Did you hire the wrong person?

A recent survey conducted with practice owners across the US revealed that the number-one management problem they have is personnel issues. Among the issues mentioned by hundreds of owners surveyed were:

  • Procuring qualified personnel,
  • Getting employees to perform competently once hired,
  • An inability to hold staff members accountable for their work,
  • Turnover and handling disputes among employees.

Correctly isolating and repairing non-optimum practice situations is a skill that every doctor finds he or she needs. Oftentimes, a manager who is seeking solutions overlooks some administrative fundamentals which, left undetected, cause a problem to appear larger or more complex than it really is. Moreover, failing to discover the real source of a problem leads to poor decision-making. In the case of managing employees, this type of failure is not only frustrating, it’s expensive.

The real work begins after the hiring process ends, for each employee must be well trained for his/her position in the practice. Lacking thorough training, an employee will not perform to the expected standard. That will inevitably lead to either the employee quitting or the doctor firing him/her.

There is a useful strategy for finding and hiring good staff members. Assuming the hiring techniques are sound, the most devastating managerial mistakes are made during the training period. During that time, an unskilled manager might make assumptions that lead to incorrect reasons for poor performance, and those conclusions, in turn, lead to bad decisions regarding personnel. All too often, a suitable person who is both willing and trainable fails to receive the information needed to do the job. As a result, turnover occurs and doctors and office managers spend their time dealing with personnel problems rather than treating or servicing patients.

Written job descriptions are a must for each position in a practice. More importantly, those descriptions need to include fundamental data that are often omitted because the manager assumes that the employee already knows what is needed from him. Common sense or common knowledge to one person may not be so to another. Verbal instructions are much less effective than thoroughly written job manuals.

Every job description in an office should include the seven following sections:

  1. The responsibilities that the person holding the job position has to the patients,
  2. A general description of the position, which includes its purpose,
  3. A statistic that quantifies, and thus objectively measures, the production of the position,
  4. A list of specific duties that one in the position is expected to perform,
  5. A list of the types of paperwork the position generates and also receives and processes,
  6. A list of the job position’s financial responsibilities, if any,
  7. Responsibilities for the appearance of the work area.

A manual should be created for every job position; and the job description, including the above sections, is the first on the list of training materials that a new employee would study. Following the description, it is vital to provide detailed written instructions that enable the employee to do what is expected on his/her job.

When employee problems arise, it is seldom due to the “wrong person” being hired. More often than not, it is a situation of (1) no training, (2) poor training, (3) verbal instructions only and/or (4) a failure to fully confront and document the important functions of the position. Problems can be rapidly resolved when the job’s reference material is available and a manager can use it to pinpoint exactly where the employee has failed to perform adequately. Usually a quick review of the appropriate points in the manual by the employee will be all the correction that is needed.

As one doctor stated, “When I’m with a patient, I can give that patient 100% of my attention. I’m able to do that because the staff does what they are supposed to do and I’m not worried about how the office is operating. They’ve learned what they need to know from their job descriptions. Now we all have our attention on the patient and delivering quality care. There is no confusion about what we’re supposed to be doing and we’re not spending time handling confusions and upsets. Having the comprehensive job descriptions has made staff management easy and, surprisingly, enjoyable.”

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