Growing your health practice is exciting; it’s an opportunity to bring in team members who reflect your business values and understand your mission. But a team is only as strong as the foundation it’s built on, and team members should never be in the dark about how to function as part of the practice.
For example, imagine that a team member goes home unexpectedly one day. Other team members have unfounded suspicions about the cause of the issue, and so they begin talking to each other and sharing theories. Before you know it, the receptionist may even start relaying rumours to that person’s clients.
This is where having a Team Conduct Policy becomes an indispensable tool for your private practice. The Team Conduct Policy clearly states the rules, values, goals, ethics, and vision of your practice. It provides staff with a clear outline and instructions on what is and isn’t considered acceptable. This includes workplace conduct, work-related events, or any time they represent your business.
The example above illustrates the importance of having clear expectations around sharing other employees’ information. Team members should know that their first point of reference must be the Team Conduct Policy and that issues (or potential issues) are taken to a manager and no one else. When policies like this are in place, team members can help to enforce them by directing each other to the policy if someone starts crossing the line.
We’ve put together a value-packed guide to help you get started on your Team Conduct Policy. The first step is to get a clear picture in your mind about the values and expectations you’d like your team to uphold within the practice.
What Are Your Practice’s Values?
Determining your practice’s values or ‘mission statement’ is key to developing your team conduct policy, as it gives you a framework to start with. If you’ve already got a team of employees, consider asking them to contribute during a brainstorming session. This might involve asking what they value, how staff should interact with each other, clients and visitors, the structure of the practice, and the practice “tone of voice”. It might also help to ask staff what words come to mind when they think about your practice – create a visual mind map to keep ideas flowing!
What Are Your Practice’s Expectations?
Once you’ve worked out your practice’s values, you can start to map out expected conduct. This should include the handling of sensitive information, and intellectual property, practice rules and regulations regarding discrimination and harassment, and even policies on internet use and mobile phones.
11 Must-Have Components for Your Team Conduct Policy
There are a few essential elements you should address in your Team Conduct Policy to ensure that it’s a well-rounded document. Once you’ve incorporated them, feel free to include anything else you might deem important:
1. Equal Opportunity
Being an equal-opportunity employer is not only the right thing to do but also allows your practice to attract diverse talent. And when your practice is dedicated to upholding employee rights and fairness, staff will naturally feel more engaged.
2. Code of Conduct
Outline the standard of conduct expected of employees, including the standards of ethical personal and professional conduct.
Make sure to include:
- Your practice’s vision, mission, and values.
- A clear guideline of expected behaviour in the workplace.
- Communicate to employees what you want from them.
- Outline a clear hierarchical structure and the roles associated with each job title.
3. Disciplinary Procedures
A section on disciplinary procedures is a must. Employees should know what infractions warrant performance reviews or verbal warnings and what forms of misconduct are grounds for immediate termination.
If there’s a clear violation, then what? Your code of conduct should make the disciplinary procedure known. Identify the various types of infractions and the corresponding disciplinary action for each. Generally, small infractions may be handled through informal advice (such as ‘we don’t approve of that behaviour, please ensure you don’t do it again’) or a formal written warning and performance management. If there is an additional infraction, it can result in disciplinary action with potential termination.
Practices may also implement a no-tolerance policy which results in instant dismissal for gross misconduct such as confidentiality breaches, bullying, harassment, and discrimination.
4. Dress Code
The purpose of this policy is to ensure that team members present a consistent and professional appearance to clients and colleagues. Creating a dress code policy will help employees to make choices about their appearance that align with the practice’s image and or safety requirements (such as a requirement to wear closed-toe shoes).
5. Social media
The nature of work and communication is constantly changing, and your policies need to reflect that. Practices must ensure they have a social media policy that protects the reputation and credibility of the business and of those associated with it.
An effective social media policy should, at a minimum:
- Help maintain consistent brand identity across all official social media platforms,
- Lay out guidelines for professional use of business social media accounts,
- Promote legal compliance.
On top of that, consider adding guidelines on how employees conduct themselves on their personal social media accounts. Even in their personal capacity, employees engaging in harassment, hate speech, and threats of violence can undermine the values your practice strives to uphold. For this reason, make it clear that such actions go against your practice’s code of ethics and that employees can be held personally responsible for their actions online.
6. Alcohol, Smoking, & Controlled Substances
This policy should demonstrate the practice’s commitment to providing a safe, healthy, and productive work environment for everyone. This policy should state clearly what’s accepted and what isn’t when it comes to alcohol, smoking, and drugs, including how suspected non-compliance is addressed.
It’s important to include expectations for business functions and events as well. Functions and events are a fun time for all, but also present more opportunities for breaches of this policy.
7. Use of Computers & Equipment
Using computers, the internet, emails, and other technology comes with risks. Your practice needs to ensure that it has a policy that protects the business. Staff need to have a very clear understanding of what can be viewed, downloaded, and stored using practice equipment and technology, and should know the consequences of not adhering to the policy.
Staff must be paid correctly, and an accurate timesheet will ensure they are. A policy that covers your expectation on completing timesheets will ensure that both the staff and accounting are on the same page.
The purpose of this policy is to ensure that all employees are remunerated correctly and that all government reporting is adhered to.
This policy needs to clearly state:
- Guidelines for timesheet submission and approval;
- How and when staff are paid (such as by check or directly into a bank account);
- Reporting requirements to government agencies;
- Procedures for changes in employee details.
10. Leave Requests
Providing a supportive environment for employees and facilitating a healthy work-life balance is essential. Ensure that the needs of the practice can still be met by clearly communicating the process for taking leave, including different types of leave.
What happens if too many staff requests leave at the same time? How do you balance this and make it fair? Even if these questions aren’t addressed specifically in your policy, be prepared to address them.
11. Dispute Resolution
From time to time, there may be disputes where staff feel they have been unfairly treated or are unhappy with a decision that is made. If your practice is committed to promoting a healthy and productive work environment, there must be room to question decisions made by management. Having a dispute resolution policy will ensure all employees have an avenue for raising and managing disputes within the workplace effectively.
Now that you have a Team Conduct Policy, share it with your staff! A Conduct Policy can be provided as part of the induction package for new employees, implemented via one-on-one training, or presented in an online video or course. It’s recommended that new employees receive their induction package as part of their onboarding process, and that staff are regularly sent the latest version whenever there’s an update.
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