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Practice Management Blog

How to Get the Best from Your Healthcare Staff

Ask 20 practice owners what they think will motivate their healthcare staff, and you’ll get 20 different answers.

At first glance, money may seem the obvious answer.

But, while it’s a factor, it’s definitely not the only one.

Interestingly, a review of different studies shows that staff productivity isn’t something you can just throw money at. Paying higher salaries won’t always result in higher productivity, especially if you don’t take a holistic approach to looking after your staff.

If you’re paying a competitive salary, here are six things you can work on to get the best from your team:

1. Choose Optimism

It’s easy to stay positive when things are going well, but when things go wrong, how can you keep the mood in the office from plummeting? In a healthcare practice setting, you’re the leader, and the responsibility for setting the mood starts with you. This might sound small, but a negative work environment harms employee morale and productivity.

Another important way to improve morale is to avoid creating high-stress situations for team members. Rather than using threats and peer pressure to get results, focus on acknowledging achievements and scheduling one-on-one time with employees for sharing feedback.

Take action:

Focus on your own mental health and your ability to respond well under pressure. This might mean:

  • If you’re in a stressful situation, you pause before reacting
  • When you arrive in the morning, you greet everyone by name
  • If there’s a negative event in the practice, you’re proactive about addressing it and showing a positive way forward

2. Build a Culture of Respect

To motivate healthcare staff to work effectively, team members need to feel that you respect them as people and for their work. You can slowly build this culture in different ways, such as:

Sharing your vision

Studies show that when your team is a part of defining the vision and mission for your practice, they’re generally more efficient. By including your team in decisions that affect the practice, you reinforce that you respect their opinion, which translates into higher productivity.

Supporting your staff when it matters

One way to clearly communicate that you respect your staff is to let them know that you support them unequivocally, and this may mean prioritising them over your patients. You could do this by scheduling non-client time during the day so staff can stay on top of admin and ensuring that they stick to scheduled work hours. This will help create a calm office environment and happy staff, which leads to happy patients and better health outcomes.

Listening to what your staff say

When team members feel that their voice is heard, they are 4.6 times more likely to be empowered to perform their best work.

Take action:

Make a point of communicating both positive and negative feedback to your team members. This will help your team feel secure in the work they’re doing, and they’ll appreciate the open dialogue (and it’s much better than complaining behind their back or letting tension build up!)

3. Clearly Define Roles and Delegate

When your team is working towards a shared goal, rather than a practice where you dictate everything, each employee needs to know their role. This prevents important tasks from falling through the cracks (and stops you from taking back the responsibility for those tasks!)

You know you’ve hired a great team, which means that chances are, they’re capable of taking on more responsibility than they have at the moment, and they’d relish the opportunity to learn new skills. For this to be successful, you need to take care not to overburden already busy team members, and you may need to provide some training so that both you and they are confident that tasks will be completed correctly.

If you’re struggling to delegate, then you need to ask yourself two important questions:

  • Why don’t you trust someone else to do the task correctly?
  • What training do they need in order for you to feel comfortable with them doing it?

If you can address those two questions, it will be a lot easier to delegate even the most important tasks.

Take action:

Make a list of the tasks that you do yourself, aside from the essential ones that only you can do (like seeing clients). Then see which tasks could be delegated if you created a process for someone else to follow.

4. Health and Wellbeing Come First

Burnout is a very real concern among healthcare professionals, and it’s often a hidden cost that practice owners forget to take into account. Simple things like getting enough sleep and fitting in regular exercise would make your employees better and more productive. In the US, employee obesity costs employers $153 billion annually, while the WHO estimates that depression and anxiety disorders cost the worldwide economy over $1 trillion every year.

But if their working hours are too long, and they have additional administrative work after hours, it’s nearly impossible for your staff to function optimally. On the other hand, engaged employees are far less likely to be obese or suffer from chronic disease, and they’re more likely to eat healthily and exercise.

Take action:

  • Keep an eye on staff work hours
  • Schedule monthly check-ins with employees
  • Provide opportunities for personal and professional growth
  • Offer flexible schedules
  • Make healthy snacks available in the break room

5. Make Teamwork a Reality

As Bruce Bagley, MD, medical director of quality improvement for the American Academy of Family Physicians, puts it, “Primary care is a team sport.” This is the flip side of defining roles and delegating. Because, while everyone has their roles, there needs to be fluidity where team members can talk to each other and work together for the best interests of the patient.

Take action:

Share your vision for the practice and the goals you’re working towards to make it happen. If employees feel that they’re working towards a bigger end objective, they’re more likely to work productively and contribute meaningfully to the team.

6. Tighten up your Hiring and Onboarding Processes

As the saying goes, “start as you mean to continue”. If your practice is growing, or if you have a small team of practitioners, this is a process that’s worth getting right, then writing down.

Hiring and onboarding are crucial whatever size practice you have and can make a big difference to the productivity of both the new employee and the rest of your team. Don’t only focus on the qualifications and experience of a potential recruit; also work out whether they will be a good fit for the culture you’re trying to build and for the team as a whole.

Take action:

From paperwork such as contract signing and payroll forms to complete training and orientation, every step needs to be clearly covered in a process so that when a new employee arrives, it’s clear what needs to happen to get them fully up to speed.

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What it all comes down to is creating an environment where you’re able to motivate healthcare staff and ensure they’re fully engaged. This happens when you pay fairly and create a positive work environment in which employees feel respected and valued while ensuring that everyone understands the overarching vision for the practice and their role in contributing to that vision.

When staff members are invested in their job and care about their team’s success, there’s a corresponding drop in absenteeism and higher retention, which dramatically affects your practice’s bottom line. And, most importantly of all, engaged employees are 17% more productive than their peers.


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