Practice Management Blog

How to Create an Open and Transparent Work Environment in Your Practice (& Why it’s so Important!)

Transparency, particularly in a private practice setting, can feel a bit uncomfortable at first. It’s one thing to operate as a practice owner, managing the day-to-day tasks, but it’s quite another to cultivate an open, transparent working environment that welcomes interaction and feedback from your staff.

But, if you look at the growth trajectory of the most successful companies, across a number of different industries, establishing transparency leads to positive work culture, improved loyalty and engagement and, therefore, a healthier bottom line.

You’re not going to get there overnight, and weekly staff meetings aren’t going to cut it. Transparency requires a fundamental shift in your practice’s core values. And, if you’re serious about lasting change, you need to foster a company culture that values openness and respect. If you can get this right, you will reap the twin rewards of increased productivity and trust.

Whether you manage a small practice, or oversee a growing multi-location set-up, this powerful leadership approach can benefit your business.

What is ‘transparency leadership’?

Transparency in a healthcare practice is about prioritising open communication between all staff members. When transparency is hardwired into private practice, it brings trust, better communication, and improved staff engagement and advocacy.

Many practices, and businesses in general, lack transparency. This leads to job insecurity, a sense of feeling underappreciated and disenfranchised, and an unwillingness to follow decisions.

What are the benefits of transparency for a health practice?

It creates connection

If you communicate honestly and openly with your staff, you set the example, and this leads to improved communication and collaboration between staff members. Research by Gallup shows that strong workplace relationships offer a significant boost to employee engagement and satisfaction.

It builds employee loyalty and advocacy

The more your staff feel heard, understood and included in the vision for the practice, the better your levels of employee satisfaction and retention are going to be. A recent study showed that 79% of people who resign do so because of a ‘lack of appreciation’.

It increases employee engagement

Employee engagement is driven by recognition and satisfaction. In fact, recognition is the number one thing that managers can give their staff. It’s much more effective than higher pay, autonomy or even training. Let your team, both therapists and front office employees, know that you value their contributions and that their work makes a difference to the practice. This also fosters a positive and productive atmosphere and creates a safe space for new ideas and feedback.

It improves communication

Practice makes perfect. As you continue to work towards a culture of transparency in your practice, open communication gets easier and easier. Sharing successes and mistakes (both big and small) makes it easier for your staff to bring issues to your attention, rather than sweeping them under the rug. And this creates an opportunity for creative problem solving, giving your practice an advantage over your competitors.

It benefits your clients

Research shows that there’s a strong connection between employee job satisfaction and customer satisfaction ratings. So, if your employees are active participants in the success of your practice, it flows into their interactions with clients, which then builds customer loyalty.

It boosts your bottom line

It’s no surprise that this series of positive shifts have a direct impact on your bottom line. Improved communication, engaged therapists, and higher customer loyalty make it easier to grow. Happy employees are 12% more productive than unhappy employees while, conversely, unhappy employees who are stressed and overwhelmed are more likely to get sick and become a financial drain.

Practical strategies to help build a transparent, open work environment for your private health practice

Trust your staff

If you started your practice as a solo practitioner, this is often the hardest step. You’ve always been the one to make the decisions but, as your practice grows, it isn’t necessarily the right approach anymore. Delegate important tasks to your staff and give them the information they need to make the right decisions independently.

Share the highs and the lows

It’s not enough to include your plans and vision for the practice; your employees also need to know what’s working and what isn’t. Post COVID-19, especially, there is a lot of anxiety around job stability, and the best approach is to keep the communication channels open, sharing in general terms about the current financial state of the practice and your forecast.

Prioritise communication

This is non-negotiable. If you want your employees to communicate openly with you, they need to trust that what they share with you will be heard, considered, and acted on (and, if necessary, kept private).

Welcome feedback

Simply inviting feedback isn’t enough; you need to actively welcome it. This applies to both positive feedback and constructive criticism. This is a great way to get new ideas and suggestions for improvements from your therapists, who are working in your practice every day.

Keep some things private

Transparency should be limited in some areas such as performance reviews, salaries, and sensitive personal information. Your staff need to be able to trust that they can come to you and share something in confidence.

Hire strategically

Your focus shouldn’t be on finding someone with the right qualifications alone. While this is essential in a health practice setting, it may limit your thinking. Instead, during the interview process, spend some time communicating the values of the practice and see if they resonate with the interviewee. Read our case study on Acorn Autism to see how they find the right people to join their team.

If you’re serious about creating a transparent work environment in your practice, you need to focus on building a culture of open communication and mutual respect. You can do this by listening and acting on employee feedback, showing appreciation for your employees, encouraging innovation, and proactively hiring for culture.

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