is extended to Chris Frew, president and CEO, BioBuzz, and principal and founder, Workforce Genetics, for inviting me to fill this role.

The panel was held in an inviting and collaborative workspace, fostering an environment for attendees to engage with the panelists. The session focused on workplace culture as well as questions from attendees regarding recruiting and hiring challenges and how to overcome them. In many ways, the challenges facing the biopharma workforce affect all of Maryland businesses. For instance, Matt Brady discussed how an organization’s facility has a strong impact on company culture, collaboration and idea sharing. He emphasized how it is important for organizations to not only plan for the future to find a space that will nurture growth and collaboration, but also to make intentional decisions over emotional reactions that take in to account how the organization desires to work. That is, working with employees to hear what would work well for them.

Ashley Nash and Ed Radwinsky both emphasized the importance of psychological safety in the workplace. This encompasses leaders implementing an open-door policy, encouraging employees to voice their opinions, and showing value in everyone – not just managers. As Dori Meinert, senior writer/editor for HR Magazine and HR News online, quotes in an article published by SHRM:

“The companies that do it well are those that create a safe place for innovation, a safe place for people to talk about issues in the workplace,” [Chester Elton, co-author of The Best Team Wins and co-founder of The Culture Works] says. They can ask questions, discuss problems or admit mistakes without fear of embarrassment or punishment.

Meinert includes other suggestions for supporting psychological safety in the workplace, such as “beginning conversations with a question, rather than a statement, [to] help set a collaborative tone.”

When discussing attracting and retaining talent in Maryland, Nash presented what she calls a “concierge service” for job candidates recruited out-of-state. This would include services such as a real estate agent for the relocation process. A suggestion like this considers how competitive the job market is, demonstrating the organization’s willingness to go the extra mile to assist and support the job candidate and their whole family.

Echoing themes in Meinert’s article, Yulia Sayegh shared the importance of communication and transparency in organizations. Breaking down silos in an organization that obstruct access to information is imperative to teamwork and collaboration in order to nurture employee buy-in, which is vital for growing companies.

Overall, there needs to be an urgency for organizations to consider factors such as corporate culture and employee feedback while taking into account what is realistic for their organization, considering the organization’s budget and bandwidth. What does remain consistent for all organizations, regardless of size, is the robust economic engine here in the Capital region. Understanding this draw highlights the importance of Maryland businesses to continue to prioritize corporate culture and structuring their organizations in a way that attracts and retains talent, making Maryland a better place to work and a better place to live.


Interested in learning more about how the Maryland Chamber of Commerce advocates for the health and biopharma industry? Click here.

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