Part 3: Human Resources
This is the third article in a series on effective practice management. As noted in the introduction to this series (see Post 1), each of these articles define a building block of effective management and offer actionable strategies and advice for practice owners. So far, we’ve discussed the importance of Management Structure & Planning (see Post 1) and Performance Management (link Post 2). Here, we put Human Resources under the microscope.
- Management Structure & Planning – strategic plan, organisational structure, budget, decision making systems
- Performance Measurement – KPIs, reporting, pro-active management
- Human Resources – end-to-end employee engagement
- Financial Oversight – handling, reconciling and optimising
Healthcare HR & recruitment in 2022
Everything looks different in the post-pandemic world and the HR landscape is no different. The greatest challenge to healthcare continues to be staffing shortages and as a practice owner, you might be experiencing the following:
- A massive surge in workload and resignations
- An unstable candidate market
- Reduction in workforce
- Extra consideration of work/life balance
- Rising cost of living and remuneration
- Increased perceived threat for frontline workers
These may be the headwinds threatening to disrupt your practice but the good news is, there are ways to navigate them. For example, find ways for your team to work smarter not harder – think optimised workflows, leveraging software or outsourced services. Consider staff motivators and review your offerings to improve work/life balance, rewards, benefits, safety assurances and job fulfilment. Healthcare staff have reassessed what they’re looking for, and it’s more than just a job!
Ways to attract top talent to your practice
Here are some actions we suggest:
- Decide on the role that fits into your organisational structure. Think about how the role that’s been left fits in your business right now and in the future. It might not be exactly the same.
- Write a position description for the role exactly as you want it to be. It’s in everyone’s interest to know the capabilities you’re looking for and expectations you have. Review old position descriptions as they may not reflect where you are right now or where you’re hoping to be.
- Advertise knowing there are a lot more ads than candidates. Tell them about your practice, the work environment and culture. Include key points about the role and expectations but also, the benefits they can expect. Your ad must be more compelling than that of another role they might be applying for. Make sure ads are super clear and include key selling points.
- Recognise recruitment as a sales process. There are lots of opportunities out there for candidates, so how can you make your practice stand out? In today’s climate, it’s not so much about you choosing candidates, but them choosing you.
- What benefits can you offer them? As well as remuneration, consider offering benefits like professional development, training opportunities, good workplace culture, security and reassurance, flexible work arrangements, etc.
- Foster and maintain those benefits. Make sure you deliver those benefits in the long-term.
These are all things that you can do yourself, but attracting qualified candidates can be a time-consuming process and using external recruiters can help. Professional recruiters (like Avant Practice Solutions) understand what motivates candidates and can be a valuable resource supporting you with activities like:
- Position descriptions
- Candidate screening
- Interview support
- Focus on culture and engagement opportunities
- On-boarding as a continuous process not just on induction day
Once you’ve found top talent, retaining them long-term is the next challenge. Practice owners must consider what they’re doing to hold onto talent on an ongoing basis. These are some of the HR activities we recommend become part of standard practice.
- Maintain a dialogue of career status and progression. Don’t assume that because someone is happy walking into your practice to take appointments today that they’ll be happy doing that in 5 years’ time. They might want to progress and get more out of the role so it’s important to have ongoing dialogue about what they’re looking for.
- Proactive staff engagement. It’s not uncommon to just deal with people when there’s a crisis. But rather than having just ‘reactive’ contact, make sure you have proactive conversations with your team. With ongoing feedback you’ll be better able to get ahead of problems before they start.
- Identify unique motivators for individuals. Everyone has different motivators. Practice owners should know what these are and do what they can to keep each individual happy and motivated. Their motivators might be one of these, or something else.
- Contributing to the business
- Community involvement
- Creative input
- Group activities
KEY TAKEWAY: Design roles for what you need (not just the gaps you have now or for a pressured situation). And remember – treat recruitment as a sales process.
Topping Up Talent: ‘We need more staff’
Next time a situation arises when you suddenly need more staff what will you do? Whether this is due to someone leaving, a global pandemic, a new immunization program or something else, your options include (1) Do nothing (which leads to increased stress and burnout and reduced morale) (2) Hire more people (as long as you have the budget and seats), or (3) Outsource.
Outsourcing is a modern approach to human resource management and is becoming a common part of medical practice management.
Advantages of outsourcing
- It’s needs based (you don’t need a full-time person all the time)
- It’s flexible (it works with your level of need)
- It’s low cost
- It gives you immediate expertise without the responsibility of training and you get high quality support with better compliance and less stress.
One of our clients was a large 18 doctor GP practice. They were receiving 350 phone calls a day but over 100 patient calls were being missed, of which 80 left messages which then had to be followed up. Staff were overwhelmed, patients were complaining and it was simply unsustainable. They tried adding more staff but had limitations around desk space and high costs.
We installed our Call Overflow Virtual Reception service (COVR) picking up 100 calls per day. This reduced their inbound calls to 280 (fewer repeat callers) delivering a better experience for the practice, the patients, the staff, the doctors and everyone involved.
What’s more, since they engaged us pre-pandemic, when it came to bringing immunisations clinics to the practice, they just outsourced all those calls to us.
A regional 8 doctor GP practice was struggling to find a qualified practice manager who was able to do 4 hours of bookkeeping and payroll per week. Since practice managers are not generally qualified in this kind of work, it was often faulty and incomplete. This was a source of significant stress and was costing the practice $240 per week.
The practice owners engaged us for our specialist medical bookkeeping services at a cost of $300 per month (70% reduction in costs). And because they now had experts on the case, work quality improved as did compliance, everyone got paid on time and there was less stress all round.
Get ahead of the curve by setting up an HR process
If you’ve overlooked HR until this point you’re not alone. But consider this – HR is the largest item on your profit and loss and needs your proactive consideration. The fact is that practice owners often forget about HR because it ticks along fine – until it doesn’t. And when something goes wrong and you have an HR crisis it’s a serious issue. It has financial impact and causes you a great deal of stress. Some of the things you can think about setting up inside your practice include:
- Review of the Award
- Position descriptions
- Professional development
If you lack the capability or capacity to do these HR tasks, use an external specialist who can come in and get things done. An 8 hour investment in an HR review per quarter could literally save you thousands of dollars.
KEY TAKEWAY: People are your greatest asset and your greatest expense
There’s no doubt that the healthcare landscape has changed fundamentally, and you need a competitive and appealing package to attract and keep the best staff. If your practice lacks the right employees, the whole team will feel it and without proper handling, HR issues will quickly escalate.
The solution is to figure out your pain points and take action, considering external support where you need to fill the gaps. As a result you’ll have far less to worry about and a far more efficient practice.
In the final part of this blog series, we’ll look at the fourth essential building block to effective practice management – Financial oversight – and just how important it is for practice owners to understand what’s going on in their business.
If you’d like to find out more about how you can streamline your medical practice with outsourced support, feel free to download our eBook, or phone us on 1300 469 866 to book a meeting with one of our helpful consultants.
This article is not comprehensive and does not constitute legal or medical advice. You should seek legal or other professional advice before relying on its content, and practise proper clinical decision making with regard to the individual circumstances. Persons implementing any recommendations contained in this article must exercise their own independent skill or judgement or seek appropriate professional advice relevant to their own particular practice. Compliance with any recommendations will not in any way guarantee discharge of the duty of care owed to patients and others coming into contact with the health professional or practice. Avant is not responsible to you or anyone else for any loss suffered in connection with the use of this information. Information is only current at the date initially published. © Avant Mutual Group Limited 2023.