Offering the right incentives to keep your staff
Physiotherapy practice owner Greg Goh says that understanding what employees want and creating a successful team culture to foster longevity are just two of the ways of improving the chances of retaining your team members.
Replacing a team member is a painful, time-consuming and costly endeavour.
It can involve advertising costs, time spent on the interview process, inducting and training new team members on how your practice’s systems and processes run and helping new team members to build up their patient list.
There can be a loss of revenue and momentum during this process.
So what can we do to save ourselves this pain and retain our team members?
A 2021 study conducted by Price Waterhouse Coopers showed that out of 1800 surveyed Australian workers, 55 per cent indicated a strong intention to stay in their current employment, which is good news.
Before you get too excited, however, the same study showed that another 38 per cent were actively looking to leave their current employer in the next 12 months.
Our people are the lifeblood of our practices.
At a time when finding physiotherapists seems harder than ever, this is a call for business owners to better engage with and support their teams.
The Price Waterhouse Coopers study ranked employees’ top three workplace priorities under three broad areas—working alongside good co-workers, work-life balance and remuneration.
I would suggest that these areas translate to three key points of focus for us, as practice owners—culture, autonomy and empowerment.
Addressing these points will help to put your team in the 55 per cent wanting to stay, so you can retain your best people and continue to build a thriving practice in 2022.
Culture (working alongside good co-workers)
A great definition of culture comes from Erwin McManus, an author and pastor, who says that ‘culture is spontaneous repeated patterns of behaviour’.
If the number one priority for employees is a good working environment, then our first point is to take a good look at what the culture of our practice is really like, not just what we say or wish it to be.
Physiotherapist and leadership consultant Greg Goh encourages practice owners to focus on culture, autonomy and empowerment in order to engage with and retain team members.
Culture is continually changing and evolving so you need to be intentional in shaping it to match the vision, mission and values (the DNA) of your practice.
This will require buy-in from your team as they are the carriers of your practice DNA and are crucial to bringing forth the culture you want.
A good working environment comes about when the team is connected to and collectively invested in the culture of the practice.
Start by observing how well your team is aligned to your practice’s culture.
You might find that someone who has been with you for years, who fit in perfectly in the past, now doesn’t fit as well.
Conversely, someone you hired in desperation who didn’t quite fit at the time has blossomed and thrived and is now an active contributor to your practice culture.
The goal is to realign those who may have gotten off track and encourage active culture contributors to be a positive influence on the team.
Take the time at your team meetings to go over the DNA of your practice, why it matters and how it should be enacted with each other and with your patients.
This will give your team a North Star indicating the actions and behaviours your practice stands for.
Most importantly, model the behaviours and actions yourself.
Both of these will lead to a stronger collective alignment with your practice DNA and ultimately produce a great culture and work environment for your team.
Autonomy (work-life balance)
The term ‘work-life balance’ will mean completely different things to different individuals.
For one team member, it could be freedom to work from home when they want.
For another, it could be the ability to choose the hours they want to work.
I believe that what underpins the various meanings of work-life balance is a desire for autonomy and control over one’s own work.
In our practices, we can help boost this feeling of autonomy for our team by providing a strong purpose in the work they do and connecting it to their own values, goals and passions.
Tapping into the strengths of your team members and delegating responsibility to them to lead or guide an area of the practice they are interested in (eg, social media, local area marketing or building relationships with GPs or sporting clubs) will help increase their feeling of autonomy over their work and will also help the practice grow.
The final aspect of what employees want is remuneration.
This means more than just paying them at or slightly above market value (that should already be a given).
Empowerment is about providing the ability for your team to earn benefits or bonuses, which are linked to the work they do that goes beyond their general job description.
When your team takes on a challenge that draws on their strengths and passions, this should be linked to a specific goal or target with a bonus attached when they achieve it.
The bonus can be monetary, of course, but it could also be extra time off, the ability to change their rostered hours or other related benefits.
The idea is to be creative in making the bonus valuable to your employees and relevant to what they want, which helps to bolster their feelings of achievement, autonomy and balance in the work they do.
Looking ahead to a post-pandemic landscape, if we want to keep our teams then we, as employers, need to provide team members with the right environment in which to develop and thrive.
This will take intentionally crafting the right practice culture, providing avenues outside of people’s main job descriptions to boost their feelings of autonomy in their work and then together coming up with creative ways to reward them.
Keep in mind that even if you do each of these things well, it does not mean that your team members will never leave you.
However, it does greatly improve the chances of them wanting to stay.
In the words of Stephen R Covey: ‘Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.’
>> Greg Goh APAM is an experienced physiotherapist with a private practice, Back In Motion, in Mount Barker, South Australia. Greg is also a leadership consultant and is passionate about developing the next generation of leaders within the healthcare industry.
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