In today’s labor market, retaining a good team can be just as difficult as finding good candidates in the first place. Employees have new motivations and strong values, and a lot of options in the job market. The answer to developing and keeping a successful team lies in employee engagement. When your practice focuses on increasing and maintaining your team’s engagement, you’ll create a staff that is loyal, motivated, and ready to reach your goals.
Let’s explore what employee engagement means and how you can foster a highly engaged environment.
What is employee engagement and why does it matter?
Imagine all your employees sitting in a rowboat. There are three categories of people who might be in that rowboat. There are the engaged employees who are loyal and committed to you. They tend to have higher productivity. They’re more likely to stay with the company. On the opposite end of the boat, you have actively disengaged employees. These are the people who are counterproductive and promote disharmony. They do not want to be there, and whether they make it known or not, everyone else can tell. It becomes a burden on any organization that employs them. There’s also the group in between those two that are not fully engaged, but not fully disengaged. These are the people who are productive, but they don’t have a commitment to the organization. They are more likely to maximize their paid time off (PTO) or be absent a little bit more often than the engaged employees. These people are at risk to leave the organization, but they’re not necessarily dragging the organization down. They’re riding along with the others and doing the minimum of what’s required of them. They are not driving revenue or success for the business.
Assessing Employee Engagement
In each level of engagement, there are things you can control and influence. Within the hearing healthcare industry, there are also a lot of things that we cannot control. We cannot control external factors that are influencing hearing healthcare practices today like managed care, over-the-counter products, or how many hearing aid sales are allocated to other sources. There are things you can control as a business leader, however. Employee engagement within your practice is one of those things. If you assess the engagement levels of the employees in your practice, you’re taking a temperature of how well you’re performing as a business leader. The better you perform as a business leader, the more likely you are to have a higher level of engagement within your practice.
A great way to assess engagement levels is by asking employees. Asking directly if they are engaged or how engaged they are is not going to get the job done. No one is going to have a good answer to those questions, but there are a couple of different ways you can ask about engagement in a productive way. You don’t have to pay a large amount to a polling organization to do this. Any business leader can do this on their own in a couple different ways. You can create something like the popular Gallup poll with one big annual survey. It has 10 to 12 in-depth questions. Ask people to respond on how much they agree with a statement with a score of one to five. If you’d rather not wait 12 months to get feedback, you can send out a smaller number of questions every few months or quarterly. Choose two or three questions each time to ask employees. You can also choose to make your survey anonymous or not. Google Forms and SurveyMonkey are both effective ways to carry out an anonymous survey. If you choose a non-anonymous format, you can ask employees your questions and have it in a company meeting and have a live discussion about the questions. Some examples of good questions to ask include:
- Do you believe that the organization has your best interest in mind when making business decisions?
- Does your team inspire you to do your best work?
- Do you believe that you have the appropriate amount of information to make correct decisions?
Fostering a High-Performance Culture
There are three key factors in fostering a high-performance culture. The first is hiring for traits and attitude instead of skills. The second is having an effective onboarding process for new employees, and the third is making that your management team is managing and coaching for performance specifically.
Hiring for Traits and Attitude
There are many examples of hiring for traits and attitude outside of the hearing healthcare industry. You can see it especially in places like retail establishments, restaurants, and daycare facilities. Instead of these organizations looking for someone who has experience doing the job, they focus more on the actual traits for which they want to hire. If you were hiring a front office person, there are two scenarios you could encounter. You could look for someone who has experience in the hearing aid business, knows how to answer the phone, how to triage for hearing related questions, and knows the practice management system. They might, however, have lower energy or burnout on the job and just want to collect a paycheck. In that scenario you would be hiring for skills, not for traits. On the other hand, you could look for someone who is a great communicator, has a lot of energy, takes pride in their work, and has a positive attitude. Those are the traits and attitudes that you want for someone answering the phone and handling the front office. They might have never seen a hearing aid, know anything about hearing aid appointments, or be familiar with the software system, but they have the traits and attitude that you want. You can train them on all the skills that they’re going to have to employ on the job.
An Effective Onboarding Process
Studies have found that an employee who has a negative onboarding experience typically results in that new hire being two times more likely to look for other opportunities. In that case, the investment that you put into getting someone on board and trained to do the job is wasted. According to Gallup, only 12% of employees strongly agree that their organization does a great job onboarding new employees. This leaves a huge opportunity in all industries, across all employers, to reconsider the entire onboarding experience and how it impacts their retention and engagement.
The good news is that it’s not hard to create an effective onboarding process. It’s a matter of putting together a plan and following that plan. It includes detailed training with specific milestones that are effectively communicated to the employee. They should understand that there is a plan for their onboarding process. There are a couple of key components to this plan. First, it is well documented and shared with everyone involved. It must be supported by colleagues. If you have an onboarding plan that it’s just between the new hire and one person on staff, then they’re only getting to know that one person. Second, it has weekly milestones and an opportunity for the new hire to have a review session with either their manager or the person that is the most appropriate for those milestones to make sure that they understand and are comfortable with the things they learned that week. Additionally, there are clear performance indicators communicated to new hires. If they know what the key performance indicators are of their job, they understand the input needed, why certain milestones are important, and how it’s going to impact their job daily. Having this process creates empowerment and a feeling of ownership over what the new hire is learning. They can give feedback about how they’re feeling about what they have learned and the progress they are making.
Managing and Coaching for Performance
Everybody wants to do a good job. No one shows up to the office with the desire to be a terrible employee. Everybody wants to be a member of a high performing team. We all want to feel like we’re part of something bigger and more important. If we feel like we are on a high-performing team, then our employee engagement levels increase. A higher performing team requires a great coach. Business leaders who want a high performing team must consider what their role is in encouraging staff to be more engaged. If you think about professional athletes, they all have coaches. LeBron James has a coach. Tiger Woods has a coach. Simone Biles has a coach. They’re not on their own in trying to get better. There’s a coach helping them, pushing them, and holding them accountable.
There are six aspects to consider when effectively managing and coaching for performance:
- Tools & Resources
Employees need the right tools and equipment to do their job. Whether it’s as simple as a word processor to write, or an effective practice management system, or a way to measure your practice database, employees need the right equipment.
- Structures & Guidelines
Employees should have set structures and guidelines they can follow. Processes and the guidelines for their job should be made clear to them.
- Knowledge & Skills
After processes and guidelines have been put in place, appropriate training is important. Employees should be aware of the structures in place and be able to use their skills to utilize them.
- Information & Communication
Are employees receiving effective communication? Are you telling them if they are performing well or not? Are they aware of the goals? Employees should know what is expected of them and should receive feedback on how they are meeting those expectations.
- Motivation: Internal & External
Motivation comes from both internal factors and external factors. Some people are intrinsically motivated to perform. They take pride in their work. Internal motivation is not something you can typically influence; however, you can recognize individuals for the way they are treating patients and the impact they have on the community. That can be a way to improve internal motivation and improve the way that they see their role. External motivation can be found in things like appropriate compensation, rewards, and public recognition.
- Extenuating Circumstances
Some things are out of our control. There might be a health issue in the family, or a transportation problem. Maybe a bus schedule doesn’t run at times that allows someone to get to work at a convenient time. As a business leader, it’s critical to have a conversation with that employee to identify if these extenuating circumstances keep the employee from being able to perform effectively and explore ways to work around it. Sometimes there are ways to work around the issue and move forward, and sometimes it’s better to part ways.
Tracking individual productivity is key to knowing how effective your business is running. The way to track this is to know what your benchmarks are, and then understand how you’re measuring them. The benchmark often used at CQ Partners for employees in the high-performing category is if they are generating five and a half to seven times their cost in revenue. Their cost is their salary added to the cost of their benefits. If their cost is $100,000, then that employee should be generating $550,000 to $700,000 in revenue for the business. They’re covering their costs of employment and generating revenue for the business above and beyond that. How you measure that is just as important. You’ve probably heard the adage, “garbage in, garbage out.” If you’re utilizing tracking forms or practice management systems but you’re not putting good information into them, then you’re not going to get good data back. Start with having a plan of what you’re going to measure and how you’re going to measure it. Then, make sure you’re feeding the proper information into that plan so that you can get effective information out of it.
Key performance indicators (KPIs) should be measured based on the responsibilities and expectations of a particular role. If you measure KPIs for a front office person, you can look at their companion rate and the percentage of calls they’re converting from into scheduled appointments. You’ll also measure the cancellation and no-show rates because these things can also indicate the behaviors of what they’re saying on the phone. You want to measure the how well they’re performing against the goals for the number of scheduled opportunities that you need each day, week, and month. Then, you can measure and their results for out-of-warranty patients. Are they identifying of all the incoming calls? Are they identifying all the patients who would be considered as having an out-of-warranty hearing aid? Are at least 75% of patients being scheduled for a hearing aid evaluation?
For providers, performance can be measure by their generated revenue because it’s directly associated to the hearing aids that they’re selling. If a provider is expected to generate a certain amount of revenue, are they hitting those goals? On a behavioral level, if they are expected to be making follow-up calls with those patients who have not yet accepted help, are they making those phone calls? Do they have an ongoing communication plan with those people? You might also differentiate closure rates by where the patient is in the buying cycle to see progress.
Feedback and Recognition
After you have assessed an employee’s performance, it’s important to give them feedback and recognition when warranted. Feedback and recognition can be similar, but they have very distinct elements. Feedback could be positive or constructive, it should be specific, and performance based. Additionally, feedback should always be timely. Try to catch people in the act. Make sure they are aware of what specific behavior or action was good or needs improvement. Often, feedback should be given in private. Recognition, on the other hand, should always be positive and is better given in public. It should recognize a good job and show appreciation for the employee and their work.
Achieving high engagement within your practice is an attainable goal. By focusing on your leadership and management, identifying performance and engagement levels, and responding to what employees need to thrive, you can foster the culture you desire and retain your top-performing staff.
At CQ Partners, our expert HR & Recruiting team works with practices daily to build employee engagement and implement effective tools, training, and onboarding to increase employee retention. In fact, there is a 91% retention rate among practices who uses CQ HR & Recruiting services, compared to the healthcare average of approximately 61%. Discover how CQ HR & Recruiting can support your practice!