Expert Insights On Mastering Staff Training

By John V. Guiliana, DPM, MS

   Well-trained and efficient employees are crucial to the success of any business. Often a shortcoming, staff development is something that podiatric practitioners need to take seriously, building an integrated training process into their business plan. Without an adequate plan to train employees, doctors often feel as though the practice is inefficient and that they are constantly taking corrective measures.

   In many medical practices, staff training is often inadequate. What often winds up happening is having a new employee simply observe and work side by side with a seasoned staff member. The training period, as well as its goal, is often ill defined and unstructured. The training then becomes “retrofitted” as the new employee makes mistakes. The result of this type of training not only has an adverse effect on morale but also contributes to increasing costs.

   Many organizations realize that errors in any part of their business are extremely expensive. In his book, Quality Is Free, Phillip Crosby estimated that the cost of quality is 25 percent of revenue. Following the publication of this book, many businesses set a goal of “zero defects” but they soon realized this was rather unrealistic. However, by instituting and emphasizing proper training techniques, podiatrists will likely see increased staff productivity and satisfaction, and corresponding decreases in costly mistakes and errors.

Training is not simply a transfer of skills. It also has the following goals and benefits.

   • Training ensures clear and noticeable results in job performance.
   • Training offers employees the opportunity to develop and expand their skills.
   • Training helps facilitate increased productivity.
   • Training decreases the amount of time spent with poor performers.
   • Training improves the understanding of priorities.
   • Training increases morale and job satisfaction.

   For training to be successful, it requires commitment at all levels of one’s practice. The core principles of training must be inextricably linked to the practice’s objectives and performance. Responsibility and accountability are built into the training structure. Both the office manager and employee must accept that training is required, implemented, monitored and assessed. The training period only ends when there is mutual agreement that it has been effective.

Making The Commitment To A Training Program

   Part of making the commitment to a regular training program requires establishing a mentor for new administrative employees and one for clinical employees. One should charge this mentor with developing and managing the training program, researching training options and techniques, and preparing specific programs. (See “Developing An Action Plan For Training” below.) The mentors should be qualified by their skills and experience as well as their ability to teach others.

   Develop a training plan and schedule. This plan should include the type of training programs one plans to use and the establishment of training priorities and goals. One should also establish a training budget as part of the annual budgeting process conducted by the practice. It is important to view training as an investment. Accordingly, it will impact the budget when it comes to attendance at practice management seminars, coding and billing seminars, and scientific programs. Inform the staff of the various training options available and for which items the practice will pay.

   One should require those attending outside educational programs to disseminate their information to other staff members. For example, if one of the staffers attends a seminar, he or she could give a short presentation at a lunch meeting or write up a summary report for office distribution.

   It is important to vary the types of training programs one uses. Many options are available. For example, in-house lectures and seminars are programs that last from one hour to one day and may be conducted by outside management consultants. For courses like those for X-ray certification, tuition may be covered in part or in full for selected staff members to expand present capabilities or develop new ones.

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