Issues And Answers On Improving Staff Morale And Efficiency

By Lynn Homisak, PRT

   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.

When An Employee’s Performance Plummets

   Q: Lately I have noticed one member of my staff is despondent and uncooperative. As a result, her performance is plummeting and I am concerned that her attitude may start to affect the other employees and, more importantly, the care that my patients are receiving. What should I do?

   A: The expression “one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch” is true, especially when one person has a great deal of influence over the others. One should first try to resolve any conflicts. Make a genuine attempt to communicate with this individual to determine exactly what is troubling him or her. Perhaps it is a personal issue outside of the office that you have little to no control over.

   On the other hand, maybe it is as simple as altering the employee’s job description. In this case, your direct input could result in a mutually beneficial solution. Try asking the following questions:

   • “What do you personally enjoy the most about your job?”
   • “If you had the ability to do so, what one thing about your job would you change that would make it better?”
   • “How would you suggest we make that change happen?”
   • “What would you say we could do together to make this office run more efficiently and create a better team?”

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