Fire up your staff

December 1, 2006

Orem, UT-Every ophthalmology practice has its own system for performing day-to-day responsibilities. From completing front-desk duties, to working up patients, to collecting payments, practices all develop a system-whether by design or by default-that applies step-by-step procedures to get a job done.

Many practices, though, do not have a system in place for managing staff, says practice-management consultant Derek Preece, MBA.

Preece, who is president of Enhancement Dynamics Inc., has developed a system of organizational performance management that aims to help good performers become even better, to help shift the load from the practice administrator to the employees, and to move poorly performing employees out of the practice.

"The goals of the system are helping good employees develop, helping average employees improve, eliminating those who don't want to be there, and fostering teamwork," said Preece.

It takes all kinds

Several different types of employees can be found in all ophthalmology practices.

"First are the 'right' employees. They are more productive, easier to train, quick to learn, make fewer mistakes, need less supervision, and cooperate better with co-workers," Preece said. "They need respect, autonomy, and responsibility."

Other employee types include "misfits" (the ones who need to be fired). They lie, steal, break the law, are insubordinate, etc. They are poor performers, unproductive performers, and superstars.

One well-known management theory, Theory X, contends that most people don't like work and need to be threatened to get work done. Another well-known theory, Theory Y, holds that work is natural and that people will exercise self-direction.

"We get the highest productivity from Theory Y employees," he said. "We can't watch over all of the Theory X employees. Theory Xers hold on because they're afraid they can't get another job."

Additionally, Preece said, three types of problem employees exist. The untrained may need additional training or a shift in responsibility. The unable can't do the job; they need to be moved, or their job needs to be modified. And the unwilling... "Talk with them," said Preece. "Ask if they are on the team or not. If they're not willing to work, suggest you part ways."

"The system lets Y-types thrive. It challenges X-types; they'll leave because they don't want to set and work to achieve goals. Use the system to train, move, or release problem employees," said Preece.

Management responsibilities

Typically, managers talk with poor performers about shortcomings, and they promise to improve. Often, these employees give excuses and then complain about management to co-workers around the office.

Preece's system for managing people aims to eliminate this scenario by implementing five steps for effectively supervising and managing people.

Step 1-Practice management is responsible for providing tools to do the job, including adequate workspace; telephone, computer, and ophthalmic equipment; and written forms to ensure good transfer of information.

Step 2-You are responsible for providing training to do the job.