Staff Management

Are You Managing or Motivating Your Staff?

Craig Bowen

By Craig Bowen, OD

“Managing or Motivating?” This is a bit of a trick question, since managing and motivating staff are not mutually exclusive. To have a successful practice, you must do both.All staff members need to be motivated and managed. It’s easy to encourage those who are mostly self-motivated. Those that aren’t require an external force. Likewise, all staff need to be managed, albeit some more than others.

Managing Staff
Certain tasks in an office must be managed. Examples include triage over the phone or red eye protocols. These are best handled with written policies and scripts that doctors explain to staff and then monitor to make sure they’re being followed. (Recent research indicates better surgical outcomes in hospitals whose protocols include checklists.)

Just the same, some staff members must be managed. For those staff members who need management support to accomplish their daily activities, you are wise to provide direction with daily, weekly and monthly to-do lists.

Management requires planning and setting goals. Don’t plan and set goals by yourself, though. Involve staff. Their buy-in increases success. Staff meetings are the perfect place for you to identify challenges your office faces, draft initial resolutions, discuss input and develop a plan for improvement.

Motivating Staff
The goal of motivating is to have staff members become self-directed and rewarded for their efforts. It can become a positive feedback loop. Staff motivation works best when you recognize that different triggers motivate people. For some, praise and appreciation may be all that’s required. For others, monetary gain may be your best tool.

Some offices institute blanket systems of motivation, such as SPIFs (sales performance incentive funds). These are easier to administer, but they are rarely as effectively as consultations with each employee that leads to an individualized performance and reward plan.

Individualized work plans should be formulated to take best advantage of the skill sets that staff members bring to their jobs. Production is optimal in the office where staff members are allowed to work to their strong suits. This can be measured in patient satisfaction, quality of care and task efficiency.

Managing and Motivating Staff
In managing and motivating staff, supervision is critical—and that means both initial instruction and ongoing training. Staff meetings, staff retreats and one-on-one sessions are options for training, updating or refreshing information needed for optimal staff and office performance. All are perfect venues for managing and motivating your staff.

STEPS TO TAKE…

To Manage Staff
Provide to-do lists: Some staff members work best when directed at specific tasks.
Set protocols: Some procedures require set protocols—and supervision to make sure they are accomplished properly.
Involve in planning: Involve staff members in planning office procedure; their buy-in early on maximizes efficiency.

To Motivate Staff
Reinforce: Staff members all respond to positive feedback—but in varying forms, depending on their personalities and make-ups.
Reward: Some staff respond to praise, others need financial rewards; compare the SPIF system versus more individualized recognition.
Communicate: Staff training and motivation is an ongoing process—in all of your communications and at regular staff meetings and retreats.

Craig Bowen, OD, is in private, solo practice in Tualatin, Oregon. He serves as an assistant professor of practice management at Pacific University College of Optometry, in Forest Grove, Oregon.

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