Staff retention: How to keep good workers in your practice

December 1, 2007

Retention of staff in the medical office is emerging as a difficult challenge, and urology practices are no exception.

Find out the challenges staff members face at work by walking the floor occasionally. Make the rounds and see what goes on in each department. It's the perfect way to identify whether staff is on top of the workload or whether someone is working under stressful conditions because of uneven distribution of work or unmanageable peak volumes. For example, Mary may be facing a bottleneck at the check-out station, but Mandy has too much idle time at the check-in station. Circulating and talking with staff members is an expression of interest and support. The knowledge gained in this process makes it far easier to identify when adjustments need to be made in work assignments and responsibilities.

Ensure you have multiple channels of communication. This includes individual sessions and regularly scheduled staff meetings that provide an open forum for employees to share information, solve problems, and strengthen teamwork.

The proper tools

Give people the tools to do the job right. Individual staff members' fully equipped work stations should include:

If an employee uses a computer, Internet access is essential. It's an investment that results in higher job satisfaction and increased efficiency. Manual tasks are reduced, steps and time are saved, office communication is better, and consistency in task performance is improved. Instant messaging and uploading documents to a co-worker, rather than delivering a hard copy, are two examples of how the Internet can save the practice tons of time. The same goes for communicating or gathering documents from other practices, insurance payers, or hospitals. Sharing information and storing electronic copies of data eliminates a lot of paperwork. The staff may need to learn how to automate procedures and data storage, but the entire office will benefit.

Training and education

Staff training and continuing education go a long way in letting staff know you care. If Amanda is weak in certain areas, send her to a workshop. If Kevin expresses interest in coding, encourage him to achieve certification and pay the fees. When you send Sarah to a billing update seminar, ask her to provide a report at the next staff meeting. Consider an annual customer satisfaction in-service held on site for the entire staff, including the physicians. It's the perfect way to demonstrate a commitment to reach higher levels of patient satisfaction.

Establishing performance standards and measuring your staff's performance are essential to treating staff right. People who work for you need to have a realistic picture of your expectations so they can see for themselves whether their performance is up to par. Keep each person informed about how they measure up to the standards for their position and create a performance improvement plan if someone needs help. By keeping each person aware of how he or she is doing throughout the year, there will be fewer surprises when it's time for the performance review.

Once a year, survey your staff to find out how they feel about the office culture, their jobs, and management's performance. Make the survey anonymous and ask no more then 10 questions. If negative answers emerge, take responsibility by developing an action plan for management to make improvements, and share the plan with staff. Management needs to be held accountable, too.