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Staff Motivation Impacts a Practice's Bottom Line


Physicians have to understand that not every employee is motivated by the same work recognition. Taking the time to understand what matters to each employee has significant financial benefits to a medical practice.

Everyone wants recognition for the work they do. For some, that recognition is a monetary raise or bonus at the end of the year; while others just want a pat on the back and acknowledgement of their work in front of their peers. It’s important for physicians to understand that not every employee is motivated by the same recognition.

“If the goal is motivating an employee, then it’s important to understand what matters to that person,” explains Jessica Foster, PhD, a consultant and global practice leader at RHR International.

And taking the time to understand what matters to each employee has significant financial benefits to a medical practice—both directly and indirectly.

“People who feel more connected to the business—who feel more valued and motivated—put more effort into what they do,” Foster says. “That connects very easily to the bottom line.”

Finding hot buttons

Foster explains that the mistake employers—in this case, physicians—often make is assuming finances matter the most to every employee. And while finances certainly do matter, financial rewards often receive greater focus than they should. For example, is flexibility more important, or is it the portfolio of work that the individual is responsible for?

“I have a client that I work with that does exceptionally well at public recognition—big rewards, fancy dinners, but in the day-to-day, employees never hear, ‘Hey, that was a great piece of work. I appreciate the effort you put in,’ or ‘Really nice work in mentoring these younger physicians,’” Foster explains. “That’s an important part of your contribution. And you’ll often hear businesspeople say, ‘I don’t want one more fancy dinner, I want to be appreciated for what I do every day.’ That’s not the same as formal recognition.”

Foster points out that as individuals advance through their careers, their motivations change. For example, public recognition tends to matter more early in a person’s career when the employee is trying to build his or her credibility. Later on, private recognition and a sense of self-worth become more important. There are changes across generations as well.

“Increasingly, the newer generation wants purpose and meaning in their work, as opposed to stability and financial reward,” Foster says. “Money still matters, but this newer generation wants more of a sense of purpose. They want to know what they’re connected to.”

And that translates easier in medicine than in other industries, Foster adds, because of a built-in sense of purpose.

Motivating through goals

Foster believes it’s important to set goals in motivating staff, and she assigns those goals to 2 specific buckets: business and financial goals; and personal development goals.

Business and financial goals are essential, because people want to have some predictability in their work and in their rewards. As such, those rewards need to be tied to something tangible in meeting goals and outcomes. And those goals and outcomes have to be something employees can control.

For example, employees can impact patient care and quality of experience, then that’s something that they can be motivated by and work toward. However, they don't have much impact on profitability, then related goals can be very challenging.

“It can be demoralizing and demotivating,” Foster says. “Goals are important, but they have to be things that are clear, well-articulated, and something employees have the power to impact.”

Making it personal

Personal goals for growth and development are also important, Foster says. Too often employers make the mistake of assuming everyone wants to do more, grow higher, and gain more responsibility. In actuality, the newer generation wants to move more toward job sharing.

“That’s particularly true in medicine,” she says, explaining that in some medical practices one employee might work a Monday to mid-Wednesday schedule, while another works mid-Wednesday to Friday. This differs greatly from the employee who wants to run the oncology unit, Foster points out.

Setting growth and development goals are just as important as the business and financial goals. And staff participation is vital when it comes to goal setting, according to Foster.

“Personal ownership is a connection to the business,” she says. “And that’s very rewarding to people. The rewards, again, can be built into the culture, they can be built into the relationships with the manager, and they can be built into a sense of pride and ownership in the outcomes of the business. If employees are going home at the end of the day and telling others about the great place where they’re working, that can also indirectly impact the practice’s bottom line.”

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