Personnel costs are a major component of the cost of operating an animal care and use program, but information generally is lacking on the extent and variation of these costs in different program environments and on useful strategies for cost containment. Adequate staffing is essential to provide high-quality animal care to ensure animal health and well-being, to comply with regulatory guidelines, and to retain public confidence. As emphasized in the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (NRC 1996a), the institution should hire sufficient qualified staff to ensure proper care and use of animals in research, teaching, and testing. The factors that influence facility staffing needs include size and type of institution, administrative arrangements for providing animal care and ancillary support activities, physical-plant characteristics, number and species of animals maintained, and the nature of animal research use. Meeting staffing needs is becoming difficult because a high demand for skilled and unskilled labor exists. Furthermore, there is a growing shortage of experienced, trained laboratory animal medicine veterinarians because of increased demand and a decrease in training positions. The 1999 ARS, conducted by the Yale University School of Medicine's Section of Comparative Medicine, does not contain sufficient details to determine a staffing configuration most likely to produce a cost-effective, high-quality animal care and use program in an institution, but it does provide useful information on the general description of contemporary staffing practices and serves as the basis of the committee's comments and recommendations in this regard.
According to the 1999 ARS, 61 responding institutions have a director and 49 of 63 function with at least a director and a business manager. Many organizations (42 of 63 reporting) also had personnel in assistant-or associate-director positions. In a majority of the 61 organizations with a director, the director was a veterinarian; only seven of 61 institutions indicated that a nonveterinarian held the position of director. That finding reflects the recommendation in the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals that a veterinarian with training and experience in laboratory animal medicine and science direct a program. With the growth of research animal programs in the last 20 years and the incorporation of technical expertise from research laboratories into centralized research support efforts, the management of personnel, material, physical plant and financial functions has become increasingly complex. That has stimulated the integration of professional managers into the modern research animal organization to allow veterinary professionals to concentrate on scientific collaboration, enhancing research services, advancing the program of veterinary care, institutional interactions, and other dimensions of program direction. Use of full-time or part-time professional business managers is key to the development of sound business practices that could result in significant cost savings.
Veterinarians usually held the positions of assistant or associate director; and in 16 of the 42 organizations reporting in the 1999 ARS, two or more positions were allocated in these job categories. Other types of administrative personnel represented in the survey were, in decreasing order, purchasing agents (30 of 63 institutions), regulatory or compliance personnel (20 of 63 institutions), and informatics specialists (19 of 63 institutions). For each of those job categories, a few institutions had two or more people serving in the position.
In most organizations, according to the 1999 ARS and the CIC Study, personnel costs constitute about 50-65% of the total operational costs of the animal care and use program and are often covered in part by institutional subsidies. This does not reduce an institution 's overall cost, but it does reduce the cost base used in the calculation of per diems for cost recovery. Most institutions participating in the 1999 ARS applied subsidies to the support of administrative personnel: 44 of 55 organizations responding indicated that the director's salary was supported at least partially by institutional subsidy. Moreover, 26 organizations provided 100% of the director's salary through institutional funds, and 17 institutions funded an additional one to three professional positions through institutional subsidies. Of the 17, 10 had one additional position, one
institution had two, and six institutions had three. Furthermore, 45 of 56 applied subsidies to other professional staff.
Those findings suggest that most institutions appreciate the importance of a sound professional administrative core that provides direction and oversight of their animal care and use program to facilitate animal research activities and to address regulatory compliance. Despite the importance of the senior administrative positions, however, a substantial number of them—43 of 258 (16.7%)—were not filled, according to the 1999 survey. A possible explanation is that institutions are having problems in finding and recruiting qualified personnel or are willing to tolerate vacancies to control costs.
ANIMAL CARE STAFF
The number and quality of animal care personnel are crucial to an institution's ability to maintain the high-quality animal care and use program necessary in today's sophisticated research environment, and institutions appear to make a concerted effort to keep these positions filled. For example, of the 1,413 positions for animal care personnel allocated among the institutions participating in the 1999 ARS, only 71 (5%) were unfilled at the time of the survey.
According to the 1999 ARS, institutions most often use supervisors ' assessments to determine appropriate staffing levels for animal care personnel. Time-effort reporting was the second most common method of determination. There are no universally recognized quantitative standards in the field to assist supervisors in determining appropriate staffing levels independently of local facility conditions, species, and types of housing systems. For example, even for a particular caging condition for mice (microbarrier cages with water bottles), the number of cages that technicians were reported to service weekly generally ranged from several hundred to more than 1,200. That suggests that programs wishing to increase cage-change productivity would benefit from exploring such factors as facility design, availability and use of appropriate ancillary equipment, teamwork concepts and division of tasks, and the degree of consolidation of animal populations.
The levels of total managerial and technical staffing dedicated to the animal care functions reported by institutions participating in the 1999 ARS were compared among three groups depending on the size of the mouse population. The 53 institutions that had an average daily census of more than 1,000 mice were divided into three groups depending on the average daily census of mice. Group 1 (23 institutions) had fewer than 10,000 mice each; group 2 (16 institutions) had 10,000 to 30,000 mice; and group 3 (14 institutions) had 30,000 or more mice. There were no statisti-
cally significant differences in the average daily census for any other animal species; that strengthens the conclusion that any differences found could be attributed to factors related to differences in mouse census (see Table 10a d, Appendix C). The total management category consisted of positions described as senior manager, assistant manager, regional supervisor, and training coordinator. The total technical group consisted of positions of animal care technologist, animal care technician, and assistant animal care technician. The means of the full-time equivalents (FTEs) for total managers in the 1999 ARS for groups 1, 2, and 3 were 2.68, 4.58, and 5.95, respectively; and of the FTEs for total technical staff, 15.3, 20.9, and 42.2, respectively (see Figure 1 and Table 8b, Appendix C). Those data from the 1999 ARS show that larger programs realized economies of scale in managerial staffing. The ratio of total technical staff to total animal care management staff was 7.1 in group 3, significantly higher than the 4.6 in group 2 and 5.7 in group 1; 4.6 and 5.7 were not significantly different; large programs reduce costs by having higher technical-to-managerial staff ratios than smaller programs.
Technician training is important: it produces a competent and efficient workforce that is better able to support an institution's research mission. It can be accomplished through on-the-job training or other inhouse training efforts or through staff participation in a national certification program sponsored by the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS). AALAS certification is available on three technical levels: assistant laboratory animal technician (ALAT), laboratory animal technician (LAT), and laboratory animal technologist (LATG). AALAS also confers management certification through its Institute of Laboratory Animal Management.
Of the 63 institutions included in the 1999 ARS, only six did not have any AALAS-certified staff; 488 of 1,573 (31%) people in management, supervisory, and technical positions reported were certified at some level by AALAS. The education required for certification by AALAS enhances the performance of animal care technicians by enabling them to operate with greater technical competence, assume additional job responsibilities, and advance their careers. That statement is supported indirectly by the certification rates calculated by job category in the 1999 ARS. Overall, 172 of 240 (72%) of those in management positions had some level of AALAS certification—65% of senior managers, 83% of assistant managers, 68% of regional supervisors and 100% of training coordinators. Training coordinators had the highest rate of LATG certification (13 of 15, or 87%) followed by senior managers (38 of 72, or 53%). In contrast, only 316 of 1,333
(24%) of those in technical positions were AALAS-certified. In some settings, technical expertise demonstrated by certification has eased the burden of regulatory oversight while bringing greater uniformity to animal care and experimental procedures. For those reasons, institutions should encourage their staff members, through job promotions or other incentives, to participate in the AALAS certification programs.
The increasing sophistication of research animal use and the increasingly complex legislation, guidelines, and policies governing use of animals in research require skilled employees. The use of inhouse resources and mechanisms for training employees might constitute an effective cost-containment strategy by improving the efficiency, effectiveness, and motivation of the work force. According to the 1999 ARS, 89% of the 63 institutions participating in the study had inhouse training programs. In addition to excellent commercially available training materials, a wide array of free materials can be found on the Internet. The latter, found on various university and industry animal care and use program Web pages, can be easily transformed into useful training materials. Cross-training employees is effective in providing diversity to the daily routine and producing a more flexible workforce. Many institutions have noted that well-trained personnel who are cognizant of and engaged in their mission for the institution make a more effective workforce.
TEAM MANAGEMENT: A CASE STUDY
Although widely accepted and practiced in many environments, the application of “total quality management” (or “continuous improvement”) concepts to animal care in research institutions is relatively new. On the basis of personal communication with animal care program directors, research institution administrators have recently begun to use team management to organize and manage research animal husbandry; their efficiency has increased, the cost of care has declined, and morale has improved. Because of reports of considerable success, including the experience at the University of Michigan discussed below, this area deserves further study.
At the University of Michigan, the team concept has been used as an animal care management technique for 5 years. There, animal care technicians, animal care managers, veterinary technicians, the veterinary staff, and the administration have, on the basis of customer and staff satisfaction and improved morale, become convinced that it is a superior management method. Although this method might prove to be widely adaptable across diverse recruitment and staffing conditions, it should be noted that attainment of a BS or Associate Degree in Animal Technology was a requirement for employment on the animal care staff at the University of
Michigan. It is interesting to note that 9 of 63 institutions in the 1999 ARS survey offered initial salaries that were higher than the starting salary of $11.25 per hour offered at Michigan.
Some 40 animal caretakers are organized into five husbandry teams. Each team cares for animals in a facility or, in the case of small facilities, in several facilities. One of the teams, the floater team, provides personnel to all teams during member absences or when special projects are conducted. None of these teams include cage-wash personnel, but recently the cage-wash crew has formed a team that includes cage-washers from several buildings. Team leaders meet with the animal care manager and assistant manager once a week for 1-2 hours. Team suggestions and comments are discussed at these meetings, and planning, analysis, and decision-making are based on those suggestions and comments.
Each team has a permanent and a temporary team leader. The temporary team leader is a husbandry technician who has shown promise as a leader and who would like the opportunity to assist in leading the team. Both the permanent and temporary team leaders' duties include training of team members, communicating with investigators, ensuring sufficient supplies, and timekeeping. The temporary-team-leader position rotates every few months, and this provides an opportunity to groom technicians to assume permanent leadership responsibilities. Both team leaders also have daily animal care duties.
Each team meets for a few minutes each morning and has a longer scheduled meeting every 2 weeks. At the morning meetings, adjustments are made in the daily schedule for each team member, especially if some members are absent. At the longer meetings, each team member has an opportunity to place items on the agenda for discussion; the animal care manager, a veterinary technician, a veterinary clinician, and the director or an assistant director usually attends these meetings. The agenda items cover a wide array of topics ranging from animal care standard operating procedures to financial and administrative planning. Team members are encouraged to speak out with no fear of punishment. There is a strong effort to establish consensus regarding new procedures and practices that the team might implement.
The team as a unit is responsible for all aspects of animal care in the facility or facilities assigned to the team. Workload is apportioned to the members of the team through mutual consent of the members. Requests for additional personnel come from the team. Each member has a stake in the successes or failures of the team, and all members participate in problem solving when new challenges or opportunities are placed before the team. As team management concepts have become more accepted, managers, team leaders, and animal care staff have undergone shifts in outlook that have strengthened and streamlined animal care. The managers
and team leaders see themselves as leaders and coaches more than as managers and controllers. The animal care technicians see themselves more as partners that are empowered to shape the work. Problem solving has become a unifying experience, and the teams have taken on a more customer-oriented focus. Cooperation and participation have become normal, and more energy is focused on meeting needs of the researchers. Turnover rate among animal care technicians at Michigan is high for two reasons: first, some leave to take a position that uses more of their BS training; second, some are hired by the scientific laboratories to manage animal-using activities. Two years after implementation of the team concept, the University of Michigan was able to reduce per diem rates for rodents by 50%, and customer complaints dropped to less than half their previous level.
Organization of husbandry has been so successful that several other groups in the animal facility have also organized themselves into teams. These groups include the veterinary medical care team, the administration team, and the institutional animal care and use office team.
The university strongly supports team management by providing team-leader training and providing facilitators to assist teams in organizing. The university also provides awards for the best team effort campuswide. The university administration sees the principal goals of team management as respecting people and ideas, managing by fact, and satisfying customers.
SALARIES, BENEFITS AND INCENTIVES
The 1999 ARS explored many aspects of staffing of animal research facilities. Animal care managers and others might find it helpful to compare the survey responses to the situation in their institutions (Table 8f, Appendix C). In the surveyed group, the standard workweek was 39.3 hours (range, 32.5-42 hours). The average entry-level hourly wage for animal care staff was $9.05 (range, $6.02-$14.14). The average annual salary for animal care staff as a whole was $22,268 (range, $15,149-$34,000). Fringe benefits averaged 26.6% of salary (range, 14-39%). A possible explanation for the observed variation is region-to-region variation in labor availability and prevailing salaries. At the 23 institutions where animal care staff were all or mostly unionized (Table 8d, Appendix C), mean direct salary was $23,697; at the 31 institutions where staff were largely or completely nonunionized, annual salary was $21,173, a statistically significant difference (p<0.05). In the institutions surveyed, the mean number of vacation days for animal care staff was 15.6/year, plus 11.9 paid sick days, 9.7 paid holidays, 0.9 other recess days, and 1.6 personal days, for a total of nearly 40 days/year.
Recruitment and retention of animal care technicians have become major issues for most institutions. Animal care managers were asked (1999 ARS) to rank a variety of factors that were potentially important in recruitment and retention of personnel as high, moderate, low, or no importance (Table 8g, 8h, Appendix C). For recruitment of animal technical staff, starting salary and earning potential were ranked as highly or moderately important in 68% of the 53 institutions that used mice, while benefits were highly or moderately important in only 25% of institutions. Recruitment of trained, experienced staff members was seen as highly or moderately important by 66% of the 53 institutions. Job responsibility, career opportunities, regional competition, and geographic location were highly or moderately important in recruitment in 53%, 60%, 57%, and 42% of the institutions, respectively.
With respect to retention of animal care technicians, animal care managers rated earning potential as the most important factor (70%) followed by career opportunity (65%), regional competition (62%), working conditions (53%), and benefits (25%) (Table 8i, 8j, Appendix C). Retention of animal care technicians is important because well-trained, experienced animal care technicians are key to a program's ability to deliver efficient and quality service. High turnover ratios are expensive because of high training costs and lack of productivity of newly hired technicians.
OUTSOURCING ANIMAL CARE SERVICES
Outsourcing, the use of leased labor, is used as a strategy in some organizations to attain labor-cost savings and unburden internal administrative, supervisory, and regulatory systems. Only three of the institutions participating in the 1999 ARS reported having experience with outsourcing, so the evaluation of this strategy as an effective cost-containment method is not possible. Use of outsourcing is more widespread among government agencies that have animal care and use activities and in the industrial laboratory animal sector. The benefit of this approach is that it allows an institution to maintain a specialized labor pool with defined job qualifications, higher commitment and productivity, and lower turnover rates than might be achieved through internal administrative-personnel recruitment and development mechanisms (Houghtling 1998). There are anecdotal reports that—through skillful contract negotiation, clear bench-marking, and careful attention to approval of overtime requests—institutions have been able to effect substantial labor-cost savings and assemble an effective and well-qualified workforce by outsourcing. However, published information on this approach in the laboratory animal industry is insufficient to support a recommendation.
In summary, the major findings and opinions expressed in this chapter are as follows:
Most institutions maintain and subsidize a critical administrative nucleus of professional veterinary and/or management personnel involved in program oversight. The data from the 1999 ARS did not permit the evaluation of the administrative configurations against program quality performance measures. The vacancy rate for these positions was 16.7%, suggesting the need for enhanced development, recruitment, and retention efforts to ensure sound program leadership.
Large mouse-based animal care and use programs are able to operate with higher ratios of technical staff to animal care management staff and so to realize an economy of scale in managerial staffing.
Inhouse training was the predominant mode (89%) used for preparing the workforce among the institutions participating in the 1999 ARS. Certification at some level by the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science was more prevalent among management positions (72%) than among technical positions (24%).
The application of the team management approach (University of Michigan study) suggests that institutions should be encouraged to apply modern management techniques to enhance investigator (customer) satisfaction, improve employee performance and involvement, and potentially reduce costs. This approach may be more easily implemented by hiring and retaining employees with training and skills in personnel management.