“Some can gain all the experience needed after a few minutes of instruction whilst others will never gain it in a lifetime of toil…….” (I think I just made that one up, although I could equally have plagiarised it from somewhere, but I am old and curmudgeonly so don’t really give a flying dooda……)
A pet hate of mine is the Job Vacancies that substitute any indication of a salary with “Dependent on Experience”. Don’t get me wrong here – I am neither in the market, nor am I one of the underpaid, overstretched, underappreciated Practice Managers that seem to be quite a feature amongst our numbers.
But therein lays my point. Whilst overstretched and underappreciated are subjective assessments at best, the underpaid bit deserves a little more consideration – like how did it start in the first place?
In a previous life I was CEO of a small but beautifully formed Professional Association within the construction industry. We circulated a monthly Magazine to members and associated professionals, which was an excellent advertising medium for surveyors, architects, and construction consultancies that used our particular brand of professional.
When I first took on the role, I noted the absence of a salary in most of their adverts, and a regular stream of letters to the editor bemoaning the lack of reward for this most essential role. The adverts usually went along the lines of “Salary Dependant on qualifications and experience”. However, the advertising blurb always laid down the qualifications required, the background of the ideal individual and the specific skills that they had to have in order to be able to consider submitting a CV. And, of course, the rose-tinted pen picture of the job itself.
Interestingly, when I started to devil into the detail, I was never able to speak to a “professional” in the construction sense, but always the advertiser’s “Head of HR”. I discovered that they never had a shortage of candidates and, on further enquiry, generally got away with salary discussions until the second interview. This (and it may ring a bell with some of you) is because most people looking for a job firstly don’t expect to get to the second interview once they realise there is stiff competition – and secondly – are too polite to raise the hoary issue of “reward” in case it is seen as a “bad” thing at such an early stage. By the time they do get to the second interview, it has become more a question of principle, competitiveness and of course, ego. The rewards become almost a secondary issue – they now just want the job, and that is all there is to it! I think it is called human nature, and “Heads of HR” tend to know quite a bit about that.
Ours was very much a niche market and I was fortunate enough to be able to exert some influence to change things. It was very simple really – we refused to accept job advertisements unless they gave an indicative starting salary. Those that tried to argue the point were eventually persuaded to advertise as “Dependant on Qualifications and Experience but not less than £….. on appointment”.
The use of the old “Up to £….” is a real cheat and totally non helpful, so that was also a big “No,No”. “Up to” can mean absolutely anything as there is no known start point – when do you achieve “Up to…” for instance?”
This seems to be remarkably similar to the situation with practice managers – we all use person specifications and outline job descriptions as well as the obligatory rose tinted advertisement. Noting recent adverts, and also those that appear on other less well regarded websites than this one, it occurs to me that we will continue to see managers being appointed on salaries that are not commensurate with the role and responsibilities of “the job” until such time as there is a sea change away from this “mystery money” approach – and the above basic principles hold true, albeit in a niche market – and practice management is nothing if not “niche”.
Now here’s the controversial bit – look away now if you are feeling a bit precious!
Most adverts (particularly when replacing retirees or those who are leaving on good terms – there must be some…….) for practice managers are actually drafted and submitted (I would suggest) by………er………..the outgoing practice manager. Yes, partners will generally be required to agree them, but the sales pitch has to be made by the outgoing Manager, as no one else is qualified or able to do it.
In building the future for our wonderful profession, we all need to be careful not to pass on the disgruntlement of our own end position. “It took me 30 years of blood, sweat and tears to get to where I am today, so why should I encourage my partners to let some snotty nosed newbie get the same as me from day one…………” That is not being suggested.
However, you only need to read a few posts on this site related to “pay and conditions” to realise that many of the wounds of the past run deep, well into retirement in some cases, and I always get the sinking feeling that the “It took me 30 years…….” principle has been allowed to take precedence inappropriately at a time when we, as experienced practice managers, are at our most influential. In many cases, it will be the first time that your partners have actually had to take stock of the void that is about to be created with your departure.
I am not for one second suggesting that your hard earned final salary and benefits be available to your successor from day one – but in building for the future (yes I know, which is now well and truly behind some of us……) we really need to be ensuring that those that follow are not only the right people, with the right commitment and enthusiasm, but are rewarded correctly from day one.
Dependent on experience…………… of course!
Don is a long standing PM somewhere in Lincolnshire who refuses to divulge his salary – other than “it would probably bring you out in a rash”. He has never smoked, tasted alcohol or owned a television. He has 31 children. He’s been around a bit, and fibs a lot.