Is your practice not performing as well as it should be?
Are your patients leaving and not coming back? Do you get the feeling your staff is looking at the clock, counting the minutes until they can dash out the door?
Your practice may be suffering from a common problem: poor employee morale. It is vital that you know how to recognize low morale and what to do if you spot it.
Something is ‘off’
Even before you recognize the signs and symptoms of poor morale in the office, you might sense something is wrong. You might not be able to put your finger on it right away, but you may notice an unhappy vibe or a feeling of tension in the office. Don’t ignore those feelings. This is one time when you should definitely go with your gut.
Take a little time to find out from your staff if there are any problems that need your attention.
Obviously, your staff won’t always tell you how they really feel. This is especially true if you are an aloof and busy boss. Because no good deed ever goes unpunished, employees may fear retribution from you or other staff members if they point out problems.
Patients will sometimes tell you directly or indirectly that they sense something is wrong in the office, too. They may tell you overtly or covertly in the form of specific complaints like “Your secretary is always in a bad mood” or “Why did we have to wait so long the last two times we came to see you?”
Even if you don’t get a warning from another staff member or a patient, there are other telltale signs of poor employee morale you should look for:
- Staff coming in late or missing days at work.
- Staff doing the minimum required, not showing an interest in their work.
- Productivity and efficiency are down; you don’t feel like you have the support of a strong team.
- Employees are sullen and quiet, not their usual selves.
- Employees are no longer coming up with ideas and suggestions for the practice.
Assuming you have identified a morale problem in your office, there are some time-proven techniques you can employ to address it. First, be aware that the issue has probably been brewing for a long time and there won’t be any easy fixes. You will have to rebuild the working environment, which might include the way you relate to your employees.
The point of a remedial morale program is to change your office from being a place where employees just go to a job into a place where they are part of a vibrant team working together to make the practice patient-friendly and efficient. A place where they have a stake in the business and feel that what they do makes a valuable difference.
How do you cultivate this type of environment? While it is true that everyone loves a bonus, in this case it’s the little things that mean the most.
Take the time to talk a little with your staff. At the very least, greet them with a smile when you arrive. If they are having a problem or want to talk with you, find the time to deal with it as soon as possible.
Let them know that you value their opinions and appreciate their concerns. Putting a thoughtful card on the front desk on Secretary’s Day or your CA’s birthday can go a long way.
Take a good look at your practice, and make an honest appraisal of the physical work environment—as if seeing it for the first time. Is the office clean and bright? Are the work areas comfortable and ergonomically sound? Do employees have the tools they need when they need them (or does the person at the front desk have to walk to a closet to get paperclips)?
Do you make it convenient to come to work? Does your staff have preferred parking spaces, comfortable chairs, good lighting, and so on? These may seem like small things, but day-to-day annoyances can add up fast. It may be time to do some updating and remodeling. Consider asking staff members to participate in this activity and incorporate some of their suggestions.
Sweetening the pot
No discussion of morale boosters would be complete without some discussion of bonuses and incentive plans. While there is some
If you do offer incentives, offer them to all employees (not just one, such as the office manager). And consult with your attorney; some common bonus plans can violate Stark law and anti-kickback rules.disagreement among practice management consultants about these, they can be a good thing. Still, regard them as being only a part of your morale-boosting plan, and not all your practice offers its employees.
Your office is where your employees spend almost half their waking hours. When it feels like a home to them, the people in your practice become like family members.
You are the head of that family, and they will look to you for guidance and support. Provide it and you will reap the rewards of good morale. If you have a morale problem now, incorporate the ideas presented here and you can expect to see some results in three to six months.
Employees who enjoy their jobs will always go the extra mile for you.
Marc H. Sencer, MD, is the president of MDs for DCs, which provides intensive one-on-one training, medical staffing, and ongoing practice management support to chiropractic integrated practices. He can be contacted at 800-916-1462 or through mdsfordcs.com.