Issues And Answers On Improving Staff Morale And Efficiency
- Volume 17 - Issue 12 - December 2004
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As songwriter Henry Kaiser put it, “Problems are only opportunities in work clothes.” I can attest to this truth of this statement. As a podiatric medical assistant and consultant, I frequently lecture at meetings and speak to doctors and assistants all over the country. My mission is to help create a better work dynamic between doctors and assistants. With this in mind, let us consider some common questions that come up at meetings.
Q: I am not having any luck training my staff. I tell them how things should be done and I still end up doing them myself because they are not catching on. I simply do not have the time and patience to repeat things over and over again. What is the solution?
A: First, training someone does not require luck and second, merely telling staff is not a substitute for teaching staff. Training involves demonstrating what you are trying to teach, clarifying the importance of it, encouraging questions, repeating information to make sure your staff understands, providing hands on trial time and finally allowing your staff to go solo with this new activity. By following through with this approach, you can significantly enhance a successful outcome.
Also keep in mind that cutting back on training time does not speed up productivity. This actually does just the opposite. By not training someone properly right from the start, you risk the possibility that employees will do things the way they think they should be done. As a result, you can wind up with less than adequate service (from the handling of equipment to the handling of your patients). This only contributes to higher costs in the end. At that point, you have to stop, undo the mistake and start all over again, wasting even more of the time you said you never had in the first place.
Make the necessary time to train even if it means rescheduling an occasional hour of patients to do so. When explaining various techniques, do not assume the staff or new employees know what you mean. Spell things out for them and insist they take notes for future reference. Ask them to shadow you for a week or two to learn your specific protocols, what kinds of questions your patients ask, how you respond to those questions, what instruments you reach for, what products your recommend, etc. Utilize the skills and experience of your key assistant (if one is available) along with (not in place of) your time and schedule regular in-house training sessions. This approach is not only key for new employees, but also worthwhile in brushing up an established employee’s technique as well.
Also remember that praise goes a long way. Given that most employees do 90 percent of their duties right, how difficult would it be for you to praise them for something different every single day? Praising good behavior encourages repeat good behavior so keep those compliments coming.
Do You Have A History Of Giving Automatic Raises?
Q: For the first 10 years of practice, I gave my staff person a $1 per hour raise, but now I feel I have reached a plateau in what I can afford to pay her. If I continue this pattern, I will eventually go broke, but if I don’t, she will think I do not appreciate her. What is the “going rate” average salary for a podiatric medical assistant and is there a salary “cap” for what an assistant should be earning?