After a rigorous recruiting process, here's how to ensure a long stay from that prized new employee.
Imagine a practice has been short badly-needed physician or staff member for a while. It’s not hard to imagine in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the “Great Resignation.”
Next, imagine the owners have completed the rigors of finding, interviewing, and hiring a stellar new employee and would prefer not to do that again in the near future.
Here are tips to help that new hire become a long-term asset and not a short-term member of your practice.
Stephanie Stephens is a California-based freelance digital journalist, producer, and host.
Nancy Babbitt, FACMPE, of practice consulting firm Babbitt and Associates in Atlanta, Ga., says practices should not simply focus on getting a warm body in their door to fill open positions.
"Take time to hire the right person, and ask behavioral questions such as, 'Tell me about a time when you, the physician, had a conflict with a scheduler and how you resolved that.' Go beyond 'Where do you want to be in five years?'"
Stacey Corbin, PHR, human resources manager for healthcare consultancy Medic Management Group, LLC, in Akron, Ohio, adds that practices must conduct their due diligence to identify a person who aligns with practice values in order to prevent ill will later.
Corbin advises using working interviews with a practice’s top three candidates for a position to better engage them with staff. Instead of just talking to them around a table, applicants demonstrate job skills in the presence of potential co-workers and everyone gets a "feel" for the potential new hire.
Once on board, and especially in the beginning, endeavor to make the new hire feel like a contributing member of the team.
"It's helpful to continually obtain feedback from staff, including your new hire, on how to improve and about culture changes and work-life balance," Corbin says. "That's because someone 'in the trenches' knows much better than someone overseeing the entire process."
Corbin says it’s important to answer the following: “Do the candidate’s ideals align with the practice’s mission?”
"If not, it's going to be a hard road for employer and employee," she says. In a collaborative environment, someone who's "in a box"—so focused on doing their own thing that they don't consider other viewpoints or objectives—probably won't be a good fit."
Corbin recommends practices partner a new hire with a mentor for one to three months—possibly up to the first year of employment—depending on the comfort level of both employees. It can help establish the ins and outs of the practice, including policies and procedures.
"Take time to get your new hire off on the right foot," adds Babbitt. "On the first day, have a co-worker take them to lunch. Say, 'We're so glad you're here.' Have a mentor who's a really strong ambassador show them where to park and talk about the dress code."
"Recognize hard work and let employees know you value them," Corbin says.
That outreach can go a long way. Invite new hires to get involved in employee leadership and development groups such as operational or financial management.
"Leading a team helps them grow, so when you have a senior-level position open, such as chief medical officer, those people may be able to move up," she says.
When a new hire—either a new physician or a staff member—has a bad day, be prepared to finesse it so it doesn't snowball.
"Physicians are such Type A perfectionists, often they may not grasp that someone doesn't have the same level of education or the same type of personality," Babbitt says. "Try not to compare and think, 'I would never do that.' They're not you. Sometimes when doctors think it, they think everyone on staff thinks it, too."
For anyone in the practice, new or old, mistakes present an opportunity to improve. "Degrading and belittling is not the answer, especially when people are multitasking under pressure,” she says. “Ask how this might be handled better next time."
Retaining promising new employees is easier with strong communication and accountability for all, Babbitt says, especially with newly hired physicians.
"Sharing data is critical, and doctors love their data—that's how they're trained," she says.
For example, if one doctor feels the patient load is heavier than for others, get everyone together to share hours worked and percentages. "Everyone affects the revenue cycle," she says. "Rather than share the actual dollar amount, you can share percentages. Rather than saying you have $200,000 in accounts receivable over 90 days old, you could say over 20% of your A/R is over 90 days old."
Babbitt says talking as a team can build a level of trust among employees and lead to lower turnover.
"You hear enough about bad outcomes, so when you meet to talk about patients, share the good things that have happened and made a difference in patients' lives as well," she says.