A stable, enthusiastic staff is crucial to quality patient care, greater practice profitability and a harmonious work environment.  While compensation is high on the list of reasons why an employee accepts a job, compensation is not usually high on the list of reasons why employees continue in a job.  Why do the people you want to stay with you remain in your practice?  What makes them treat your patients in a manner which fosters a great relationship with you and your group?  Why do they forgive your temperamental behavior on one of your occasional “bad days”?

Employees want fair compensation but they need your respect.  Many of them contribute their paychecks to family bank accounts and have little discretion over its use, but they can take home, for their personal joy, the compliment you pay them and the appreciation you express to them.  Think of each staff member as an emotional bank account into which you make deposits, so that you can make withdrawals.  Those deposits are made simply by asking about their weekend, learning what activities their children participate in and empathizing about a life transition they are going through.  Knowledge in those areas conveys your appreciation for them as individuals. If their children or grandchildren are participating in a sporting or other event, ask how it went the next work day.

With regard to patients, accept the blame and share the praise.  If a patient registers a complaint, defend the staff member as being one of your most reliable and then have your administrator perform the back channel research to determine what actually happened.  If a patient praises your office team, ask for as many specifics as the patient will share, and make notes for later use to praise the specific staff member.  This praise is amplified if it is done in the presence of others.  Without explanation, ask the staff member to accompany you to the office of one of your physician partners or the administrator and tell the success story to the other doctor or the administrator in the presence of the employee.  End the story by saying, in your own words, how grateful you are to work with this individual.

Finally, make sure they have fun at work.  This is not as much about being the instigator of games as much as it is about permitting them to play games.  Dress up for Halloween, or buy each person a tiny pumpkin and have a decorating contest.  Play secret Santa or cook your favorite meal (perhaps only from the grill) and bring in lunch for them.  Take nominations for a needy cause or family and let them contribute what they can.  If needed, you complete the gift with your funds and let the gift be from the staff of the practice.  Have an ugly sweater or ugly shoe contest.  If you do not know what most of these terms mean, appoint a Chief Morale Officer and give that person a budget with which to work.

Know them, thank them, praise them, have fun with them, and you will keep them.  Keep them, and you will be a happier physician.