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Giving your practice a checkup: Motivating your staff

Feature
Article
Physicians PracticePhysicians Practice January 2024
Volume 2
Issue 1

The importance of motivating employees by providing measurable and written goals through a concise, effective mission statement and policy manual.

staff smiling phone call | © Pixel-Shot - stock.adobe.com

© Pixel-Shot - stock.adobe.com

The success of any medical practice and any marketing program begins and ends with the staff. I talked about four pillars of a successful practice, and staff motivation is one of the most important.

You can have new patients, excellent relationships with your referring physicians, and many existing patients. If you have a staff that is excited, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable when answering the telephone and ensuring that every patient has a positive experience with your practice, all your marketing efforts will be effective.

This final blog will review the importance of motivating employees by providing measurable and written goals through a concise, effective mission statement and policy manual. I will also review practical strategies for motivating employees by sharing the power, vision, and rewards.

Creating a mission statement

Nearly every successful practice and every successful business has a well-defined vision, mission, goal, or objective. The mission statement should spell out the purpose of the practice and the methods of achieving that purpose. It really serves as the road map that provides direction to all of the members of the staff, doctors included.

Our mission statement is:

We are committed to:

  • Excellence
  • Providing the best urologic healthcare for our patients; and
  • The persistent and consistent attention to the LITTLE details makes a BIG difference.

Policy manual

Every practice needs a manual that contains its rules and regulations. Ideally, this manual should also serve as a guide for any new or temporary employee who comes to work in the office. The manual should cover job descriptions, dress codes, hours of operation, the division of office responsibilities, vacation days, sick days, and emergency telephone numbers. The employee manual was written several years ago and has been updated to include precautions about opening unrecognized emails, intolerance of sexual harassment, and when personal social media is allowed.

We summarize our policy manual with this expectation:

Dr. Baum's Policy Manual Statement

  • Rule #1: the patient is always right
  • Rule #2: If you think the patient is wrong, reread rule #1

ALL OTHER POLICIES ARE NULL AND VOID

The mission statement is posted in prominent places in the office to remind us and our patients of our dedication to excellent service. The mission statement is placed in the reception area and most examination rooms. It is also placed prominently on the website and on a large banner in the employee lunge.

Whenever a mistake or problem occurs, the first question we ask each other is, "Did we adhere to the mission statement and the policy statement?" Usually, we discover that we did not. We use the mission statement and the policy manual statement to refocus on our number one priority: our patients.

No-cost techniques to motivate staff

A well-motivated staff will create an effective team environment. Most enlightened businesses see that team management leads to increased output and productivity. Your employees want to be valued as human beings and individuals, not just as workers.

The more you include employees in running the office, the more invested they become in helping to improve it.

Performance review

Employees like to know where they stand and how they can improve performance on the job. Motivated staff members want feedback on their progress or even lack of progress. The best way to furnish this important feedback is with periodic performance reviews.

Meet with your employees on a scheduled basis every 3-4 months. Each employee is given a worksheet to complete before the review.

Figure 1

Figure 1

I always end each performance review on a positive note. I tell the employees how valued they are and how much asset they are to the practice. Of course, these meetings should be documented in the employees' files.

Encourage continuing education

Just as physicians need CME, so do your staff members require continuing motivational experiences. It is a favorable return on your investment to encourage your staff to participate in continuing educational courses, and it is necessary to support their efforts financially. You should offer to pay the fees when your employees take seminars and classes. I suggest that your employee take courses in computers, social media, marketing, or anything else that will help the practice grow and prosper.

To make these educational experiences more effective, ask employees to share what they have learned with other staff members. This can be done at a staff meeting where the employee who attended a seminar or a course shares the information with the rest of the staff by giving a brief review of the course or what they learned and how it applies to the practice.

Empower your staff

Office management is very complicated. Few doctors have a thorough understanding of all the business aspects of a medical practice.

Most successful physicians have learned to delegate the responsibility of running the office. They have learned to empower their employees to take control and assume responsibility for their decisions and actions.

In my office, I empower any employee to make financial decisions up to $200 without consulting me. For instance, if the office needs a new telephone answering machine, I want my employees to consider which feature we need, check the available ones, and compare prices at the local electronic outlet, office supply stores, and Amazon.com to find the best machine at the lowest price.

The take-home message is that more than ever before, physicians should do what we are best trained to do, i.e., diagnose and treat diseases. There are very few doctors who are experts on FAX machines, and they should spend their time on things other than activities that their staff members should be doing.

Promote a positive mental attitude

Henry David Thoreau once said, "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm." This is also true in the practice of medicine.

When the doctor has a positive mental attitude, you motivate your employees by setting an example. If, on the other hand, you are easily irritable and if your problems at home are transferred to the staff, they will, in turn, "kick the can down the road" and take it on the patients.

I have an attitude that employees are on stage, and the moment they walk in the door in the morning, they must leave all other problems and concerns on the other side of the door.

They must have an attitude that they are responsible for ensuring that each patient has a positive experience with the office at every contact point with the practice. That includes the telephone, the receptionist who welcomes the patient to the practice, the nurse taking the patient into the exam room, the billing clerk who will discuss the patient's bill, and, yes, the doctor, too!

My take home message is that we all contribute to the patient's experience, and we all must have a positive attitude.

Recognize achievement

Nothing is more motivating for an employee than for the doctor to recognize his achievements and accomplishments. When you see improvement in job performance, tell the person directly. You will be satisfying that employee's need for self-esteem. This improves the employee's confidence and helps them to fulfill the need for self-esteem from fellow employees.

Show your staff that you care

Your employees need to know that you care about them not just as workers but as individuals with their own personal lives. When one of my employees or their family members is sick, I call them at home to check on them and ensure they have access to adequate medical care. If someone gets sick in the office, I will call another medical office and get the employee seen immediately.

Catch your staff doing things right

My philosophy is to praise in public and correct in private. When I catch an employee doing something right, I send a thank you note to the employee's home address, ensuring it arrives on a Saturday. Hopefully, the employee will show my note to family and friends. I use a "Thanks A Million Check" to express my appreciation and gratitude. (Figure 2). You will be amazed at how appreciative employees are that you not only recognized their superior service but that you also took the time to put it in writing.

Figure 2

Figure 2

Reward your staff for saving money or reducing overhead expenses

If one of your staff comes up with an idea that saves the practice money, give a bonus. For example, the 15-year-old autoclave broke down. Our nurse took the autoclave to the hospital's biomedical engineering department, which installed a $30 part that saved buying a new $2000 autoclave. She deserved to be rewarded for that, so I immediately gave her a $50 check.

I am trying to motivate my staff not just to earn more money for the practice but to reduce expenses. They are paid for identifying and designing money-saving ideas.

Include your staff in the decision-making process

Ask your employees for advice. Then, make sure that if you solicit their advice, you use it. Your staff members are on the front line, and they want the office routine to go well. You must include them in the decision-making process, whether the task is writing a mission statement or policy manual, determining a change in procedures, implementing an electronic medical record, or meeting new job candidates. By including them, you are making them feel part of the team.

Finally, have fun with your staff

Surprise is the spice of life. Whenever you can provide an unexpected perk for your staff, you can be sure that they will appreciate the gesture. For example, there was a week that we had two employees who were unable to work; one was on vacation, and the other was ill at home. We had to work harder to take up the slack for five days. Despite being shorthanded, we were able to function at regular speed and capacity without affecting the quality of care that we were providing our patients. I was so impressed with the extra effort of the shortfall that was taking place in the office that I arranged for a massage therapist to visit our practice at the end of the day on Friday and give everyone a 20-minute massage as a way of saying thank you.

Bottom Line: Encouraging your staff to develop team spirit makes good business sense. When your employees have a personal investment in problem-solving and decision-making, they will go the extra mile for your patients and for your practice.

This is the last of the four-part blog on practice promotion and productivity. I hope that you have identified the four pillars for your practice and that I have helped you to understand the importance of all four pillars as the strength and stability of a successful practice.


Neil Baum, MD, a Professor of Clinical Urology at Tulane University in New Orleans, LA. Dr. Baum is the author of several books, including the best-selling book, Marketing Your Medical Practice-Ethically, Effectively, and Economically, which has sold over 225,000 copies and has been translated into Spanish.

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