Understand your practice needs before hiring staff

May 15, 2005

Staff members are patients' first point of contact, offering patients their first glimpse into what your practice is all about.

With a shortage of trained personnel in the work force, competition for these individuals can be fierce. Therefore, it is important not only to make the best choices when hiring, but to work to keep them.

"Our staff is the lens that our patients see us through," said Laura J. King, MD, an ophthalmologist in Atlanta.

The right fit First, you must look at your cases and determine the type of individual best-suited to deal with your patients.

Second, look at your practice culture and determine which qualities are most valued-such as customer service, integrity, innovation, or accuracy.

Third, understand your target patient characteristics-their socioeconomic status, age, generation, and ethnicity-and think about how they respond to your employees.

"These broad issues need to be in your mind in order to shape your management strategy," Dr. King said.

The hiring process Once you have reflected on your needs, you can turn to the specific job opening. She outlined four steps of the hiring process:

"You need to have in your mind clarity about your vision for the practice," she said. "Look for an intersection of personal interests and goals with practice interests and goals."

Now that you have made good hires, how do you keep them? Dr. King stressed three ways to reward valued employees.

Once you have done all this, remember to applaud the everyday hard work of your employees, so they feel satisfied and valued. Employee recognition can range from something as inexpensive as balloons and sticks of gum to staff development opportunities, such as giving them books or bringing them to meetings.

"What you want to do is reward directionally correct behavior change, and catch the staff doing something right," she said. "It's not all about the money."