Issues And Answers On Improving Staff Morale And Efficiency

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By Lynn Homisak, PRT

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?    A: You have created an automatic expectation by basing raises on years worked instead of performance. Essentially, you have “locked” yourself into that repeated annual increase. While one should take loyalty and commitment into account, they should not be the only criteria on which you base raises. You need to start attaching purpose to these raises and the sooner the better.    Unfortunately, because there is an undefined scope of practice among podiatric medical assistants (due to varying skill sets), it is impossible to determine an average “going rate” salary. Unlike the medical or dental assistant who graduates with a list of learned skills and qualifications, and along with them a recommended wage expectation, podiatric medical assistants must struggle without either. They have no recognizable starting ground. Unless podiatric medical assistants can adopt a more standardized job description, it is nearly impossible to create viable benchmark statistics or compare one salary to another. Therefore, salaries and raises can only be a direct reflection of individual duties and performance.    The annual employee performance review is the best tool for measuring work performance and creating the necessary time to discuss praiseworthy accomplishments as well as problem areas. Be honest and give your employee a clear sense of how he or she is doing. Discuss aspects of his or her job performance that need improvement. If the employee has serious performance issues, discuss those issues and clearly outline your expectations for improvement. Whether the employee needs additional training is another issue to discuss during the review. Of course, there will also be discussion about a possible increase in salary.    As far as salary caps, I think this discussion should take place with the employee during the hiring process. If there is a “cap” in the future, he or she should be aware of this. Perhaps you might offer an agreed upon alternative benefit that might offset a monetary increase. For instance, one may offer participation in an incentive-type bonus system, whereby the amount of an employee’s financial reward is directly driven by his or her own motivation. This can be mutually beneficial.    Another substitute for monetary incentive might be flexibility of hours, another week’s vacation, health insurance, birthdays off, tickets to a play or dinner or even a paid weekend away. There are all types of incentive-based programs to consider but it does require you knowing a little bit about each employee needs and their personalities to know what would best suit them. Involve them in the discussion for best results.

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