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Five Perks for Motivating Medical Practice Staff


The key to providing perks is to understand what is meaningful to employees. Obtain their input and design perks that reward hard work and dedication.

Happy, hardworking employees are a cornerstone to practice success. A smiling receptionist makes patients feel welcome. A cheerful attitude creates a positive team atmosphere that improves efficiency in completing daily tasks. A motivated team can improve patient satisfaction, productivity, and employee retention.

Creating passionate, committed employees requires that physicians and managers believe in their people. There is no "silver bullet" for motivation. One employee may be motivated by a flexible work schedule while another may value public recognition for a job well done. The good news is that the basic principle for designing motivational perks that work is simple: Ask your employees what they want, and design ways for them to earn it. Here are five ideas to start the conversation.

1. Rethink work schedules

Many employees appreciate the option of varied hours, flex time, or time off as a reward for good performance. This flexibility can be particularly motivating to Generation Y and those with working spouses or partners - the latter often prefer more time off instead of an increase in pay. Consider giving employees the opportunity to work longer days and shorter weeks, work part of their day during nontraditional office hours (such as 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.), take additional days off when physicians are on vacation, or work from home if it makes sense for their job role. If your flexible hours include evenings or weekends, you may discover that this benefits more than just employees. Many practices find that offering "non-traditional" hours is a competitive advantage that attracts new patients and revenue.

2. Ask for input, not feedback

They are not the same thing. Including staff in EHR selection is more empowering than asking for feedback on the final two systems you're considering. Shared decision-making indicates that physicians and managers value employee opinions and expertise, and this pays big dividends in employee morale.

Include employees on committees or advisory boards. Allowing them to help design policies and programs that affect them builds a culture of trust and mutual respect. Gail Kerzner, manager of a large East Coast practice, found that adding employees to the practice's advisory board for employee benefits selection was a big win. "This group collaborates to select the most affordable plans that meet the needs of our employees," she says. "When the plans are rolled out, all employees feel well represented."

3. Accentuate the positive

It takes a village to run a practice, but patient compliments about staff or the practice aren't always passed on after the physician hears them. Let "the village" hear them by sharing and celebrating the compliment. Even the most humble among us appreciates a pat on the back - especially when it's given in front of coworkers. A busy dermatologist in Massachusetts created a "Share the Limelight" initiative. Patients' words of affirmation are shared with the practice in an effort to recognize and motivate staff. The initiative has created a positive buzz, and the physician insists that the weekly affirmations help staff recognize that patients care as much about them as they do about the providers - a big morale boost for everyone.

4. Offer opportunities for career and professional growth

No matter how small your practice, and no matter where an employee fits into its hierarchy, a career path should be part of your organizational plan. If your team is fewer than five, title, promotions, and professional growth opportunities are good starting points. Titles have meaning, and a title promotion is an indication of hard work, commitment, and a job well done. Provide business cards to match. Professional growth can be as motivating for staff as it is good for the bottom line. Send staff to coding courses offered by your specialty society, or educational events at the hospital. Offer tuition reimbursement. Pay for Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) or other association membership fees.

Large groups can also promote position advancement as a perk, and offer a formal grooming and mentoring program - which has the added benefit of easing recruitment pressure and maintaining organizational continuity as staff move up the career ladder.

5. Provide health and wellness programs

Health and wellness initiatives are no longer just for large companies. Keeping employees energized and healthy can improve their performance at work, as well as reduce absenteeism and stress - allowing them to better serve or care for patients. "Plug and play" programs are good choices for small businesses and include formalized programs such as Weight Watchers® at Work, or ready-made campaigns such as Kaiser Permanente's EveryBody Walks. If you prefer a DIY approach, you might offer employee-led, after-hours yoga sessions, reimburse gym memberships, or encourage practice participation in local "fun runs."

For inspiration, suggest that employees read The Corporate Athlete, by Jack Groppel. In it, Groppel makes the connection between how carbohydrates and proteins, stretching and aerobic activity, and ethics and values affect performance at work, and offers practical suggestions for incorporating them into an already overcrowded day.

Remember, the key to providing perks that work is to understand what is meaningful to employees. Obtain their input and design perks that reward hard work and dedication, and that are affordable for the practice. Your loyalty to employees will be rewarded by their loyalty to you.

Glenn Morley is a consultant with KarenZupko & Associates, Inc., a firm that has helped physicians save time, save money, and reduce risk for more than 25 years. You can contact her at kzupko@karenzupko.com.

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