Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Building a Collaborative Team

I am often asked by doctors "How can I get a great office staff/team and keep them? How do I know the right person to hire? How much do I pay them? How do I train them? Etc... To try to answer these questions in one article is not possible so this is the first article in a series on "The Building of a Collaborative Team."
As we know when building a house or building we need to start with the ground floor where our structure is to be built. Every architectural structure is built on a solid foundation that will ensure the longevity of the building. A foundation is the foremost most essential part of a building or structure. The foundation is a structure that transmits loads from a building to the ground. Failure to install appropriate foundations underneath the structure is sure disaster. Without a solidly constructed foundation a building can be destroyed very easily, all it would take is a bad rain or earthquake to cause it to tumbling down.
Now let us apply this same principle to our offices. We need to have a good foundation to build our office staff on. What I mean by this is to have systems in order when you bring new staff members on board that will make sure that they get the solid foundation to build on with your office team.
First, how do I hire the right person for the job? This is not an easy task, but you can make the process easier by becoming a better interviewer. Prepare for your interviews. Before you meet your applicants spend time looking over their application and resume. Look for any areas of question like seeing that there is a lapse in employment that they did not account for. Make a job description for yourself that will have many of the detailed job duties for the position that you are hiring for. This way you know what qualifications the applicant must have. If you are hiring for a front office assistant that will be doing computer input, scheduling appointments, taking payments and messages you will want to make sure that the applicant can type and listen carefully to a message and then transfer the correct information onto paper. Computer skills and accuracy are a must for this position. You would then want to set up a few tests for the considered applicants to take. I have had applicants type a letter from a handwritten one to check how fast and accurate they can type. Also we will make a call from the back office to the front line and have the applicant answer the phone and take a message from us to see if this is something they can do. Do they ask for correct spelling of the name given? How about saying the phone number back to the caller make sure they have it correctly? If the applicant has no clue how to take a message do you want to spend the time training them to do this? You need to decide what qualifications you are requiring for the position and then set your interview and your performance tests to fit that.
During the interview make sure your questioning is in line with your state laws (you can find these online). Here are few unlawful questions I found in my online search that you cannot ask and the correct way of asking certain questions that may be of help to you.
1. You cannot inquire about the applicants religious denomination or affiliations.
2. Marital status - You cannot ask if the applicant is married or not.
3. Children - You cannot ask if the applicant has children. You can tell the applicant what the working hours of employment are and do they have any problems with working these hours. Many times, the applicant will reveal information about childcare when asked this question, but you cannot ask specifically about children and childcare unless the applicant brings it up.
4. Age - You cannot ask how old the applicant is, but you can ask if they are 18 years or older.
5. Arrest record - You cannot ask, "Have you ever been arrested?" but you can ask, "Have you ever been convicted of a crime?" and let them know they may be asked to provide the details.
6. Disabilities - You cannot ask, "Do you have a disability?" But you can ask, "Do you have any impairment, physical, mental or medical which would interfere with your ability to perform the job for which you have applied?
7. Name - The applicant may not be asked his or her original name, if their name has been changed, maiden name, or "have your ever worked under a different name? If so what was it and the dates you used it.
8. Birthplace - You cannot ask the applicant their birthplace, or their parents birthplace, wife or other close relatives birthplace.
9. Citizenship - An applicant may not be asked if he or she is a naturalized or native-born citizen or the date when the applicant acquired citizenship. The applicant may not be required to produce naturalization papers or first papers. An applicant may not be asked, "Of what country are you a citizen?" An applicant may be asked any of the following: Are you a citizen of the United States? If not a citizen of the United States, do you intend to become a citizen of the United States? If you are not a United States citizen, have you the legal right to remain permanently in the United States?
10. Education - You can inquire into the applicants academic, vocational or professional education and the public and private schools they attended. You cannot ask dates attended or graduated.
11. Drivers license - You can ask, "Do you posses a valid drivers license?" but you cannot require the applicant to produce it prior to employment.
When sitting down with the applicant make sure that the atmosphere is a comfortable one. Remember the applicant is going to be nervous and you do want them to feel comfortable so that you can get them to open up and talk so they will reveal information that will be helpful to you for your hiring process. Depending on who is doing the interviewing in your office (the doctor or the office manager) they may want to open up the interview by telling the applicant a little about how they got into the medical profession or some of the history of the practice. This will ease the applicant up and make the situation more comfortable for the interview to progress.
How you word your questions is important, remember you want to get the applicant to give you information about them. Do not ask questions that can be answered "Yes or No." Instead of asking "Have you ever been in charge of answering the phones?" Say "Tell me about your experiences of being in charge of answering the phones." This will allow the applicant to give you information about what they did and allow them to expound on what their experience has been.
Never put words in the applicants mouth. Instead of asking "I see you have had plenty of patient service experience" say, "I see you have worked at The Get Healthy Clinic, what was that like?"
Do not ask questions that are unrelated to what you need to know about the applicant. Ask questions that will give you further information about what your applicants experience has been with relation to what you are looking for in a prospective employee.
You can give the applicant hypothetical situations and ask how they would handle it. The situations should be close to what actually happens in your office so you can see what they would do. A technique that that may be helpful when interviewing is when you have asked the applicant a question and they have answered wait five seconds before going on. By waiting you give the applicant time to think and many times they add more information that gives you further insight to them.
Now that you have given them time to talk about themselves and what they have done it is important that you give them more information about the position. You may want to give them a job description. I do this after the interview because if you give the job description to the applicant prior to the interview they might answer their questions to make them more in line with what the job description is. Let them know what the doctors expectations are regarding the position. Paint an accurate picture of what the office is like, what the compensation is for the position and describe potential opportunities. By letting the applicants know this information it will allow them to let you know if they are still interested. I have found over the years it is best to be up front about compensation, as many times applicants expectations are unrealistic when it comes to this and none of us have the time to waste on applicants that are expecting more than what we can deliver.
Whoever is doing the interview should take good notes, make these brief as an applicant will get nervous if they see you writing down everything they say and may clam-up on you. You only need to write down key thoughts or things that will trigger thoughts about the applicant that you can share later. It is good practices that after an interview to write a summary of what your thoughts are on the interview and applicant so it is fresh in your mind to have for later.
Now that you have all the information that you need from each applicant it is time to figure out which one to pick. Usually from your interviews you have someone that sticks out more than the rest.
If you have discussed compensation during the interview process you know if this person is willing to come on-board with what you can offer.
Now it is time to make the decision. You can do this either in person or over the phone, but one thing that is very important is that the applicant (employee) understands what the job and expectations are and what the compensation is.
Now that you have hired the right person, it is time to make sure that you have all of the office systems in order. This is necessary to begin on the right foot once they begin their employment.
Hiring a new employee is not an easy task. You the doctor are in a very vulnerable position, that is why you need to make sure you have all of your "ducks in order" to protect yourself and keep your practice running as smoothly as possible during this transition period. My next article will be about "On-Boarding" the transitioning of the new employee into your practice.

No comments:

Post a Comment