Sharing Job Performance Standards With Medical Staff

March 21, 2015

If you have not set specific job expectations for your staff members, slacking behavior might have more to do with your oversight, than it does laziness.

An interesting event occurred this week in my practice that I'd like to share with you. Although on the surface this seems like one of those "Well, of course" moments, oftentimes managers overlook the obvious and then wonder what went wrong.

A staff member requested and was given permission to split his time between two medical offices, hoping to build up his portion of the business in two locations rather than just one. A few weeks ago, I noticed some lax behavior on his part, resulting in not meeting expected job performance in the areas of billing charges out, completing chart notes, and communicating scheduling times. I watched and monitored his behavior to gather enough consistent information to approach him and address the problem. What resulted was a fantastic meeting of the minds; a positive and non-threatening interaction that resulted in much improved performance.

When we sat down to speak, the staff member appeared very anxious. I was unsure why this behavior was being exhibited, but knew there was a reason. So, as we started talking, I explained to him that the second office he was now working in had higher expectations from their staff members than perhaps some of the other practice locations. Many of our staff members want to work in this location due to the clinic directors' leadership style. So, as a result, the expectation of staff performance, communication, and professional attitude is higher.

The staff member asked me to expand on that. I mentioned that he failed to chart and bill out charges within 24 hours of the patient visit. I asked him why he felt this was appropriate behavior. He told me no one had ever spoken with him about what was required or expected in this area. I then asked about communication regarding scheduling. A similar answer was produced. It occurred to me that when the staff member was hired, he was pointed in the direction of his workstation, and told, "Okay, go to work." That was it.

Now, I understand that everyone gets busy and when a new employee starts, sometimes it seems like no one has the time for a proper introduction, training, or communicating basic requirements of the job. This is clearly the case with this employee. After a mere 30 minutes of explaining what the requirements for working in this office meant, we had some brainstorming and idea discussion. The employee had not been exposed to having the autonomy to "own the position," and be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.

The result? All missing chart notes were completed within 24 hours of our meeting, and have been kept up with the expectation that was provided. The staff member has been asking for assistance with marketing the office and working in the new location. He is communicating with the front desk about their scheduling needs and requests. The staff member is keenly aware that there is transparency in that office and that he is required to meet and exceed the standard provided if he wants to remain in that location.

It's a win-win all around. The staff member feels good about working for the practice; and the clinic director is very pleased with his addition to the team, and his performance, attitude, and overall teamwork.  So remember that instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, take a step back and figure out why a staff member behaves the way he does, and just have a frank conversation with him.