Finding the right employees for your medical practice and keeping them happy can be challenging enough during normal times. Add in the realities related to the COVID pandemic, including staffing shortages and “the great resignation,” and busy physicians can be at a loss to keep their practices fully staffed with qualified people.
The good news is the hiring outlook may be starting to improve, even compared to just a few months ago, so there is a reason for hope. The following tips could help optimize your chances of finding and keeping the right person for your front desk, medical assistant, billing, accounts receivable or other essential roles in your practice.
Tip #1. Be Strategic
Put the time into finding qualified candidates — don’t just post the position to a job site and hope the right people will come forward. Also, think outside traditional job postings when appropriate. For example, if you’re looking for front desk people, they may not need extensive medical office experience. Consider people with a customer service background from a number of other industries, including retail. They could be natural for interacting with patients.
One simple strategy I like is to request interested candidates send an email with “I am your perfect candidate” in the subject line. If they don’t do it, it doesn’t necessarily rule them out for the job, but it could show they have trouble following directions.
Tip #2. Be Thorough
Everyone’s busy, and it could be tempting to shortcut some of the due diligence for screening potential candidates. However, taking the time to verify dates and places of employment and reach out to references can be worthwhile. Not everyone is completely honest on their résumés, and it’s better to find out ahead of time.
Once you’ve narrowed down the candidates, arrange brief telephone interviews to screen them further and gauge their attitude and enthusiasm. If you’re still unsure, ask them to come in for an hour or two to “shadow” an existing staff member. That will give you and them a better idea if the fit is right. You can also try role playing — have someone in your office act as the patient and see how the candidates react to different situations.
Furthermore, if your practice is up to date on software and technology that could make their job easier, candidates are likely to notice. And if they’re choosing between your business and one across town, your having intuitive, user-friendly electronic health records and practice management software systems may help tip the scale in your favor. Efficient and time-saving software is not just for impressing future hires, it also can help retain existing staff.
Tip #3. Be Precise
This one is on you as the employer. Describe the open position in exact terms, including title, tasks and responsibilities. This will help both you and potential candidates gauge how well they may thrive in the role. It can also reduce the chances you’ll hire someone who works one day and then disappears the next because the candidate didn’t understand the requirements of the job.
Pre-employment skills assessment is another useful tactic. Outside companies can screen candidate skills for a price, or you can develop your own role-specific tests. What are candidates’ communication skills like? What is their comfort level with software? How good are they at problem-solving?
A precise job description can also help retain a good employee. Provide feedback on performance at least once a year in the form of annual review. Use the tasks and responsibilities outlined in job descriptions as a guide to discuss what employees did well and where they still have room to improve.
Tip #4. Be Flexible
The COVID pandemic upended a lot of things, including how future and current employees want to work. Many people now seek remote or hybrid positions. Some roles obviously need to be in person in a medical practice. However, other functions like billing, accounts receivable or calling insurance companies could be done remotely.
Listing an opportunity that could include remote or hybrid work could increase the number of qualified candidates who answer your job listing.
Tip #5. Be Appreciative
You might think that the pay rate would top the list of what people consider for staying at a particular job. However, job fulfillment, personal growth and development, and appreciation can rank higher in terms of employee satisfaction, according to informal surveys I’ve done at medical conferences.
These factors can go a long way to boosting employee retention. Employees need to feel inspired and motivated. Obviously, we have to pay them fairly, but they also have to feel like they’re appreciated.
Two words at the end of a workday can go a long way: Thank you. You can also say, “Thank you so much for what you did today” or “Thank you so much team — you’ve done a great job today.”
About John Guiliana
Dr. Guiliana is a nationally recognized speaker and author on topics pertaining to medical practice management. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Podiatric Practice Management and holds a master’s degree in healthcare management. He has authored numerous columns in various journals and is the coauthor of 31½ Essentials to Running Your Medical Practice, as well as The Million Dollar Practice…Keys to Success. Dr. Guiliana is currently a medical director of podiatry for the award-winning ModMed® technology.