If you are having trouble finding and keeping office staff, you are not alone. Staffing agencies are reporting an all-time shortage of skilled labor. The demand for healthcare personnel is growing, with no signs of slowing. It’s important to create a great work environment if you want your staff to stay on board. A fantastic front-office culture reduces employee churn and improves patient care. Both are key to running a thriving practice.
Let’s face it; we need to offer more than just decent salaries. People want to work in businesses where support outweighs criticism. Places where opportunities for professional development and advancement abound. And, most of all, they don’t want to feel bad while they’re on the job.
In healthcare practices, this is where the front-office culture comes into play. After all, the front desk is the heart of the operation. It’s the informational hub between providers, patients, and insurance carriers. It sets the tone of the entire practice.
How do you define the culture in your front office? How do your employees see it? How would your patients describe it?
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Front-Office Culture Inventory
The first step in creating a great work environment is to figure out what you have now. Are you always training new faces? Are your people frustrated and stressed? Are there enough hands to do the job?
Take inventory by asking each staff member how they are enjoying their job. Or, create an anonymous suggestion box. After all, nobody knows the office culture better than your employees.
You can also ask patients about their experience. Create a survey that grades your practice on efficiency, friendliness, and comfort. Request suggestions.
Once you’ve determined what needs improvement, it’s time to get started. With a bit of planning, you can address the most common front-office culture killers.
“I Get No Respect”
Remember Rodney Dangerfield? It turns out, he wasn’t that different from the rest of us. Feeling underappreciated is one of the top reasons people leave their jobs. In this competitive environment, yearly performance reviews don’t cut it anymore. Positive feedback needs to happen more often.
Luckily, expressing appreciation is easy. Give kudos for a job well done during impromptu hallway conversations. Express your gratitude via the occasional email or gift card. Encourage peer-to-peer recognition as well. Make sure praise is specific to something an employee has done.
Do Your OWN Damn Job!
Vague or overlapping job responsibilities are a common sore spot in medical offices. It’s frustrating when someone is not pulling their weight, and their tasks end up on your plate. It’s even worse when nobody notices your efforts because roles are not defined.
The truth is, good fences really do make great neighbors. Although it’s ok to cross train, make sure everyone knows what their responsibilities are. Set everyone up for success by creating well-defined positions. Have team members update their own job descriptions when their duties change. Be sure to give raises to those who shoulder more responsibilities.
Please, Not Another Dead-End Job.
Few growth options make a job less desirable. Show that you want to support each contributor’s career, training and education. Send your most loyal staff to industry conferences to learn and bring new ideas to the practice. Cover enrollment fees for classes at a local college. Provide software or IT training to employees who show interest in technology.
Sure, there’s always a risk that a well-trained employee may leave your practice. Then again wouldn’t it be great if an employee could finally handle your network? As Richard Branson once said: “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”
Can I shoot the copier?
Imagine this: your desk is buried under patient files. You have tons of phone calls to return. You have just ONE urgent task to complete before you can get started… but the copier is jammed. Or the fax machine is broken. The phone system is down again. Next thing you know, you spend your day trying to get things fixed. You go home frustrated and worried about all the tasks you didn’t do.
It’s a fact: broken equipment can drive people crazy. And some doctors have software that is so old; it’s incompatible with anything else. Don’t let this be you. Remember that training new employees ALWAYS costs more than replacing old equipment and software. Just fix it.
Dear Stress, Let’s Break Up
In exit interviews, employees often cite stress as a primary reason for leaving a job. Workplace stress leads to anxiety and depression, high blood pressure, headaches, insomnia, etc. As a medical expert, you understand the severity of these issues.
Make sure you have hired enough people to do the job. If your staff is overworked, you will be training new employees and never get ahead. To get immediate relief, consider hiring a temporary employee from a local employment agency. Then meet with your Manager to identify where your staff needs help.
Did I Go To School for This?
Newsflash: nobody wants to do tedious, repetitive tasks. Yet, many Physical Therapy practices still make their assistants launder towels. What gives?
If you’re experiencing a lot of employee churn, outsource your more repetitive tasks. Employees can then focus on more skilled functions. Things to consider outsourcing include appointment reminders, email marketing and yes… laundry!
Put The “Fun” Back in Functional
A great front-office culture requires a sense of camaraderie. Help everyone connect with occasional outings and holiday celebrations. During slow times, create team projects. Redecorate the office or create a new filing system. Create a fundraiser for an employee’s favorite charity. If your practice is just too busy, invest in a yearly team-building retreat. It only lasts one weekend and you might enjoy it too!
Bringing It All Together
To create a great front-office culture, remember to offer the following:
Work on these and you’ll find yourself supported by a loyal and capable team in no time.