You’ve Heard About the Importance of Employee Engagement. Take It to Heart!
The term “employee engagement” has been heard so often in business, it’s taken on cliché status. In fact, as employers we can become a little tone deaf to it. But being so is a big mistake. Employee engagement is one of the fundamental cogs that keep the machine of your medical business running smoothly, efficiently, and cost effective.
Invigo Media has witnessed the truth of this over and over again. Medical clinics and facilities that make employee engagement a crucial element of their business models are more than twice as successful as other medical companies, according to a world-wide Gallup study that encompassed 50,000 companies and over 1.5 million employees in 34 countries.
The Real-World Results of High Employee Engagement
- Lower absenteeism numbers
- Far less staff turnover
- Less inventory loss (due to pilfering employees)
- Reduced safety incidents
- Reduced medically related mistakes
- Much higher customer metrics
- Much higher productivity
- Much higher profitability
In fact, specifically related to healthcare organisations, findings show that high employee engagement decreases patient safety incidents by as much as 41%.
The Importance of An Engaged Front Line Staff
Nowhere is positive employee engagement more crucial than at the front desk. In organizational behavior literature, the staff that occupy the font desk are known as “boundary spanners.” That’s because, to your patients, the men and women at the front desk are the all-important “good first impression” of your clinic or facility. What happens at this point of first contact indelibly sets the tone for that patient’s relationship with nurses, aides, and right up the chain to the physicians.
Never discount the importance of employee engagement at the front desk level. These staff members must frequently balance conflicting roles, perform both customer-facing and administrative tasks, and do all of these usually on a simultaneous basis.
Research points very strongly to the triumvirate of doctor-receptionist-patient relationship superseding the dyadic doctor-patient relationship in the primary care field.
This makes perfect sense when you consider the role of the receptionist and other front office staff. In a general practice office, the receptionist must be an expert and efficient jack of many trades. She or he must juggle front desk tasks, field phone calls, over see doctors’ scheduling, and manage patients’, Medicare, and medical records.
They have to have exceptional people skills. Often the patients who march up to the front desk are stressed or in pain, or have a limited time to be there because of work or family pressures. While these people are talking or crying out in pain, while the phone is ringing and the files are piling up beside the front office staff, they have to make the initial call regarding who gets to the doctor and when.
If positive employee engagement ever matters, it’s definitely at the front line of every medical clinic, office, or facility: the front desk.
The Front Desk/Patient Paradox
Ironically, while physicians and medical practitioners have realized the benefits of employee engagement quickly, research has shown that patients lag behind in realizing how crucial employee/employer relationship is to their care and comfort. In fact, many patients still arrive at medical offices ready to perceive the front office staff as barriers instead of facilitators in effective healthcare.
In some ways, this shouldn’t be so surprising. Outdated perceptions and past negative experiences are often slow to fade, especially when you consider that patients don’t visit their medical professionals on a daily basis. This makes the new paradigm of training your staff how to manage their own feelings and how to appropriately express them in a professional environment all the more essential.
As patients learn that their complaints, anxieties, and concerns will be compassionately and professionally addressed, their preconceived notions and defensiveness will eventually ebb.
Understanding how to deal with an upset person right in front of them means taking into account past encounters, how those past experiences may have influenced the patient, and how to begin changing the patient’s perception in the here and now.
When employee engagement with patients is proactive, professional, and well-informed, the benefits to your business become almost immediately effective. These include:
- Overall stress levels in the office environment drop
- Patient cooperation increases
- Time management improves
- Employee turnover lowers
The Double-Edged Sword of Emotional Neutrality’s Effect on Employee Engagement
Emotional neutrality is something that all doctors experience. But some are surprised that the same is experienced by front office staff, albeit on a different level. Regardless of the grade of emotional neutrality, it can be either blessing or curse for doctor, patient, and staffers alike.
Simply defined, emotional neutrality is the suppression of emotions while displaying unemotional behavior. At its best, it is an exemplary skill in medical practice. At worst, it can erode the employee/employer relationship as well as the critical bond of trust needed between patient and doctor.
Emotional neutrality an invaluable skill that can guard medical professionals against emotional burnout.
Dispassionate behavior can be an invaluable skill for guarding medical professionals against emotional burnout, present a sense of calm that helps patients accept or cope with a distressing diagnosis or outcome, and help employee/employer relationships during high-stress situations.
This makes it an essential part of staff training, so that those working in the front office can learn how to control their own feelings, remaining calm and neutral when confronted with a patient’s emotions, extreme or otherwise. It’s a fine example of how employee engagement isn’t only about the basics of positivism.
The best medical receptionists can assess the needs of individual patients and clients, transitioning quickly between exhibiting compassion and the need to be business-like accordingly.
This training allows the people at the front desk to ensure that patients receive the right care that is specific to their individual circumstances. As the receptionist becomes more experienced in this aspect of employee engagement, the receptionist’s own ability to cope with a complex flow of emotional changes improves and evolves.
The employee/employer relationship should take into account that those who work the front office must also cope with patient death, joy, anger, aggression, sadness and disillusionment. Indeed, their exposure to it during any given visit can be as much as an hour or more.
The role of the medical receptionist is surprisingly complex.
This makes the establishment of good employee engagement much more than simply a matter of good employee/employer relationships. It’s a business philosophy that is truly multi-faceted. The receptionist must feel as committed to quality patient care within the sphere of the front office as aides, techs, nurses, and physicians do within their areas.
Of course, practicing emotional neutrality can be a double-edged sword. It can, after all, be tricky for a person to find the right balance of compassion and business-like comportment regardless of his or her position on the spectrum of medical professions and roles.
Especially at the front office, some patients can interpret emotional neutrality as callousness. And it doesn’t help the situation when a patient enters the clinic with a preconceived notion that the receptionist’s role is one of gatekeeper, designed to erect barriers between patient and doctor.
If emotional neutrality isn’t properly learned, it can lead to increased stress in the front office.
This is why, essential as this skill is to quality employee engagement, the skill of emotional neutrality can be a double-edged sword. It takes patience and practice to keep emotional neutrality from becoming “fake friendliness.” In fact, according to some researchers, approaching emotional neutrality as though it is a mere mask of insincere pleasantness may lead to the development of depression in employees.
That’s why fully understanding the meaning of emotional neutrality is as vital to employee well-being as it is to patient care.
The Importance of the Waiting Room Environment
Quality employee engagement also means taking the atmosphere of the waiting-room environment into account. Yet this important space in every medical office is all too often given short shrift. It is widely acknowledged that the mood of the waiting room affects the patient’s frame of mind yet, in practice, too many waiting rooms are treated as an afterthought.
Soothing wall colors, play spaces for children, comfortable seating, and free coffee are meaningless if a patient walks in to find others already sullen and grumbling. When the receptionist and other front office staff are uncaring, brusque, or inefficient, what awaits the doctor, techs, and nurses when they walk into the exam room is a patient primed for distrust and dissatisfaction.
Make no mistake. Hiring the right medical receptionists is as crucial to your practice as recruiting the right doctors.
Making Sure You Have the Right Front Desk Team in Place
Quality employee engagement begins with the right hires. Below are some basic elements in making sure that happens.
Proper medical office training is, of course, important, but in keeping with the topic of employee engagement that’s not what we’re talking here. Ask questions like:
- How much experience has the applicant had juggling both front-of-house and backroom activities?
- Has the applicant worked with angry and stressed clients, customers, or patients?
- When dealing with a tough customer or patient, how did the applicant resolve the situation?
The Right Attitude
Granted, this takes a little instinct and a good grasp on the overall personality of your medical office. But there are a few guidelines that can help. A candidate that will help you foster good employee engagement will:
- Have a positive outlook tempered with realism
- Be firm in his or her opinions, but also flexible enough to focus on outcomes
- Be a good listener, with a tendency to reflect on -rather than react impulsively to- patients and staff
- Not be a constant chatterer
- Not have an exaggerated cheeriness or seem unfailingly happy (often a sign of someone who has difficulty dealing with the inevitable daily crises of a medical practice)
Always follow up by talking to their references. These references may be impressive, but a static list on paper can tell you what you need to know about how the candidate has handled real-life situations. So follow up phone calls to the referees, and don’t hesitate to ask the hard questions.
Finally, after you have put in the right effort to hire a quality medical receptionist, do the right things that keeps him or her there. Pay well, show flexibility when it comes to holidays and childcare arrangements. Say thank you for a job well done. And say it often.
The benefits of exceptional employee engagement are many. It provides an office environment where employees look forward to coming to work. This, in turn, lowers staff turnover. It influences the attitudes, trust, and receptiveness of patients, which keeps them returning instead of switching to another medical office. Employee engagement doesn’t just brighten your own work day, ease inter-office strife, and improve patient care. It makes a difference in your bottom line.
Invigo is an inbound marketing company, with a primary focus on the medical fields. Our goal is to help medical practices attract more patient/client visitors. While we strive to attract more public attention to your site, we also aim to convert those web visits into satisfied clients/patients. These satisfied patients/clients become promoters of your medical practice, helping grow your web presence and create an online community.
We analyze and pinpoint where your practice can increase profits and how to grow exponentially. When it comes to better conversion and online patient/client engagement, Invigo has the strategies that help you reach your goals and create a solid return on investments.
Contact us by form or phone to learn more and see just how affordable exceptional inbound marketing can be.