These past couple years have been tough on medical practices. The onslaught of new technology has required extensive staff training, and completely new practice workflows. The uncertain transition to ICD-10 has thrown another huge challenge at small practices. Revenue is falling, and patient loads are increasing.
Even for the best practice staff teams, that’s a lot to handle. And for medical practices running on a tight budget, it’s unlikely all that additional work came with a bump in pay.
So how do you motivate practice staff through all this upheaval and change? How do you encourage productivity without financial incentives?
It’s a huge challenge, one that may be out of reach if you don’t have the right people on the job. But the good news is, research has shown many factors other than money can be just as effective (if not more so) at motivating staff productivity.
Here are the top 8 creative ways we found to keep your staff on their A-game.
Foster a Team Environment
Your staff will work more productively if they feel like they’re part of a team. No, not everyone will be best friends. But that doesn’t mean they can’t respect and be friendly with each other. Take some time every so often to arrange an office outing – whether it’s a meal or happy hour out, a painting party, or a hosted potluck. Do something to celebrate staff birthdays and other special occasions. Making the effort to sponsor activities together shows you care that your staff gets along, and gives them the opportunity to get to know each other off-the-job. If you can afford it, consider doing an off-site activity once or twice a year during the workday. Shut the practice down for a half day, and treat your staff to a fun outing together – on work-time.
Do Performance Reviews — the Right Way
If you don’t already do staff performance reviews, you should. They’re absolutely necessary to motivating staff and exchanging feedback. And they don’t need to be scary.
Think of performance reviews more as “check-ins” with your staff. They’ll give you an opportunity to provide both praise and constructive suggestions to staff. You should give your staff performance reviews at least once a year, possibly more often for new staff or during tough times when lots of change is happening.
To do performance reviews the right way, follow these guidelines:
- Let staff prepare. Before the performance review meeting, have staff fill out a self-evaluation. What have they excelled at? What do they think they could do better? What resources, support, or other things would help them do their job better? Knowing their responses to these questions will not only be valuable to you, it’ll turn the review into a more collaborative and open experience for them. You may even want to consider handing staff their evaluation in writing before the meeting, so that they have time to review your feedback and discuss at the meeting.
- Make it a two-way review. A performance review isn’t just an opportunity to give staff member feedback on their work; it’s a chance to improve yourself and your management of the practice. Encourage the staff to give you feedback on your management style, or their general work experiences. What could you do to support them better? What would help improve their job experience? Do they have any advice on how to improve the practice? Showing them the performance review is two-sided will make them feel less like they’re in the hotseat, and demonstrate you respect their opinion and genuinely care about their success.
- Set goals together. Performance reviews are more likely to spur action if they have key take-aways. During your performance review meeting with each staff member, brainstorm a few goals that employee should accomplishment over the next period (whether that’s a year, 6 months, or a quarter). Make sure you work with the practice staff member to set realistic, achievable goals that they can work toward.
Give Staff a Voice
Is your practice going through a tough time? Struggling with a problem you can’t seem to fix? Call a practice meeting and ask your staff for their input. Do they have any suggestions for solving the problem?
Not only will you most likely get a few valuable insights to improve your medical practice, you’ll show staff you respect their opinions. No matter their role, every staff member has their own strengths and insights into an aspect of the how the practice runs. Leverage that shared knowledge and encourage your team to take pride in their insights.
Don’t Skimp on Gratitude and Praise
A little praise can go a long way in motivating practice staff. When a staff member handles a tricky patient encounter, goes over and above to implement a new workflow, or remains a source of positivity through an especially overloaded week, make sure you thank them and tell them what a fantastic job they’ve done. Its fine to pull them aside for a quick compliment, but you should also call them out publicly in a staff meeting or via an email to the whole practice.
Displays of gratitude don’t have to be just between manager and employee either. Hand out little gratitude cards to staff and encourage them to hand one to a coworker on a day where they really helped them out, or did a fantastic job. It’s an incredibly easy way to spread a positive, respectful attitude in your practice.
Give Small Gifts When You Can
Ok, so maybe you can’t afford to hand out bonuses to staff for a job well done. But what if you gave out a few small prizes (like giftcards) every so often to show your appreciation? It’s a relatively inexpensive way to show your staff you’re thinking about them. You could tie these praise-worthy work, or stellar performance reviews.
To get the right gift for each staff member, check out Uncover, a site that lets your employees pick out their perfect perk.
Designate Project Heads
Every employee has different strengths, and every practice has endless projects in need of a leader. Why not give each staff member a project to own? Have one practice employee become the practice management software “superuser.” Make another responsible for a new marketing initiative. These projects can be as small or large as you want. The important part is giving each employee a chance to lead and really own a piece of the practice. In return, they’ll feel more invested in their job, appreciate that you respect them enough to give them the opportunity, and enhance their job-skills. Depending on the initiative, you could even give the employee an ancillary/honorary job title to match the project.
Research in behavior science have found attention from leadership can be a powerful motivator for employees. Try scheduling regular one-on-one meetings with each employee. These can be as informal and as frequent as you want (at eVisit, we do 30-minute outdoor strolls with our CEO once a quarter). The goal is just to check-in with the staff member and give them your undivided attention. How are they doing? Do they need anything from you they’re not getting? Could you do something to be a better resource and manager to them?
Even if the conversation is a quick one, schedule out your one-on-ones like any other meeting. It might seem unnecessary, but these kind of check-ins are the first thing to go when practice schedules get crazy.
Celebrate Successes and Inspire Pride
Any award or major accomplishment of your practice is a reflection on all your practice staff. No one works in isolation. Remind your staff that. When you hit a major milestone, do something to celebrate and take time to call out each member’s contributions. If you share a patient’s rave review with everyone, staff is more likely to take pride in their work – after all, they were part of that patient’s care experience.
Showing staff the results of their labor is an important part of motivation. Staff who take pride in their work and feel what they do has meaningful results are exponentially more motivated employees. Period.
Money isn’t everything. There are more creative ways to motivate your practice staff and keep their spirits high through rough times. The secret to motivating your practice staff may be as simple as showing gratitude for their hard work, and demonstrating you truly respect them and care about their well-being. This attitude is at the core of each of these key strategies for improving staff productivity.