Invest in Your Staff

November 17, 2010
Judy Capko

The cost of staffing can consume as much as 30 percent of operating expenses for a medical practice. However, don't be tempted to cut staff. Instead, invest in your staff so you get and keep highly motivated, productive people on your team.

Ka-ching, ka-ching - the cost of staffing, the top expense for medical practices, is taking its toll. It can consume as much as 30 percent of operating expenses. Practice leaders sometimes look for ways to manage costs through reduction of staff members - however, a better approach is to invest in your staff so you get and keep highly motivated, productive people on your team.

Here are some helpful tips on how to keep your staff working well.

Take time to hire right

Too often managers feel compelled to hire in a hurry - it's reasonable to expect this to happen when a staff member only gives you two weeks' notice. But hiring the wrong person can cost you money. So take the time to hire right and reduce the cost associated with unnecessary turnover, which is equal to one and a half times a person's annual salary according to the Human Resource Management Association.

Interview the right people for the job. Don't waste your time interviewing people that aren't the right fit. Develop an accurate job description that includes not only the job responsibilities, but also the education and years experience required to do the job well. Also, think about the personality traits you need for the position. For example, if you are hiring a biller or coder you want someone who is precise and can work independently. If you're looking for a new receptionist, you'll probably want a team player who is flexible, can multitask, and is bent on good customer service.

Don't paint a picture prettier than the reality of the job. Nothing will annoy new employees more than realizing they didn't anticipate what they are getting into. Be sure to provide an accurate description of your practice's mission, culture, and what is expected of the new hire, as well as terms of employment and benefits.

Make training a priority

Too many practices give too little attention to training. It is incredibly important to have a well-planned training schedule. A good training schedule should define the primary tasks for a position, the training methods used, the objective measurements that will be used to evaluate the new employee's progress, and the time allotted for training.

Clearly identify a skilled individual to do the training and have a feedback mechanism that flows both ways between employees and trainers. Keep in mind that you may have someone who is great at the job, but may not necessarily be a good trainer. Know the difference. A trainer is precise, patient, a good communicator, and objective in evaluating performance and progress.

Communicate well

Start early by having weekly meetings with new employee to see how she views her progress and to let her know how well she are doing on picking up on procedures and learning the job.

Establish standard methods of communicating with the entire team - keep them connected through memos, e-mail, and staff meetings. Also, managers need to be visible. Occasionally walk the floor and observe your employees at work to understand workload demands. This is a great way to show support and have some informal interaction with individual employees. It let's staff know you are approachable and on their side.

Support quality improvement

Invest in keeping each employee at the top of their game by providing continuing education. There are many webinars available online that can help employees continue to fine tune their skills and stay current with industry trends. Periodicals are also an inexpensive method for employees to grow their skills - some are electronic and available online. And don't forget to be a joiner. Pay the annual fee for each employee to join the appropriate professional organization that provides support and enriches their skills.

Employees are a wise investment in the health of your practice - one you need to protect!

Judy Capko is a healthcare consultant and author of the popular books "Secrets of the Best Run Practices" and "Take Back Time." Based in Thousand Oaks, Calif., she is a national speaker on healthcare topics. She can be reached at judy@capko.com.