Laboratory for Work/Life
HR Innovator, July/August 2004
by Vicki Powers
What started out as a business on the family farm in 1961—with
its founder's children at play in the workplace—has grown into
a company with more than 700 employees. Today, Lancaster Laboratories
still follows that family approach—with its benefits, workplace
culture, and on-site intergenerational center for children and
adults. And Margaret Stoltzfus, manager of human resources and
safety, has been a part of this effort for nearly 20 years.
credits Earl Hess, company founder and president until 1995, who
imparted the vision and values when he built the company, a Lancaster,
Pennsylvania-based provider of chemical and biological laboratory
services. He instilled those values in his management team and
served as a strong role model to management, employees, and Stoltzfus
"Earl had a high respect for employees-not just
while they were at work," Stoltzfus remarks. "He knew
they had lives outside of work and cared about that, too, by wanting
to help them balance it all.
"His philosophy was if you take care of your employees, they
will take care of your clients, and your company is going to succeed," Stoltzfus
continues. "I was given the opportunity and the support to
implement these innovative programs."
A Pioneering Move
Back in the mid-1980s, Lancaster Labs' workforce
comprised more than 60 percent women. Twenty-five percent of its
100 employees said they expected to start a family within five
years, according to survey results. Lancaster quickly realized
it needed to do something drastic to retain these them, and on-site
child care sounded attractive to those employees-a pioneering move back in
"Other HR professionals throughout Lancaster County raised
their eyebrows about what we were doing," Stoltzfus says. "They
didn't understand it and didn't think it would work based on concerns
about liability and keeping employees focused with their kids here.
They came back a few years later and recognized the success we
had and realized they needed to do something as well."
the organization partnered with an external child-care center provider,
and Lancaster renovated its office space for the on-site center.
Lancaster Laboratories Child Care Center opened in August 1986 with a license
for 29 children. Numbers gradually increased as employees' families grew.
Stoltzfus says Lancaster Laboratories was the third company in
the United States providing on-site child care. Now, it offers
a licensed program for 161 infants to school-age children, in addition
to full-day Kindergarten and summer daycare. The organization subsidizes
the center each year, and employees receive a discount averaging
Before Lancaster added its on-site child care program,
many first-time moms quit working to stay home or moved to another
organization, according to Lancaster's president, Wilson Hershey.
This caused quite a bit of turnover. Today, turnover is 8 percent
companywide, absenteeism is lower, and 96 percent of its new moms
return to work in three months.
"Some people say Earl Hess
made a decision with his heart, which is true, but there certainly
was a business reason right beside that," Hershey says. "I
believe it makes sense to be family friendly and employee friendly. If employees
can concentrate and work without distractions, they will be better employees."
says Lancaster has never required the bureaucracy and spread sheets that
some companies require to prove ROI on its HR efforts. It knows
it has the retention, and the numbers don't have to be proven.
had employees seek us out because of the programs in place-just
because of what it says about the company-whether they need those
benefits or not," Stoltzfus
Lancaster also is the only company to boast a day care for elderly
adults right alongside its child care center. Lancaster Generations
Adult Day Care Center opened in late 1991 with space for up to
40 individuals. More community members are currently enrolled rather
than employees' family members, but it's providing a necessary
niche that employees may need at any time in the future. This intergenerational
facility offers a truly remarkable benefit for both the children
and adults as they join together for events and activities. The
adults' eyes light up when the kids come in for "Show and
Great Place to Work
Lancaster Laboratories has earned a spot on Working
Mother's "Top 100
Companies for Working Mothers" list for 11 years. It earned "Top
50 Best Places to Work in Pennsylvania" for two years as well
as numerous other awards. How does Lancaster Laboratories create such
a great place to work? Much of it involves communicating with employees
through surveys and focus groups to determine their wants and needs.
is certainly one of the top drivers for us earning commitment and
loyalty from employees," Stoltzfus relates. "Surveys
have been very valuable to get that input and learn what employees
need and create programs in response to those needs."
administers a benefits survey every couple of years and has conducted
focus groups off and on for many years. It held a round of focus
groups in 2003 asking employees what would make the workplace
more enjoyable. One survey outcome resulted in an onsite ATM machine.
organization also sponsors a "Great Place to Work" committee
that is represented by employees throughout the company. This group
meets regularly to focus on making Lancaster a great place to work
by planning activities that reach a wide variety of employees.
One of the most memorable events to date is Lancaster Labs' 40th
anniversary celebration in 2001. This "Back to
the '60s" celebration provided a carnival-like atmosphere
for employees to enjoy during work hours. Tie-dyed t-shirts with
the Lancaster logo, a dunking tank, a disc jockey spinning tunes,
costume contest, water balloon contest, and food are just a sampling
of the elements that contributed to the day's success. Departments
also competed against each other in trivia contests focused on
the 1960s. Employees raised money for their favorite charity as
they voted with dollars on who to dunk in the dunking booth.
talked about this day forever," Stoltzfus says. "The
event went such a long way toward employees feeling cared about.
This was a huge accomplishment because we operate on three shifts,
and we want employees to feel they have the same opportunities."
Schreyer, a 13-year veteran at Lancaster Laboratories, has transitioned
from an entry-level employee to part of the senior leadership team
as manager of pharmaceutical project management. Schreyer also
participates on the Great Place to Work committee and enjoys brainstorming
how to have fun at work.
"People have different ideas of work
and how to have fun at work," Schreyer
states. "It's very enjoyable to work as co-workers but it feels
like family here. That underlies what the values are at Lancaster.
It's easier to do work within a family atmosphere."
credits the opportunities and benefits through Lancaster Labs that
helped her move up in the organization. The organization paid for
her MBA program, and she used on-site child care for her daughters
when they were six-weeks old.
"I couldn't imagine going back
to work in six weeks without having an on-site child care center," Schreyer
says. "I get to have lunch with my daughter
at work. I couldn't imagine how to better incorporate work life
and family life."
Employees also get involved with their on-site
children for the fall festival, Christmas caroling in the halls,
Easter egg hunts, and various parades.
Lancaster Laboratories expects much from its employees,
who often have to give extra hours during peak times. Yet when
employees need time off, the company supports them in return. In
fact, it modified its full-time status with benefits in 1996 from
35 hours to 30 hours per week. Its cafeteria benefits plan enables
employees to choose what's important in their life and adapt the benefits
to fit-such as the option to purchase an additional two weeks of time off.
Stoltzfus says Lancaster has transitioned from being "family-friendly" to "employee-friendly," since
working moms aren't the only ones who need flexibility.
"I believe there
is a willingness to give extra because we're helping employees balance
their needs," Stoltzfus says. "It's a give and take.
We certainly reap the rewards, and it's hard to put a price tag
What accomplishment is Stoltzfus most proud of in
her 19 years at Lancaster Labs? Her first thought is her tremendous
staff with a "make-it-happen" attitude.
Personally, she recalls the start-up of the cafeteria benefits program that
proved time consuming yet extremely satisfying and rewarding based on how
well employees received it.
"Earl built the company on the
vision and values," Stoltzfus says. "I've
had the opportunity to help those visions become a reality."