Ask any established practice owner what their biggest challenge is, and more often than not, their answer will be “finding employees that are a good fit, can do the work and will commit to the long-run”. Research by McKinsey supports what practice owners instinctively know: “the best workers do the best and the most work”, outperforming their peers between 400% and 800%.
However, what practice owners often don’t take into account is that to attract the right team members for your practice; you need to be the right kind of employer.
So, how do you become a healthcare employer of choice?
How do you attract the cream of the crop when they could get a job with a competitor or set up their own private practice?
It’s probably not going to happen overnight, but if you’re prepared to change how you’re currently doing things, you’ll quickly start to reap the rewards as you’re able to attract and retain the right talent.
Is More Money the Answer?
Before we get into the focus areas for becoming an employer of choice, let’s get this question out of the way…
If you’re expanding your team, the natural inclination is to think that the hiring process is about money. Unfortunately, it’s a narrow view that usually doesn’t work out well in the long run. It’s not that money isn’t important; there will be a figure that prospective employees have in mind. But, for the right candidate, money won’t be the primary motivating factor.
Think about it like this: if you have a higher salary on offer, and that’s what you’re leading with when trying to attract new employees, you’ll get practitioners who will go wherever the money is the highest. This then tends to translate into lower levels of commitment to your practice because they’re more focused on what they can get than what they can give.
Additionally, as soon as they identify another job that offers higher remuneration they’ll be inclined to ‘jump ship’.
So, if it’s not about the money, what are people looking for?
What are Employees Looking for?
If money isn’t the driving force behind your recruitment, you can focus on what practitioner candidates are often looking for, such as flexibility, a team environment and growth opportunities.
Remember that you’re not just in competition with the other employers in the area; you’re also competing against self-employment (i.e. the candidate could set up their own practice instead of working for you). That’s where offering flexibility can make your practice stand out!
Many practitioners are working parents. They value flexibility in their working hours, the ability to change their hours as needed, and administrative support if they need to reschedule.
A parent in solo practice will have a more difficult time rescheduling. At some stage, they may need to look after a sick child, so if you offer your team flexibility, they know that they’ll be able to take the time off. It’s a win vs self-employment and a win vs rigid practices that don’t accommodate schedules. Where possible, you can also allow practitioners to pivot to telehealth when they need to.
2. A Sense of Team
Belonging to a team and getting support from a team is essential for professional development in healthcare settings, and increases practitioners’ sense of support and confidence. Whether getting other opinions around complex cases, debriefing after a difficult case or getting informal advice on how to approach a situation, being part of a team offers many opportunities to improve skills and confidence.
In addition, if your practice treats clients with high-risk issues, taking a team approach can make all the difference. A team enables practitioners to ‘sense-check’ actions taken to mitigate the risks. Documenting this in the clinical record can then go a long way in establishing that the actions taken were professionally reasonable and appropriate, which provides a level of professional and legal protection.
The following can help foster a positive team environment:
Decide Who You Want to Recruit
If you want to build a team, you need to actively look for candidates who value the importance of working with others and who don’t have unhelpful personality traits or behaviours, such as narcissism or arrogance. It’s also helpful to consider the team’s composition so that you have people with a diverse range of skills, perspectives and experiences united by a common goal of working together to provide outstanding healthcare.
Lead by Example
According to Forbes, people will follow great managers. A culture of openness and transparency starts with you. Run scenarios past colleagues, talk about ways to improve with colleagues and be transparent about your own shortcomings. If you do that, your team will be more likely to feel comfortable doing that too. This helps create a supportive environment where people feel comfortable seeking help.
Curate the Physical Setup
Where possible, aim to have a physical environment with a private common space away from clients where colleagues can meet. If clinicians are locked away in their treatment rooms all day, the lack of interaction detracts from the team environment you are trying to build. Valuable interaction often happens spontaneously and informally, so collaborative work and lunch areas can go a long way to establishing a team feel.
Support Your Team
Support your team when the going gets tough and create a culture where you have each others’ backs. For example, if a team member receives a subpoena, complaint or another difficult professional event, ensure that you provide maximum support to reduce any associated stress. This might be in the form of emotional support or more practical actions such as providing professional supervision or increasing administrative support to the practitioner to reduce stress from other areas.
As we are all aware, burnout is a concern among healthcare workers, and it can lead to employee attrition. To become an employer of choice, have a plan for identifying and supporting team members who may be struggling with burnout.
3. Opportunities for Growth
Employees who don’t believe they can achieve their career goals with a current employer are twelve times more likely to leave (if the employee is new, that number is closer to 30 times).
Here are some ideas to address this:
Offer Different Work Opportunities
To keep employees happy, you may need to diversify the practice to give people different opportunities. This might mean different types of work, like providing workshops or presentations at local businesses or schools. Providing diversity like this gives you an edge over those considering working as solo practitioners who often struggle to find the time to organise ‘non-core’ opportunities. In a group practice setting, this can be done more easily, and it also helps boost the practice’s profile. It’s an opportunity for people to do different things and develop different skills. Candidates typically like it, and it can give you a competitive edge when someone is considering multiple job offers.
Provide Formal Supervision and Professional Development.
Where possible, package in the capacity for employees to professionally learn, grow and be well supported. This is also a direct economic benefit for employees; if they were operating as a solo practitioners they’d have to pay for their own external professional development.
Leverage the team in supervision. Peer supervision and peer case conferences build skills that can’t easily be replicated outside a group practice environment.
Offer Formal Advancement and Skill Development
Enhance areas of competence or allow your team to advance in other areas of interest. Always support skill development; employees want to feel they’re not stagnating. Wherever possible, provide opportunities for professional development within the practice.
4. Personal Touches
In health practices, practitioners often give a lot of themselves in sessions which can be emotionally draining. It’s therefore no surprise that practitioners tend to respond well to being nurtured themselves.
Personal touches can look like this:
- Personalised birthday, work anniversary and Christmas gifts
- Warm, welcoming practitioner onboarding
- Team treats, such as cupcakes delivered to the practice
- Team lunches, to welcome new practitioners or celebrate targets met
You can also extend your relationships with team members by:
- Setting up regular check-ins
- Showing genuine interest in how they’re doing
- Offering a safe environment for them to share concerns
5. Manage Your Reputation
Don’t Be Afraid to Blow Your Own Trumpet
Look for opportunities to support your community and build your practice profile. This might be a spot on local radio raising awareness about your area of work, contributing to articles in local publications, or providing free educational sessions to the community. Share these on your website, social pages and anywhere else you can think of; it’s something that potential employees often find attractive and want to be a part of.
Finally, Don’t Shy Away From Bad News
If you have a high turnover rate, evaluate your practice. Don’t be defensive; if there’s a pattern, you need to find the cause because it indicates something isn’t right.
It might be something simple, such as an interview process that results in hiring the wrong type of person, you may have a poor onboarding process that makes it difficult for a new team member to become integrated into the practice, or you may be skimping on benefits that employees are being offered elsewhere.
Alternatively, the issues may be deeper; you may have inadvertently built a toxic work environment, have a clinical manager that your team struggles to work with, or you, as the practice manager, may be juggling too many balls and are therefore not available to give your team the support they need.
While salary expectations are an important part of being a healthcare employer of choice, they’re by no means the most important factor for prospective employees.
Suppose you can find ways to offer flexibility, growth opportunities, and a personal touch while building a team and managing your reputation. In that case, you’ll be able to attract (and keep!) the best employees without breaking the bank.