Dr. Neil Baum, medical advisor to Vanguard Communications, professor of urology at Tulane University and private practice owner for more than 40 years, discusses the benefits of employee motivation and how to encourage employees without using money.
The four pillars of a successful practice are 1) patients in your practice, 2) attracting new patients, 3) relationship with your colleagues, and 4) employee motivation, which I believe is the most important, but gets the least attention. Today it’s getting all the attention.
Patients interact with your staff long before you walk into the reception area or exam room. You will find that most patients interact with the staff 5 times longer than with physicians. With that much interaction, the attitude of your staff is probably more important than the physician’s. Bad staff attitude and patient interaction can ruin a practice.
Employee motivation needs to be a priority, and in this video I’ll give you eight ways to enhance staff morale, without spending any money.
Promote your mission statement
The mission statement is the road map for your practice. My office pledge was created by the staff and states, “This office is committed to: 1) excellence, 2) best health care for our patients, and 3) the persistent attention to the little details because we think they make a big difference.” This pledge is displayed everywhere in our office, on our website, and even as a screen saver on the EMR on each computer. The patients need to see the mission statement as soon as they enter the office because it tells them what they can expect from the doctor and staff, and it sets the tone for a productive relationship. It’s also a visible reminder to the staff of the high standards expected of them.
Conduct regular staff meetings
There is no better way to bring your staff together than to have creative staff meetings that produce positive changes in behavior that translates to enhanced quality of care for your patients. Circulate an agenda prior to the meeting and have a note taker who then prepares a “to do” list and circulates the assignments. These meetings help with employee motivation by offering the staff a way to be individually involved in decision making, which makes them more apt to follow through and feel part of a valued team.
Dole out recognition as employee motivation
Napoleon said he could have conquered the world if he just had enough red ribbon to give out as rewards and recognition. My practice has ABCD awards or “above and beyond the call of duty.” My credo is praise in public and pan in private.
When I catch an employee doing something right, my office manager or I send a thank-you note to the employee’s home address. I have two ways to say “thank you:” the Extra Mile-O-Gram and the Thanks a Million Check. You will be amazed how appreciative – and motivated – employees are when you have not only recognized their superior service, but that you took the time to put it writing.
Conduct regular performance reviews
Employees are more motivated when they know where they stand and how they can improve. That is because uncertainty kills employee motivation even more than negative criticism. The best way to furnish this important feedback is with periodic performance reviews by the office manager or a doctor every 3-4 months. Give the employee a worksheet of what they want to review beforehand, then find out how to assist in their professional growth and development. I recommend that you document the interview in the employee’s file.
Empower your staff to make decisions
The most successful practices empower their employees to assume responsibility for practice decisions and actions, which makes them feel valued and important and makes the practice more efficient. I empower my employees to make financial decisions up to $200 without consulting with the doctor or the office manager. For example, if the office needs a new fax machine, the employees find the best machine. I also give employees a cash reward for expense reduction ideas.
Surprise your staff with positive reinforcement
Whenever you can provide an unexpected perk for your staff, you can be sure that they will appreciate the gesture and their employee motivation will improve. For example, two employees were absent for a week but in spite of being shorthanded, we were able to function at the regular speed and capacity without affecting the quality of care.
To thank the staff for their extra effort, I arranged for a massage therapist to give everyone a 15-minute massage at the end of Friday. It is important to recognize their stellar efforts in some small way. Otherwise, the staff most probably will not make the effort the second time such a situation arises, and may well feel slighted and downcast for not being recognized.
Promote a positive mental attitude
As Henry David Thoreau once said, “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” When you have a positive mental attitude in your practice, you motivate your employees by setting the example.
Encourage employee motivation with continuing education
Just as physicians need CME, your staff members require continuing motivational experiences as well. It is a good investment to encourage your employees to participate in various continuing education courses and support their efforts financially. When the employee completes a course or extra training, have a copy of the certificate framed and hung in the office for the other staff members to see that you are serious about promoting their personal development.
Bottom line: Encouraging your staff to develop team spirit makes good business sense. When your employees have a personal investment in problem solving and decision making, they will go the extra mile for the patients and the practice.