Treat every day like Staff Appreciation Day

Some of you may have experienced some mythical events over the weekend, especially if you have people in your life who refer to you as Mom. For one day, without having to ask, spills got wiped, breakfasts got cooked, toys got shared peacefully and flowers from the neighbor's garden got bestowed upon women everywhere with unbridled pride and affection.

For one day, husbands, children and strangers on the street asked themselves, "How could I show this person that I appreciate her/think she's great/hope she never stops doing all the things she does to help and care for me on a daily basis?"

And not to knock my delicious French toast breakfast or the indulgent two-hour nap I got to enjoy on Sunday, but I think I speak for a lot of moms in saying it sure would be swell if the Mother's Day mentality could get spread a little more evenly over the other 364 days of the year. And while I'm at it, since this is a practice management column, I strongly suggest you consider how you could do the same for your office staff.

Like moms, medical office employees notoriously get taken for granted. As Florida consultant Jim Grigsby tells Medical Economics, "Too often, front-office staffers are made to feel like second-class citizens in a practice. They're the least-educated and least-paid members of the practice, and they're often disrespected by clinical and back-room staffers as a result."

Beyond even the notion that healthcare organizations should be a lot better at demonstrating an attitude that they, well, care, medical offices stand to suffer serious consequences of underappreciating their employees. As put into perspective by Atlanta-based consultant Elizabeth W. Woodcock, your employees are more than the sum of the tasks they perform. "They are your practice ambassadors--your marketing department, your public relations agency, and your bureau of patient satisfaction rolled into one," notes Medical Economics.

A recent FiercePracticeManagement story highlighted three 'As' of staff retention: Autonomy, action and assessment. But to ensure that your employees are happy--and therefore much more apt to perform their jobs with care--it's essential that practices add another 'A' term to the list: Appreciation.

And as the prototypical macaroni necklace has symbolized for generations, it really is the thought that counts. In fact, the Medical Group Management Association's In Practice blog recently published "5 ways to reward and empower your staff at little or no cost." No. 1 on the list? A simple hello. Just as "I'm hungry!" shouldn't pass for an acceptable morning greeting, neither should, "I need you to take care of X, Y and Z right away." It's not just managers who skip these basic courtesies without realizing it, notes author Alys Novak, MBA; even employees themselves will often fail to even say 'good morning' to one another.

The best way to make your entire practice more conscientious of how people are treated is to set a good example.

Do this by thinking about what you'd do if every day were Staff Appreciation Day. Obviously, the funds for gift cards and free days off would run out quickly. But you may be astonished by how far regular, genuine thank yous can go. Every once in a while, make a point to ask your employees how their days are going--and take the time to listen. Finally, do better than just asking whether or how you can help. Take a moment to independently come up with some little way to make another person's day easier or better.

Trust me, just knowing that's part of your thought process will help anyone you work with feel valued and inspired to keep working hard. It will remind them--and you--that there is a joy that comes from helping people without being asked. - Deb