You don’t need to be told that the healthcare sector is facing a staffing crisis. Across most job roles, leavers are outnumbering joiners – and those that do remain seem to be struggling with morale.
Staff morale is a hot topic – and a problem – for Practice Managers. On the one hand, given the pressures staff are under and infuriating (we’re being kind!) members of the public to deal with, it’s easy to sympathise with staff when their positive wanes. On the other, nobody wants to be dealing with negative, disruptive staff members whose attitude is amazingly contagious. With this in mind, how can Practice Managers ensure morale remains at acceptable levels?
A recent thread on the Practice Index Forum raised the topic and generated some interesting thoughts on the topic. For example, one PM said that communication is key.
“I do a fortnightly staff bulletin – click here to download an example – with updates and info, even on the wider picture like PCN’s and CCG priorities etc. so everyone feels in the loop. Any time we consider implementing a change we involve the staff – ask them their thoughts, get them involved in working groups and ask for feedback.”
Close the disconnect
According to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), one of the main issues in the workplace is a perceived disconnect between management and staff. “If you are to keep your employees happy, it is vital that you listen to their concerns and ideas – and, where possible, act upon them,” the FSB advice states.
The organisation adds that simply feeling that they are being listened to will be enough to improve employees’ morale. In a GP practice with a relatively small staff, the answer might be as simple as a regular meeting between you and your staff, taking time to chat to each person every day and thank people personally. If you would like to use technology to keep people abreast of what’s happening, consider the likes of Slack or Yammer. They can be a great way of keeping in touch with people.
Acknowledge the challenge – and reward
The FSB adds that clear communication around policies can also make a difference. For example – apologies if you’re struggling with the heat! – winter can mean higher levels of sickness. Ensuring you communicate and manage a strong, consistent sickness management policy and listen to those feeling the burden, can ensure team cohesion, making it easier to manage peaks and troughs.
Importantly, don’t forget to single out those handling the load – which is where rewards can come into play.
On the Forum thread, one PM commented: “Reward people where you can – I do a monthly “above and beyond” shout-out in the bulletin, I buy Easter eggs for all staff every year out of my own pocket, partners pay for social events and Christmas do. But also reward with positive feedback/language – this soon sets the example amongst the staff that good behaviour/performance is recognised and appreciated, and ensure that the negative is dealt with.
Accept you’re dealing with humans
One very important point to factor in here is that people will be people. As one PM commented, “There will always a few niggles, but this is just human nature. Not everyone gets on with everyone to the same degree, so acknowledge this. I have an open-door policy so the staff can come and speak to me at any point. I always try to have a quick walk round and say hello and every night the last thing I always say is thank you.”
That comment highlights how it’s the little things that really make a difference. Research shows that it’s not always money that motivates. With that in mind, here are a few more ideas to take into account:
Flexibility: While it can often be difficult to keep everybody happy when it comes to booking leave, you should attempt to be as flexible as possible when negotiating with your workforce. This is particularly true when it comes to parents with young children. All of your employees will have personal and family concerns that may occasionally take precedence over their work, and you should be prepared to accede to reasonable requests made for extra time off or flexible working.
It is also important to remember that you have a legal obligation to properly consider flexible working patterns for most parents with children under the age of 16, or disabled children under the age of 18.
Wellbeing: The health and happiness of staff is a major talking point at the moment. Fresh fruit deliveries, gym memberships, staff events paid for by the practice, a surprise massage, walks around the park, pilates or yoga classes… some simple and cost-effective offerings can make a difference.
The practice environment: You don’t need to spend a vast sum of money improving your practice, but upgrading kitchen facilities, new mugs, a fresh lick of paint or a new bathroom can all boost morale. Listen to what your employees are saying about their workplace and concentrate on these first – better still, ask them what would make a difference (and deliver on those requests).
The importance of staff morale should not be underestimated. In order to maximise your practice’s productivity, you must foster job satisfaction among your employees.
To finish off, here’s one final piece of advice from the FSB – consider cost-effective ways that you can achieve this in your firm – but beware of false economies. Often, refusing to spend money now will result in problems later, either through an inefficient workforce or high staff turnover.
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