The TEAM: Ready to Engage or Exit?
An ineffective team is expensive. It costs time, money, patients, staff, and stress. That being said, creating and maintaining a highly functioning team is no walk in the park either. It can feel more like herding cats, particularly in the early stages. There are plenty of howling cries, sharp claws exposed, hissing, and more than a few scratches. After all, what will become a “team” starts with a complex group of individuals each bringing differing levels of experience, education, issues, agendas, biases, and attitudes.
Today, the most effective teams are “engaged.” The concept of employee engagement has developed over the last 10 years as an essential business strategy. Why? Because study after study has revealed that a highly engaged employee base translates into a higher profit margin.
According to a 2011 Aon Hewitt report, there is a strong correlation between employee engagement and financial performance, even in turbulent financial times. Organizations with high levels of engagement (65% or greater) posted total shareholder returns 22% higher than average in 2010. On the other hand, companies with low engagement (45% or less) had a return that was 28% lower than the average. A Towers Perrin study revealed that net profits are 6% higher in companies with engaged employees.
While the payoff is significant, getting there is a challenge. A recent Gallup study showed employee engagement levels at a mere 30%. In other words, 70% of the workforce is either not engaged at work or is actively disengaged.
What does that mean to your practice? Let’s say you have a staff of 10 - only three of them genuinely care about your patients, your practice, and the work product that they deliver. Low employee engagement will manifest in poor patient experiences, which will directly affect treatment acceptance and completion, payment for services, and patient retention.
But what is employee engagement and how do you build a team of “engaged” employees? “Engaged” employees have an ownership mentality. They sincerely care about the success of the business. It’s more than motivation; it’s the genuine desire to do their best for the business in both good times and bad. Engaged employees bring ideas, passion, and initiative. They are positive and optimistic; they support their co-workers. They are focused and persistent. Bottom line: When employees are “engaged,” they care more and they work harder. But perhaps the most important point to note, engaged employees are not born; they are made.
Employee engagement takes place on multiple levels, but it begins with the relationship they have with you, the boss. You communicate clearly with your team and they communicate with you – honestly and respectfully. You provide them with opportunities to grow professionally, learn about the business, and become better, more valuable, and more effective employees. You show appreciation for each member of your team. You make a concerted effort to acknowledge a job well done and thank each for her/his contribution to the practice. Your team trusts you and you trust them. They know that their teammates will not throw them under the bus, and you will not be looking for the first person to blame when things don’t go exactly as planned. They have confidence in the future of the practice and in you as the leader.
How do you build a team of truly engaged employees? It takes time and effort, but it all begins with a simple conversation. You want to gather information first, such as: How does the employee define success? What additional knowledge, skills, tools and training does the employee need to become truly excellent in her/his current role? What goals does the employee have for professional growth within the practice?
For example, perhaps “Shelly” your assistant would like to gain greater experience in treatment presentation and treatment acceptance. Maybe Liz at the front desk would like to learn more about new treatments that the practice is providing, so she can be more effective in answering patient questions. You also want to understand what, if any, challenges or obstacles in the practice are keeping employees from becoming engaged.
If staff do not clearly understand their job responsibilities and how their success is measured, it can be a significant barrier to employee engagement. After all, how can they become top performers if they don’t know what you expect or how you view excellent performance? While building a culture of employee engagement begins with a simple conversation, it becomes a practice-wide process for ongoing growth, development, and improvement.
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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