Ask someone if they are truly engaged at work, and you might get some version of the following response: “Yeah, I guess. I do my job. My boss stays off my back. I go home.” But employee engagement encompasses more than simply doing an adequate job, while on the job. Unfortunately, there have been a number of polls released in the last few years indicating that an overwhelming number of Americans are disengaged at their place of employment.
Medicine is essential work, especially in the context of private practice. It is a profession filled with daily challenges in the front of the office as well as the back. But even medical professionals, from doctors, to nurses, to coders and receptionists experience some level burnout, or a sense, after a while, that their efforts don’t matter. The result is a loss of focus, as well as a sense of pride and purpose gained from what they do. Head physicians and office managers must do what they can to keep this effect from spreading. Here are a few strategies that may help prevent the Sisyphus Effect from overwhelming your office.
Start at the beginning
And by this, we mean:
- The interview. When in the process of hiring, you think chiefly about the necessary education, hard skills and experience, right? Well, yes, but there’s more to consider. You need to be sure that your number one candidate understands the working culture of your office, and that it is one they can see themselves contributing well to. In order to be a continuously contributing and engaged employee, they must be able to understand, to see exactly how their job contributes to the goals of your practice.
- Onboarding. In a previous post, we discussed the importance of the onboarding process for a new hire. Failing to successfully integrate a new employee into your practice can have dire long-term effects. Ask yourself this simple question: if you felt you never received the right instruction and resources to do your job from the very beginning, would you feel engaged in your work? Make sure that all employees, from day one, have access to the necessary equipment and support, and that they clearly understand the right protocol for every situation that may arise.
- A beautiful friendship. All Casablanca references aside, you must be sure to build strong relationships with your employees, and therefore encourage them to do the same among each other. This goes beyond a mere “working relationship” into a true sense of solidarity, and loyalty. This takes time, and consistency. Meet with your staff somewhat regularly. These meetings allow you to track goals, praise achievements, and offer sound advice.
This may sound like one of those newfangled buzzwords thrown around at leadership seminars, but it’s actually a very simple concept. In a previous post, we highlighted the importance of generating input and feedback from your team, and putting it into practice. If they feel that their input contributed to some major decision or change about to occur at your practice, your employees will feel a sense of respect. Beyond this, they will likely feel a newfound sense of motivation because they can assert some control over their jobs, and claim ownership for what they’ve achieved.
Putting people first
- The downs. You are used to putting the needs of others ahead of everything, giving even the most obstinate patients respect, tolerance, and the highest quality care. But just as each patient is more than just another paycheck, your staff must be treated as much more than just a means to procuring that paycheck. Yes, efficiency in a private practice is important, especially in these times. But you must show that you honestly care about your employees. Are slip-ups becoming an issue with someone? Find out why, and offer help. More than just wanting to get the job done right, make sure they know that you want them to do it right again. Doctors and other medical professionals find themselves on the frontlines of the human condition every day. Sometimes, we must face those conditions in our private lives, and they can follow us around. Let a staff member know that you and their other peers will do what you can to help them overcome personal tragedy, or any other difficulties so they can once again do their jobs to the best of their ability.
- The ups. Just as it is important to address your staff in times of trouble, you should keep abreast of other significant events in their lives. Marriages, graduations, and awards ceremonies are all perfect examples. If your PA’s daughter got that coveted softball scholarship, let them know how happy you are for them. If one of your nurses was just proposed to, why not send her a congratulatory bouquet of flowers? If your receptionist’s son, whom you treated for years, is graduating from college and you are invited to the party being thrown in his honor, try your best to attend it.
- The power of praise. We may get older, but words of encouragement, gratitude, and praise for a job done exceedingly well never go out of fashion, or lose their positive effect on us. Letting staff know that you sincerely appreciate what they do—what they bring to the table each and every day—is a small gesture that can cut through monotony and negativity and reset their desire to go above and beyond, to be a lynchpin around your office. This is best done in person, but a thoughtful, articulate e-mail or letter can work, too.
What do you think those letters stand for? Let’s begin with the most obvious choice.
- Rest, and relaxation. This may go without saying for many, but be sure to give your staff time off when they need it throughout the year, and if you can, especially around the holidays. During these periods in particular, try to draw up alternative work schedules to give your employees the time they need for holiday and family-related things. Even the most dedicated, motivated, engaged employee can succumb to stress and fatigue. Help them to make sure that doesn’t happen.
- Rewards. You spend a lot of time outlining your practice’s goals, and motivating your staff to meet them. What happens when you actually do meet them? What if your employees have been, as they say, “crushing it” for a while now? A verbal pat on the back only goes so far. Bonuses are certainly nice. So are gift certificates, and other incentives. (Of course, do remember to be consistent when doling these incentives out…)
- Resources. Office-wide resources and ancillary trainings are especially helpful during the onboarding process, but you should make these available to everyone, year-round. Offering your employees the chance to build upon their skills and advance their careers ultimately increases their value to you, while sending them a message that you are willing to invest in them.
Have a great day!
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