We’ve had a number of discussions on the mechanics of employee management ,ranging from the requirement of good employment manuals and knowing how to fire the right way to the necessity of employment practices liability insurance. Many of those issues can be taught and organized into a system, but where art meets science for business owners and executives, which practice owners are, is the life-long learning process of being a good manager and leader.
Have the Basics in Place
As referenced above, the first step is having a system in place including well-drafted policy manuals and a formal hiring process. Hiring someone who is not a fit for your practice is a disservice to your patients, your business, and the person you hire. Perhaps more importantly, it creates a pattern of order, establishes expectations, and helps shield against liability.
Use Probationary Periods
It gives both employee and manager a chance to work and learn together and have measurable performance criteria in mind that applies equally. A probationary period may also allow an employee who feels they are not a fit for the practice, their duties, or the personalities to move on in a graceful way before a problem starts — an ideal situation.
Empower and Inform
Given the chance, most people want to excel and be respected for their contributions. Many employees fail to live up to expectations because managers fail to establish and monitor them in a constructive way. Even employees with a great deal of experience have a work pattern and an understanding of what their job is that may be very different from yours. Respect their experience and make sure they know how to make it work for you.
Consider using written job descriptions with the understanding that they are a minimum outline of responsibilities and may be amended. Also follow up regularly to make sure that they understand and are able to complete those tasks; being surprised is never a good idea. When possible use a “mentor” to train them and let them follow the person through those tasks. Use process outlines and visual aids where appropriate to make it a real learning experience, this is especially important in medical offices that rely on consistency and detailed records.
Talk To People, and Listen Even More
Most employers spend little one-on-one time with their staff outside mechanical interactions required during the day. Staff meetings are often dreaded and intimidating and are rarely effective at allowing people to communicate concerns and ideas. The communication is largely one way, from you to them. Give them a chance to tell you how they are doing and what they need when you can devote appropriate time and attention to the conversation, not while you are reading your e-mail. Keep it casual. This is not a performance review, just a manager asking an employee what they think and how they feel the office is operating.
Let People Work at Their Highest Purpose
Understand that people often fit together like a jigsaw puzzle that forms a perfect picture. Make sure you understand what each person’s strengths and weaknesses are and allow them to excel, it’s your job to make they are doing their best and have the tools, authority and opportunity to do so.
Follow Up and Be Consistent
Check back regularly — bad habits corrected may creep back in over time. Make sure that they understand what you expected, what needs to be done to conform to that expectation and that they now bear the responsibility for doing so since you have confirmed their understanding. Set specific goals and a timeframe and be there to check when and how you said you would.
As mentioned, this is a nuanced, ongoing learning process, but this will hopefully get you thinking about what you really know about your staff and if you are taking responsibility leading them. There is no perfect list that fits every solution, so treat every relationship as an individual and learn how to make them their best.
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