Are you ready to learn the best-kept secrets to keeping your employees happy and motivated at the office?
Few would argue that positive employee morale forms a critical component in any medical practice’s success—it can either make or break your organization. Industry analysts have stated time, and again that declining employee engagement can cause your revenue to drop by as much as 20% compared to your competition.
“Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.” – Stephen R. Covey
The stresses of working in the healthcare industry can erode your staff’s demeanor if you’re not vigilant about regularly gauging their morale and taking steps to boost it when you sense it lagging. Happy employees perform better at work and are more friendly to patients (equating with higher star reviews). Disengaged employees can hurt your bottom line in terms of lost productivity, decreased patient satisfaction, and replacement costs. According to The Center for American Progress, it can cost up to 25% of a disgruntled employee’s salary to replace them.
Your patients don’t want to walk into a lobby that is tense, stressed-out, and unfriendly (they get plenty of that outside the confines of your office). As we’ve declared to our clients time and again, patients want to be welcomed in a caring, friendly, and calm atmosphere that will help them navigate the stress of any health challenge they may be facing.
In this article, we’ll break down the best (and easiest) ways to cultivate employee morale and turn them into rock stars who will ramp up your game and rocket your practice into the stratosphere. Hiring the best person for the job is challenging. Keeping them can be even tougher.
When it comes to office communication, there is a disconnect between what employers perceive and what their employees experience. 70% of employers believe their office culture promotes open discussion and the free exchange of ideas. However, less than 50% of employees actually think that is the case.
Creating an open space where your employees feel like they can offer ideas and ask questions is critical to maintaining high morale. Employees who feel constrained in their ability to communicate will become frustrated – leading to their resentment rearing its ugly head in others ways, namely toward each other and your patients!
Your managers should coach your employees on how to improve their performance and help them move up to new positions. Nothing can cause an employee’s morale to sag more than the feeling that they are stuck in one job forever with no possibility of advancement.
Keeping your staff up to date on your practice’s values, mission, and goals is instrumental for them to buy into your organization and keep them performing at their best. Make sure that your employees know that their jobs represent much more than just answering phones and filling out forms. Add value to their positions by making them feel like the vital components or your practice that they are.
In healthcare, today’s savvy consumer-oriented patients will frequent the medical practices that give them the best overall experience, despite a positive treatment outcome. Bottom line: you could be the best surgeon in the world, but if patients didn’t feel comfortable and cared for within your practice’s walls, they won’t come back. Period.
If you’d like to learn more about the relationship between happy employees and patient satisfaction, check out one of our more popular podcasts where we interview Michelle Lee, (past) President of Avery Partners & DDS Staffing.
2. Get Feedback
Getting poignant and accurate feedback from your employees plays an integral part in attaining your practice’s goals and realizing your vision. And part of the process is knowing if they are being supported and challenged in the best ways or if they feel like they are being held back.
Honest feedback allows you to build on your strengths and to identify and improve on your weaknesses. The greatest managers across all industries are the ones who can take an honest look at what they need to improve upon, and use every means available to them for gauging that information. And your employees are super resource #1!
The exit interview has been the traditional way that organizations have gotten feedback from employees, but why would you want to wait until an employee is out the door to garner that vital information? As mentioned above, knowing it beforehand could save you time, money, and lost productivity.
Here are a few forward-thinking ways to obtain real-time, honest feedback:
- Show interest: ASK your employees how things are going. You can do this during casual conversation, at staff meetings, and periodic performance reviews. Listen and show you care, and then take any necessary actions to address their concerns. Employee morale is directly linked to whether they feel there is an open and caring ear on the other side willing to listen and lend a hand if needed.
- Pay attention to nonverbal behavior: Nonverbal cues can tip you off to a problem brewing under the surface. Look for things during meetings such as downcast eyes, people avoiding eye contact, and tense faces. And then candidly ask the right questions first to confirm a problem exists and then to understand its source.
- Own your mistakes: Even the best managers mess up now and then. However, directors who have the wisdom and mettle to recognize their shortcomings and say “I’m sorry” when they’ve made a mistake will ultimately garner greater respect and adoration from their employees.
Staff members who believe their concerns matter will feel appreciated, which in turn will lead them to value your patients and take greater pride in their work.
3. Get Down in the Trenches
When was the last time you put yourself in the shoes of one of your frontline staff to experience what they go through on a daily or hourly basis? How about sitting in your waiting room to feel what it’s like from a patient’s point of view?
We wouldn’t be surprised if you said never. Most doctors would probably have the same answer. However, it certainly would be in your best interest to show some love to the front line pillars of your practice.
First off, taking an interest in what your employees do and attempting to do it yourself will have you soaring on their appreciation and adoration meter. These kinds of actions help build a heap of long-term goodwill and loyalty. Moreover, the occasion can provide you with an incredible social media opportunity. Treat your patients and fans to pictures of you at the reception desk welcoming patients and taking appointments over the phone. We know from firsthand experience working with medical practice clients the importance patients place on the quality of service they receive over the phone and what a sensation these kinds of social posts can generate.
An orthopedic surgeon client of ours did just that. Leaving the comfort of his examination room, he spent an hour listening in on calls in the practice call center. The experience allowed him to understand what his employees go through on a daily basis, recognize process improvements, and boost employee engagement. We showcased his experience in social media to the delight of his patients and his greatest supporters.
4. Go, Team!
One of the best ways to revitalize your employees is by scheduling regular team-building activities. Team-building promotes bonding, strengthens loyalty, and boosts morale.
Here are some tried and true ways to enhance teamwork:
Get involved in volunteer projects
Take a poll and find out what issues are close to your employees’ hearts (maybe it’s a local shelter or charity). Then organize a fundraiser to support those efforts or take an afternoon where the whole practice goes down on-site to lend a hand. These kinds of endeavors allow everyone at your practice to bond at a deeper level and feel good about themselves. Supporting a valid cause will bring awareness of the issue to light in the community and provide your employees with a sense of empowerment, hope, and fulfillment.
When you support your staff’s passions, you help create employees who:
- Rave about your brand and become ardent fans
- Become loyal soldiers ready to do battle
- Turn into infectious storytellers
- Become rock stars singing your praises
Participate in professional development or other interactive activities together
Is there an annual health conference related to your subspecialty that would benefit your staff? Or perhaps a renowned surgeon is giving a talk one evening at a hospital or university nearby? Not only can these programs help employee morale, but they also promote team building and cohesiveness among your staff.
How about fun, interactive, group-based activities (again based on a consensus of what everyone loves to do) Paintball? Dragonboat racing? Go-Karting? The possibilities are endless. This will help your staff to build long-lasting relationships with each other outside of the daily grind. Priceless!
5. Reward Performance and Recognize Achievements
Your employees spend a significant portion of their waking hours at your medical practice. They need to know that their contributions are valued, and their presence appreciated. As you might expect, morale will slump if people have the impression their work isn’t recognized and their efforts seldom rewarded (beyond their paychecks). And statistics confirm it. Praise or attention from their managers motivates over 63% of employees (this could be as simple as saying “good job,” “thanks for the effort,” or a simple “good morning.”
Practices who make their employees feel like they are part of the family and treat them accordingly (instead of just cogs in a machine) tend to see better results regarding employee morale, productivity, and loyalty. According to Forbes Magazine, 66% of employees indicate that they would likely leave their jobs if they didn’t feel appreciated.
The possibilities are endless, but here are a few easy and effective ways you can reward and recognize your employees:
- Impromptu awards: Hand out small gifts such as cards or trinkets when someone goes above and beyond the call of duty (do this in front of all their peers).
- Birthdays are a BIG deal! As are work anniversaries. Decorate their cubicle and buy them a yummy cake. The longer the work anniversary, the bigger the cake.
- Set up a monthly employee recognition program.
- Create a bulletin board dedicated to recognizing staff accomplishments (along with photos) and shining stars. Give your employees and your patients a way to acknowledge their exceptional achievements.
- Annual employee appreciation day. Set aside one day in the spring to recognize your staff. You don’t have to break the bank, but you should invest a few dollars to create something simple yet meaningful such as a catered lunch where you present your employee with custom-made practice t-shirts, hoodies, exercise bags, or coffee mug.
You are responsible for setting the tone needed in your practice for creating an environment where your team knows their work is appreciated. It starts and ends with you. Get creative and have fun developing your own unique ways of patting your employees on the back. Use the personality traits of your staff to guide you in your efforts.
6. Lend a hand
Rigid hierarchies can strangle employee morale and stifle creativity, especially if some employees work in physical isolation from others. Engaging in small, helpful acts can help overcome any hierarchical disconnect that may have started to creep into your practice culture. Restocking paper cups, cleaning the coffee maker, or helping out with a patient issue can show your staff that you are “one of them” and break down barriers to communication.
Participating in the daily routine of your staff humanizes you as a leader and forges trust and respect among your employees. Remember, the most loved (and respected) general is the one who leads their troops into battle and is not afraid to get their hands dirty!
7. Work Space
We all know how employees react when a brand-new, comfortable work chair is introduced. You may even smile to yourself when you notice name tags on chairs in the back office with notes indicating the repercussions should they disappear.
A new computer (or even a mouse pad, hands-free headset, or desk) can have the same effect. Periodic investments in the ergonomic comfort of your employees will come back to you in spades in terms of employee morale, satisfaction, and loyalty.
The Bottom Line: Happy Employees = More Patients
Who hasn’t worked for someone they really didn’t like? To avoid becoming that person, you need to establish a team-oriented culture and implement real-time feedback mechanisms to allow you to recognize and fix any issues before people leave your organization.
At the end of the day, the attitude and mental state of your employees set the tone for your entire practice. Patients can sense when something is “off” at a practice or when there are tension and discontent in the air. And most of them will want to steer way clear of the negativity.
Your employees form the state-of-the-art components in your medical practice machine. Keeping them well-oiled, happy, and motivated will enable you to achieve both your short and long-term goals. When you care about, recognize, reward, and appreciate, there is almost nothing your employees won’t do for you or your patients. Your staff will become a patient care force to be reckoned with!
Have you tried any of these morale enhancers at your practice? I’d love to hear what has worked for you.