Tips to Help You Manage Your Staff

Managing your staff and creating a healthy and motivating environment can be challenging as a Direct Primary Care physician. It’s important you take time to develop and share your expectations to your staff in the beginning. Once you share your expectations it will be easier to hold your staff accountable for their actions and work ethic moving forward.

You’re in Charge of Your practice. Here Are a Few Tips to Help You Manage Your Staff:

Know your business and know your employees.
• Make protocols and tasks clear and, if at all possible, measurable.
• Understand the concept of progressive discipline.
• Be open to ideas and changes. Trust your staff.
• Be intentional and focused.

Know Your Business and Know Your Employees

It is most likely you will have at least one staff member in your practice. This might be clinical personnel like a medical assistant and/or front-office administrative staff. Delegation of responsibility is critical, but it’s important you know your business inside and out, including those aspects typically handled by your staff, such as your reservation, billing, and communication systems. Keep in mind if your employee leaves for any reason, your practice will immediately lose human capital in the form of working knowledge (not to mention passwords) as this person walks out the door. Also, as a small business owner, you will get to know your employees very well. Each one will be a key employee to your business, so it’s often valuable to take the time to understand each employee’s personal and professional goals. You will find that there are many ways to reward employees beyond pay. For example, flexibility around child care or other personal matters can make a huge difference. Nonetheless, no matter how close you feel to your staff, it’s important to remember that an inescapable part of being a business owner is firing employees when necessary. Always maintain a professional relationship that enables you to terminate staff without jeopardizing personal relationships.

Make Protocols and Tasks Clear and, if at all Possible, Measurable

Similar to the clinical protocols that guide the practice of medicine, you and your staff will benefit from protocols for operation of your office. For example, if your staff member is on the phone with a patient and another call comes in, do you put the person on hold to take the call or let it go to voicemail? Some organizations prioritize customer service while others value their phones always being answered promptly. What about a phone ringing versus a patient waiting in person? Preferably, these operating protocols produce outcomes that are clear and measurable, since you cannot improve what you cannot measure. For example, to measure customer service success you might track calls answered, voice mails, walk ins, emails, and social media messages per day. It is critical to first capture this data, and then use analytics to draw accurate conclusions and translate this into action. If your office is unable to get through all the messages in a day, that may be a great sign your practice is getting attention! Or, it may mean that your staff is not efficiently getting through daily tasks. These may seem trivial, but it’s a good idea to have a clear understanding of expectations. Regardless of how you choose to run your practice, write it down in the form of protocols, and revisit it every 3 months to make sure your expectations are aligned with your staff members actions.

Understand the Concept of Progressive Discipline

Inevitably, there will be an issue you need to resolve with your staff. First, make sure that the objective was clear to begin with. Was it a difficult situation or is your staff member really not doing what they should be doing? Next, listen to their reasoning and explain what the proper course of action should be. Follow this up in writing. Something like, “as we discussed today, it’s important to confirm all appointments with phone calls 2 days before.” Hopefully, this will be enough. However if the work performance does not improve, the next step would be to formally document the issue in writing with your employee. Have them sign that they received the written notification and put it in their personnel file. If this does not improve the work performance, you will have to let the employee go.

Be Open to Ideas and Changes

There’s a difference between getting things done and getting things done in a particular way. Most tasks have numerous ways to complete them. It’s important to listen to your staff and be open to ideas and changes. If your staff member is getting through what needs to be done, but it’s not exactly the way you would do it, consider if their way might actually be better. Remember that you’ll be with patients most of the time. Your office staff will have a different perspective. If their way works, consider adopting your staff’s recommendations. Incorporating employees’ ideas is a great way to have your staff know they were heard and get them to buy into your practice and its success.

Be Intentional and Focused

You want to be intentional and focused when you have “meetings.” In your small practice, it will be tempting to relax formality because of the size and constant interaction among the team. But, it’s important to maintain some structure. Set aside time for formal conversations. Always create an agenda to focus the conversation in meetings, and have clear outcomes in mind, whether it’s solving a problem or transmitting important information. This will make meetings more productive and the time better spent.

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