3. Bend the rules. If you want to provide an exceptional employee a longer-lasting incentive, offer some flexibility, says Whaley. "Work is so intense, life is so intense, that giving somebody the option of working at home one day a week, or every other week, or changing the schedule maybe during the summer ... that kind of thing — that's huge."
While incentives like the ones noted above can boost staff morale, they are often short-term motivators. The most effective way to boost staff morale — and keep it up for the long term — is by providing a great work environment and ensuring staff members have high job satisfaction. Here's how:
1. Face the music. Be upfront with staff about your financial challenges, says Meek. "People need to know what's going on, and I think that you get more from your employees if you're honest and you communicate with them," she says. "They will give you more because I think everybody wants the same thing, we're all reaching for the same goal: to succeed financially and with patient care."
2. Engage in the solution. Make it clear that staff input is key to meeting financial challenges, says Charlene Mooney, a practice consultant with the Halley Consulting Group in Columbus, Ohio. When she consults with practices, she asks every staff member to share their challenges and improvement ideas with her. "Nine times out of 10, they're the ones [who] have the best ideas because they're the ones on the front lines doing the work every day," she says.
3. Grow as a team. Make sure physicians and leadership make it clear that they respect staff and listen to their opinions, says Gwinn. "You can't look at the practice from being a top-down thing — you've got to respect each individual working there, and each individual has to feel like they're part of the whole mission of the practice." That includes listening to staff member input and insight, and if what they've said or done makes a difference, letting them know, he says.
4. Encourage professional development. Offer employees opportunities to attend career-related conferences, such as those focused on time management or patient relations, says Mooney, noting that this is an inexpensive way to reenergize staff members and help them keep their skills polished.
5. Share good news. Don't let employees lose their sense of purpose, says Woodcock. "If you get a letter from a patient that says, 'You really changed my life,' share that at a staff meeting." Also, put an "identify a star" box in your practice to provide patients the opportunity to share praise.
6. Acknowledge service. Celebrate milestones such as birthdays and years of employment, says Mooney. "It's not [about] how much can you pay me, or even sometimes how many benefits you can give me. It's, how do you make me feel when I come in every day and when I walk out. Do I feel like I made a difference?" she says. "A simple form of appreciation, recognition, can go a long way to making people feel important and appreciated."
Emerging staffing roles
As the shift from traditional fee-for-service to value-based reimbursement gains momentum, many practices are adding staff members such as patient navigators and care coordinators to their teams. In fact, according to our 2013 Staff Salary Survey, one out of every five practices is employing some type of care coordinator.
Often these individuals are registered nurses who focus on tasks such as helping navigate the healthcare continuum and increasing patient outreach and monitoring.