During the COVID-19 pandemic, people have had to adjust the way they work and have faced many challenges along the way. “These are unprecedented times” is a phrase we’ve become all too familiar with. It goes without saying that our NHS and front-line workers have been pivotal in keeping us, the public, safe. So how do we look after them?
General practice has quickly identified safe ways of working, but this hasn’t been easy and we’re all having to adapt. However, one thing that has remained the same – no matter how many or great the challenges – is the importance of looking after your staff and ensuring they know they’re appreciated and valued.
Pre pandemic, when we were running our ‘Frontline’ programme for GP receptionists who were struggling with the demands of the job, we’d often start by asking them, “Are you just a receptionist?” and, “How do you think you’re perceived?” The Post-it note responses came in thick and fast. It was clear that most of the receptionists we met didn’t have a very high opinion of themselves.
When discussing their beliefs about how others saw them, the word ‘dragon’ came up a lot. But, later, after dissecting what their role actually involved, you could see the fog starting to lift as they began to realise that they weren’t ‘just a receptionist’; they were in fact the very heart of the surgery.
So, how do you as practice managers, as busy as you are, build on this?
Keeping your staff happy and feeling valued
How do we make sure we continue to support, motivate and encourage our staff at this time of uncertainty – a time when feeling valued is worth its weight in gold? Let’s face it, when you’ve had a bad day, the very thing that can make a difference to morale is a conversation over a coffee that lets your team know their contributions are more than appreciated.
The power of praise
Praise goes a long way. We all need to know that our hard work and skills are appreciated. We’re only human, after all. It’s what we say, how we say it and when we say it that adds real value. Being timely, specific and giving examples works wonders!
When was the last time you received praise? How did it make you feel? How long did that sense of recognition and value stay with you, even though 95% of the rest of the week was tough? Praise really does go a long way. When you give praise, you encourage someone, you motivate them and perhaps you even make their day.
So how can we do this?
Create a positive environment
We spend a great deal of our time in our workplace. So regular contact, incentives, positive feedback and even the odd amusing emailed anecdote will contribute towards creating a great working environment.
Clear communication and priorities
Sharing what’s happening and being clear, open and honest with your staff is key and helps them feel involved and part of the team. It also enables them to deal with change far more easily, rather than having a surprise announcement or unexpected change dropped on them at the last minute. Remember, keep talking and sharing. Let them see the journey you’re taking them on.
Give them the tools to succeed and get them involved
Give your staff, where possible, regular opportunities to develop within their role and within the team. Arrange to have five minutes at the end of your team catch-ups when you ask your staff about their ideas to improve the practice. What have they noticed that isn’t working well? What could be even better?
Give your team responsibility
Within their capabilities and the scope of their training, give your team members extra responsibilities. It’s surprising how empowering this can be. You can encourage a sense of ownership and motivate your staff in this way. Giving responsibility says, “I trust you and I know you’ll do a great job.”
Let them know they’re valued
Give your team regular, specific feedback. Show your practice staff that you’ve noticed what they’ve done and give them feedback straightaway; it’s less impactful a week later. For example:
“Debbie, the way you handled that emergency yesterday was great. You stayed calm, you supported the patient and you made some great decisions to help the doctor. Your actions were much appreciated.”
When receptionists discuss their role with us, a significant factor that keeps cropping up is feeling valued. As a manager, making time for this now will save you time in the future.