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Find out how to get your new staff members started on the right foot from Day One.
Editor’s Note: Welcome to “Eye Catching: Let's Chat,” a blog series featuring contributions from members of the ophthalmic community. These blogs are an opportunity for ophthalmic bloggers to engage with readers with about a topic that is top of mind, whether it is practice management, experiences with patients, the industry, medicine in general, or healthcare reform. The series continues with this blog by Donna Suter, president of Suter Consulting Group. The views expressed in these blogs are those of their respective contributors and do not represent the views of Ophthalmology Times or UBM Medica.
I am often asked to either take part in new employee orientation and training, or to offer insights into developing a new employee orientation program.
What would I suggest for Day One of your new employee orientation?
Day One: Your new employee should show up with a job description and an understanding of the scope of the tasks he or she will be performing. If this didn’t happen when the job offer was formally made, please greet him or her with these two documents and go over core responsibilities.
Should you be the one who greets your employees? Unless you have an administrator or manager who has the power to hire or fire, I would recommend it. The reason is simple: you want that new employee to represent you to your patients. He or she needs to know that you value his or her contribution to your organization.
Somewhere during that first day, he or she will be reviewing your office policy manual. You, on the other hand, will be in clinic.
Consider asking someone to be the new employee’s “best friend.” This best friend will be the person who models your office culture to the new employee. He or she will also be the one who answers questions about all those unspoken aspects of the job. These can be as simple as where are the bathrooms to questions about you (i.e., “He said to call him ‘Bob.’ I know he’s Dr. Smith in front of patients, but does he really want people calling him Bob if they see him at the grocery store?”).
This new best friend might also be asked about some of the soft skills that you will be discussing with the employee at lunch. (Yes, a one-on-one lunch. Just the boss and the rookie.)
I suggest informal alone time with the practice owner and/or manager focus on the unspoken, soft skills aspects of the job that many loosely define as “being a good employee; being a team player.”
Some business experts refer to the items on the list below as soft skills. The soft skills are often the hardest to impart to new employees.
10 unspoken soft skills
This list of unspoken, soft skill requirements often includes the following:
1. Being on time 2. Work ethic
3. Effort 4. Body language
5. Energy 6. Attitude
7. Passion 8. Being coachable
9. Doing extra 10. Being prepared
Did you notice that all ten suggested topics are open to interpretation?
For example, being on time.
1. To some, being on time means coming to work 10 minutes before your shift. These 10 minutes give the employee time to greet others, put his or her personal belongings away and get settled. (Much like a warm-up before the curtain rises.)
2. To others, being on time means within 15 minutes of the “suggested” start time. Being late isn’t considered a big deal as long as things get done and the employee is willing to take a shortened lunch break or stay late.
3. Another employee might think being on time means waiting in his or her car until the clock shows the start hour. It begins with a brisk walk into the building on time and clocking in before removing his or her coat.
Addressing these ten points in a relaxed, conversational manner ensures that the employee knows the expectations of the practice. It also ensures the success of the employee and the practice.
Actions speak louder than words
Harvard psychology professor Howard Gardner, in his book Good Work: When Excellence and Ethics Meet, stresses that actions speak louder than words:
Leaders have two potent weapons: the stories that they tell about their enterprise and the lives that they lead as workers. A leader who encourages good work and who herself carries out good work is likely to lead an organization in which many individuals carry out good work with enthusiasm. Preaching without practice does not work-you are soon seen as a hypocrite. Individuals who themselves are good workers will influence their follow workers; but it is the special opportunity and burden of leaders to articulate the reasons why they (and their organization) are doing what they are doing.1
Walmart founder Sam Walton used fewer words to express a similar idea. The way management treats associates is exactly how associates will treat customers.2 In a culture where one’s healthcare provider is often chosen by a managed-care plan, it is important to connect with each patient on a personal level. Stressing that human connection to a new employee on Day One is just as important as the new employee’s ability to work-up a patient or recommend the right spectacle lens design for improved visual acuity.
This human touch is what makes your practice unique. Why should a patient choose you versus the next one on the list? You might think it is your surgical ability or location. Your competition probably says the same thing.
Truth is, your employees’ warmth toward patients is what makes having an eye health examination at your practice special. Ochsner Health System, a large Louisiana health-care provider, implemented what it calls the “10/5 way.” Employees are encouraged to make eye contact if they’re within 10 feet of someone, and say hello if they’re within five feet. Ochsner reports improvements on patient satisfaction and patient referrals.3
Day One in the life of an employee goes by very quickly. The days that come after will be filled with lots of how-to moments. How to transfer a call, use that finicky diagnostic instrument that you just never have gotten around to upgrading and, of course, become proficient entering data into your EMR system.
After 30 days of employment
The one-month employment anniversary is a traditional time to give the employee feedback. Instead of a formal performance review, consider re-visiting that list of ten soft skills discussed on Day One.
1. Have the employee’s actions lived up to your expectations?
2. Does the employee think that his or her teammates live up to your expectations?
If the answer to either one of these questions is “no,” it may be time to align practice values, the mission statement, and tactics.
While the answers you receive may point to low morale, asking the questions starts your new employee out on the path to being a superstar. You have given the gift of listening to and respecting his or her opinion. Human resource professionals report that an employee who feels respected is more likely to work hard and not quit.
Several studies highlight respect in the workplace as a key factor in employee retention. When respondents felt perceived lack of respect and support from various levels of the organization (including the administration, doctors, supervisors, and co-workers) they reported feeling “devalued as individuals and within their organization.”
Conversely, the employee who feels the boss respects him or her is more likely to work hard and show up excited about the day. Eye healthcare is hard work. It demands a dedicated staff of employees wanting to show patients they are valued and perform, with 100% accuracy, a myriad of tasks.
1. Good Work: When Excellence and Ethics Meet, by Howard Gardner, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and William Damon. Published by Basic Books, 2001
2. Goddard, J. (1997), The Architecture of Core Competence. Business Strategy Review, 8: 43–52. doi: 10.1111/1467-8616.00006
3. Christine Porath, associate professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.
No Time To Be Nice. June 21, 2015, page SR1, New York edition, New York Times
Donna Suter (423-400-3626; firstname.lastname@example.org) is an internationally recognized authority on the unique practice management issues that face dispensing eyecare practitioners.
Suter Consulting Group www.donnasuterconsulting.com