The American Medical Association has released updated guidance for private practice physicians navigating the provision of care during the COVID-19 pandemic. The resource emphasizes ways physicians and practices should protect their employees, patients, and visitors while also operating within the…
By Jami Lucas, AAOA Executive Director/CEO
Connecting really is a human need. People want to feel like they belong. And everyone seems to be looking for new ways to connect and feel a part of something bigger this year.
To enhance our AAOA community, we have started to offer monthly Office Hours with Dr. Platt on the first Sunday of the month. Thanks to everyone who has given up some of their Sunday evening to join us. These unique opportunities for dialogue have opened some great conversations around dosing, scheduling and OR challenges, patient access and patient fears, and more.
In April, we focused on practice issues related to staffing shortages, burnout, and more. Both academic and private practices are struggling with staff turnover and the associated challenges these shortages have on patient care delivery. Those who joined Dr. Platt, Dr. Sale, Dr. Puchalski, and Dr. Patel shared some interesting approaches to staff support and retention — from giving the 5th Friday afternoon off for those months with 5 weeks, taking time to celebrate birthdays, taking time to ask “how are you,” to making sure to thank everyone on the team on the way out the door. Dr. Sale commented on HR studies that show staff do not leave for money like we all tend to think. It is more than that. It is not feeling appreciated, recognized for contributions, or not feeling like a key component of the team.
Considering our discussion, I stumbled across a similarly themed Harvard Business Review article, HBR “How Teams Are Retaining Employees Right Now”.
Reading this piece, staff retention is an issue in all sectors and lessons from the private sector may help in medicine. As with our Office Hours conversation, HBR highlighted a recent McKinsey report contrasting why employers believe folks are quitting with what employees share. Employers believe the problems center on compensation or work-life balance. Employees offer different reasons — not feeling valued and not feeling a sense of belonging. Ironic given that during the height of the pandemic, HBR notes that the most productive companies had improved employee job satisfaction.
So what are the keys to successful staffing? How do you connect your team and help them thrive? HBR would offer five principles
- Put People First
It is true, people accomplish more together than anyone could alone. Medicine is built on curating effective teams. “Achievement is a positive sum game,” HBR says. “A win for one is a win for all.” HBR cautions, “if a team does not achieve this, they enter a zero sum game where everyone is motivated by their own self-interests and the whole team suffers.” For team success, each team member needs to trust or have each other’s back so to speak. Cultivating shared empathy helps. HBR suggests getting to know each other — take interest in hobbies, children, spouses.
- Rally Around Shared Goals
Team sports are the epitomy of bonding through achieving together. You can bring this same desire for greatness to your team. Name the challenges your face and encourage a shared belief in striving to win. By working with your team to define your goals, you can better define what you need to make it happen. HBR says by defining the how, teams are encouraged to learn, experiment, and push the boundaries in service of the greater goal.
- Model Humility & Curiosity
According to HBR, “humility and curiosity are two values that can supercharge bonding.” Humility sounds hard, but by showing humility you can open up space for others to contribute. People will surprise in good ways with ideas and creativity if they feel safe to take the risks associated with innovation. Leading with inquiry encourages divergent opinions and creativity. And usually a better end result.
- Celebrate Wins
While it is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, recognize and celebrate the wins. This may just help keep the targets at the forefront and the team working in unison. While it is all about the team, recognize individual contributions and accomplishments. An effective team is akin to a dance, where everyone plays a role in the overall success. When things work as expected, it is easy to overlook the achievement. As Dr. Patel noted in our discussion, stop and say “Thanks! Awesome work today!”
- Connect the Dots
A few years ago, we use Simon Sinek’s “Why” as the basis of a Board retreat. It sounds so simple, but assuring everyone understands why helps assure everyone is working toward the same end. I find it works much better to state the “why” even if I think it is obvious, then to get down the rabbit hole of a project and realize we may all be in the same forest but taking different paths out. Why helps motivate and direct performance. Why matters. It is why 2-year olds pose the question on a regular basis. Why helps connect the work with the greater purpose. Sharing the why with your team will help everyone better understand their role in the collective success.
As you face your staff challenges, we hope you find some value in our Office Hours discussion and the HBR piece. Have something that works in your practice? We would love to hear your approaches to retention, wellness, and team cultivation. Please share at email@example.com.