Physicians work extremely hard to obtain their education and build a solid reputation within their community. However, no matter how impressive a provider’s credentials, one negative experience with the office staff can change a patient’s perception.
Office staff are a reflection and extension of the provider. Simply put, they have the ability to make or break a patient’s experience, and sometimes even the success of a practice, which is why finding and retaining the right employees should be a top priority.
Taking the time to ensure that you have the right staff may be one of the most important elements for a practice. It requires significant time and effort; however, there are few things that can provide a higher return on your investment.
Finding Top Talent:
1) Think Outside of the Box with Your Candidate Search- Inform your staff and patients you are looking to hire, often the best candidates come via referrals. If your practice has a LinkedIn or Facebook page, post the position on social media. Other suggestions include your local chapter of MGMA, and local universities and community colleges with medical assistant or other allied health programs.
2) Keep an Open Mind When Interviewing- Remember there are many teachable skills. Skills such as scheduling, data entry, and reception duties can be taught if you have a candidate with strong customer service, excellent communication skills, and a positive attitude. Characteristics that are more difficult to teach include: attitude, willingness to learn, flexibility, and strong work ethic. Finding candidates with these qualities is often more imperative to a smooth-running office and a positive patient experience.
3) Go Deeper with Interview Questions– Whether in person or over the phone, go beyond the standard questions about a candidate’s resume and previous job experience. For example, ask them to provide an example of how they handled a challenging situation at their previous job, or how they collaborated with their co-workers to complete a project. Other open-ended questions to consider include:
- Why did you choose healthcare as a career and what are your career aspirations?
- What is a challenging situation you had at work and how did you overcome it?
- What are your thoughts on continuing your education while working?
- How would you handle a challenging or upset patient?
- How would you greet patients when they approach the front desk?
- Would you be willing to take on additional responsibilities if it meant more hours?
- Consider setting up a role-play with scenarios such as collection calls, appointment scheduling, reception, etc.
Retaining great employees:
If your practice is fortunate enough to have an excellent staff, congratulations! You have hit a home run. The next challenge is retaining them, which is a whole new ballgame.
According to an article in Forbes, when employees leave their company for another job, they can typically expect a 10-20% increase in pay; however, if they stay at their current employer, they can expect an average of 3%. So how can medical practices compete and retain top talent? Below are a few strategies for keeping great employees.
1.) Recognition– One of the most common reasons employees leave is because they feel underappreciated. Taking the time to simply thank an exceptional employee, or reward them by giving them an afternoon off, does not cost nearly as much as if they leave. Another best practice is to encourage patients and team members to leave comments about their visit or interactions. Set aside a special time during meetings for acknowledgment. Creating a culture where staff, management, and patients can recognize each other’s value can be priceless.
2.) Engagement- Employee engagement is one of the most important factors in retaining valuable talent. Create an environment of collaboration, mutual respect, and trust by leading discussions and asking staff their suggestions on process improvement. Employees who take initiative should be recognized and encouraged to increase their responsibilities. The key to an engaged workforce is recognizing each individual’s talents and helping them succeed in achieving their goals.
3.) Flexibility – Although it may be challenging for a small medical practice to offer a flexible work schedule, it can often be achieved through strategic scheduling. Allowing staff members to work through lunch to leave early one afternoon, or come in later one morning to accommodate their family schedule, shows you care about their well-being. Giving employees a little flexibility and understanding, can go a long way.
4.) Compensation/Benefits – Compensation and benefits are a useful tool for attracting and retaining top talent. They also play an essential role in employee satisfaction. Although not all employers can easily accommodate, it is an important factor in finding and retaining the best employees. Most often if you pay your best talent more than they are worth, they will rise to a higher level; pay them less, and they will give you just that.