CREATING AN ENGAGED WORKFORCE

One of the key habits of entrepreneurially minded physicians is developing an engaged workforce. The Gallup Organization has done extensive research on the engagement level of employees in organizations and the overall impact on company results.  According to Gallup’s research, engaged employees are more productive, profitable, customer-focused, safer, and less likely to leave.  In the average organization, 30% of the employees are engaged, 50% are disengaged, and 20% are actively disengaged.  In comparison, in world-class organizations, 63% of employees are engaged, 29% are disengaged, and 8% are actively disengaged.

Engaged employees are those who have a positive attitude, take personal responsibility for their actions, are passionate and committed to the company’s goals, contribute discretionary effort, and are solution oriented.  These are the “A” players on the team. Disengaged employees are those who “punch the clock.”  They do just enough to keep their jobs and are resistant to change.  They don’t give the organization their discretionary effort and tend to react passively to problems.  Finally, disengaged employees are those who are poison pills in the organization.  They stir up trouble and recruit others to their cause s.  They blame other people for their problems and make excuses.  They erode a company’s bottom line and bring down the morale of an organization.

Physician leaders, like other organizational leaders, spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with actively disengaged employees.  They are the squeaky wheels on the staff.   We often are forced to ignore our engaged employees as we clean up the messes of the disengaged and actively disengaged members of our staff.  Effective leaders know how to raise the bar and increase the level of engagement of their teams.  They know how to actively listen and learn what the root causes of the problems are.  They don’t ignore issues, but instead, deal with them head on.  Leaders can raise the level of engagement by sharing a compelling vision, coaching their team members, communicating clearly, raising expectations, and insisting on accountability.

In a medical setting, a poorly engaged team can lead to disastrous results.   Patient care and safety is obviously first and foremost.  Disengaged and actively disengaged employees are apt to “let balls drop” that can lead to safety issues for patients.   This could include forgetting to follow up on medications or testing, or even mishandling paperwork or other instructions.  Beyond safety issues, disengaged and actively disengaged employees project their poor attitudes to patients.  The patients (customers) have plenty of options for healthcare services.  Rude treatment by staff can run off patients in a hurry.  For better or worse, these staff team members are the front line representatives.  The quality of the patient experience will largely be dictated by the treatment from the medical staff.  The net effect is that the level of engagement of a practice’s employees has a direct impact on the bottom line.

Interestingly, Gallup’s research found that engaged organizations have 2.6 times the earnings per share growth rate compared to other lower engagement organizations in the same industry.   The engagement level of employees has a direct impact on key performance areas including absenteeism, turnover, safety, customer satisfaction, and profitability.

Creating an engaged workforce is easier said than done.  First, sometimes we have to “get people off the bus.”  This means we have to recognize and deal with actively disengaged people.  While some employees may be salvageable, sometimes the best thing to do is to let someone go.   A disengaged employee is obviously not happy.  We don’t do them favors by keeping them in a miserable job.  For salvageable disengaged employees and the generally disengaged, we need to learn how to be better coaches.   We do this by observing our employees better, questioning them to learn more about their motivations, truly listening to their responses, and giving candid feedback.  Finally, we have to rally them to action.  This means that we  establish clear expectations and standards, and I prefer to put these in writing.  It is critically important to have regular accountability meetings to track progress towards goals and expectations.

It is important to remember that employees do things for their own reasons, and not their leaders.  In the end, all motivation is self-motivation.  While we can yell, scream, and threaten someone into doing their job better, they are not going to become an engaged worker utilizing that management style. Engaged employees respond best to visionary and coaching leadership styles.  The dilemma for physicians is that they are extensively trained on their clinical skills, but not on the entrepreneurial skills of being a great leader.   Learning to be a great leader can be accomplished by first embracing it as a real priority.  Books and podcasts can be used to grow these leadership skills.  Ultimately, it is a process that the physician must undertake in conjunction with his or her team.

Regardless of your practice setting, you will likely be working with people that either work directly for you or with you.  There is no reason to allow your practice to be an “average” organization with almost 70% of your employees disengaged.  Just imagine the patient satisfaction and enhanced profitability that you could experience if you were able to reverse that and have at least 70% of your employees be engaged.  Creating an engaged workforce is a habit that you can start today in reshaping your practice and planning for tomorrow!

ARE YOU A MEDICAL ENTREPRENEUR?

Successful Medical Practices

All doctors are medical entrepreneurs to some degree. Since the pioneer days in America when they hung a shingle outside their practice door, doctors have been the original medical entrepreneurs.

A simple definition of an entrepreneur is “a person who has possession of a enterprise, venture or idea and assumes significant accountability for the inherent risks and the outcome.”

Sound familiar? Physicians, like other professionals, often practice in solo or group settings where they are the boss and certainly experience the intrinsic risks and rewards of their medical practice. You may not necessarily feel like an entrepreneur and that’s certainly understandable. A physician’s first and foremost responsibility is obviously patient care. In fact, almost all of medical training prepares physicians just for that task. However, most professionals, including physicians, rarely are trained on how to run their own practices.

I have spent more than 25 years operating and working with entrepreneurial business ventures, and I am now the CEO of an emergency health care company in Memphis, TN, Emergency Mobile Health Care. I have had the good fortune to study with and learn from some great mentors in this arena, and I’m passionate about seeing people fulfill their entrepreneurial potential. I’m excited to share with you in this column some of the key principles I’ve learned about entrepreneurial success, and specifically, how those can be implemented in a physician practice setting. In addition, I’ll highlight some notable medical entrepreneurs and offer tips on how to evaluate business opportunities outside of your core medical practice.

I begin with the simple premise that your medical practice is an entrepreneurial business, and that your practice shares many common features of any entrepreneurial organization. Common characteristics include people management, implementing systems and processes, taking care of your customers, and financial risks and rewards.

People Management (or Cat Herding)

Rarely do I find an entrepreneur or a physician who operates as a solo act. To run your practice, it takes nurses and staff to operate effectively. Therefore, your success becomes interwoven with your ability to get the most out of the people you work with. Anyone who has every managed an employee knows that hiring and developing talent is no easy task. Therefore, the questions become: what kind of leader are you? Are you getting 100 percent from your team or are they giving you the bare minimum to get by? Building a great team around you is a key step in your path to success.

Systems Management

Every medical office, like every business, also has systems for doing things. The question is whether you know what those systems are and how are they working.  Are you streamlined and efficient, or are you daily enduring broken systems?  Exemplary practices have written ways to do things that people understand and follow. The way Chic-fil-A can serve up a great chicken sandwich no matter what store you visit in the country is based on one simple thing: a great system!

Customer Management

Your patients and referral partners are your “customers.” Every time one interacts with you, they have a customer experience. Do you know what that customer experience is? Have you thought through your interaction from first contact to final communication? Is there consistency and predictability in what your customers experience with you? Great practices have a well thought out customer experience cycle that is clear and repeatable.

Financial Management

What about the bottom line? While we all hopefully work to pursue a calling and seek personal fulfillment, we also are trading our time and effort for money.  Today’s medical practices are complicated and can be difficult to manage financially. There are lots of expenses, and reimbursements tend to go down and not up. Therefore, keeping a careful eye on the bottom line is critical. Physicians, like many busy entrepreneurs, tend to entrust financial responsibilities to others in the organization. However, I believe it’s also critical for physicians to know and have clear visibility into the key economic drivers of their businesses.

Thinking Strategically

Finally, as entrepreneurs, I encourage physicians to take time to work “on their practice” and not just “in their practice.” Most people are so thankful for a day off that they rarely want to turn around and think more about work. However, most of us stay in the trees and rarely plan and dedicate time thinking about the forest.  The end result is that we often feel like we’re on a treadmill we just can’t seem to get off.

I spoke with Robert Harris, MD, a urogynecologist with Women’s Specialty Center in Jackson, MS, who is a well known entrepreneur physician. He shared:

“I try to purposefully take time away from my day-to-day practice each week and work on improving both my practice and my life.”

For Dr. Harris, this has allowed him to not only strategically improve his medical practice, but also to create the time to pursue medical start-up businesses outside of his bread-and-butter practice.

In sum, we give a great deal of ourselves to our work and professions. By becoming entrepreneurially minded, you help not only gain better control over your practice, but also your life.

(c) Martin E. Willoughby, Jr.

 

Originally published in Medical News

Creative design from the South

Get in touch with us!