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Archive for the ‘Workforce Focus’ Category

Interviewing to Find Attitudes

Workforce Focus

By Tim Connor, Rodeo! Performance Group, Inc.

This is the third article aimed at helping medical practices to hire the right staff into the organization. In the first two we identified the benefits of the having right people, and discussed habits and attitudes. In this final article we’ll discover how to sleuth out attitudes during the interview process.

What’s Important to Us?

Before you can start interviewing for attitudes, you have to know what’s important to the practice. What does that mean? As the practice runs day to day and year to year, there are certain things you want to characterize the organization. They can include any number of attributes: teamwork, a pleasant atmosphere, diligence, attention to details, dependability, or even caring. And these attributes are important because they set the tone for the practice in its daily operation.

For instance: teamwork in staff and physicians might be important because it makes the load easier for everyone, eliminating friction and hurt feelings and giving a sense of pride to the organization. A pleasant atmosphere and a caring character among all staff makes a hectic business much easier to handle. It also tends to put patients at ease, reducing complaints and making coming to work a joy rather than a dread for staff and physicians. Diligence in a practice has both business and atmosphere benefits. Diligent staff know that things will be done timely and well, and come to depend on one another in a way that is unknown in sloppy practices. That same characteristic provides quicker reimbursement and fewer returned bills; and as a practice gains the reputation for diligence liability drops and referrals rise.

But don’t make this a laundry list. You should limit these key characteristics to only four or five, and focus your hiring efforts around supporting those critical few.

Why Are These Key Characteristics So Important?

Actually, these key characteristics we’ve been discussing are the values of the practice. You’ve probably heard a lot about values over the past decade, it’s been a buzz word in leadership and organization seminars and has tended to become meaningless. But values have a very important function: each is the fulcrum around which practice decisions are made.

How is that, you ask? As you know, any staff member has dozens, or even hundreds of decisions to make in a day. If you’re managing a practice, you’d like as many of those decisions as possible to be made independently by the staffer or colleague. However (and it’s a big however!) you want the decisions to be the right decisions. One of the major headaches in leading any group of people is found in worrying about wrong decisions and their possible results. Clear values take away much of that worry, because they act as signposts to employees as they consider the alternatives of a decision. Can you see the ramifications of such a situation? Clear values act as a “silent supervisor” to give staff confidence and direction in decision-making, without having to refer to the manager or partner.

Walk Through the Decisions

A valuable part of this exercise of identifying key values includes discussing what critical decisions are likely in each of the divisions within the practice. Taking the necessary hour or so for this dialogue will greatly clarify which of many values are the most important, and that same conversation will often uncover “land mines” that can be communicated to staff to avoid liabilities.

To get back to our original focus, we are seeking to identify and make clear those few practice characteristics that we consider most important to its operation. And we are communicating those to staff 1) so that good decisions will be made, and 2) to build the practice into one that matches our vision.

Now we have to figure out how to find those same values in applicants desiring to work with us.

Digging for Attitudes

When an applicant writes a resume or comes in for an interview, openness is not the first thing on his or her mind. Resumes are like wordy “tombstones”, in that they recount all important events making up an applicant’s life to this point. Of course education is listed, as are certifications and skills, and often nowadays results – all of which are important for you to know. But you won’t find an applicant listing things like “grumpy in the mornings”, “get along poorly with others”, “hate to take call”, or “tend toward hysteria in critical situations”. For that matter, neither will you often come across good attitudes such as willingness to work hard, calm in crises, or able to unravel intricate problems. These are just not traits that people tend to volunteer. But you’ve got find them!

To do this you will first go back to the qualities you consider important – the values that you have identified. Then you need to consider situations where those values will be demonstrated. This will take some thought, because the circumstances will likely include clinical situations for clinical staff or doctors, business situations for office staff, and relationship situations for all. These will be worded into questions that require the applicant to give you actual examples from his or her past life of such a situation and how they acted in it. Care must be taken to keep the questions neutral so that the value you are looking for is not obvious -obviously! But the beauty of this approach is that the answer can’t be made up – an applicant has to give you a real situation. Of course, you have to be tough and wait for him to think of the past circumstance that will illustrate what you’ve asked for, and that’s not always easy. But if you are patient and give the time to remember, you will get honest answers that will help.

One very conscientious hospitalist who was a Rodeo! client took the questions developed based on her practice values, and used them to hire fourteen new physicians. Those physicians fit well enough that within 18 months she had the pre-eminent hospitalist practice in her city, garnering the confidence and referrals of over 50 regular practices serving three hospitals.

Does it work? You bet it does!

How You Hire Really Matters

Workforce Focus

By Tim Connor, Rodeo! Performance Group, Inc.

In the first article of this series: If You Could Hire the Right People, What Would It Mean to Your Practice?, we looked at the issues and benefits “right staff” mean to a practice. Here, we will examine the personality aspects that must be considered to allow you to dig back into an applicant’s history and find attitudes critical to your organization.

Setting The Stage

To set up a plan for effective hiring, it’s important to understand four basic facets of working humans, which we’ll look at in a moment. But it’s also necessary to examine some errors commonly made by modern companies when hiring new staff.

To do this, we’ll use the KASH square (below). In that square the K stands for Knowledge, the A for Attitudes, the S for Skills, and the H for Habits.

What Do Modern Practices Consider Important?

Think about your own hiring practices, as well as benefits you may provide for your current staff. Where is the money spent? 90% of the money businesses spend related to hiring or keeping staff today is spent on Knowledge and Skills – the K and the S in the KASH Square. That’s what has been touted as being most important, so the money goes to checking or improving learning, to certifications, to continuing education, or to academic degrees. With physicians, their skills learned in residency or fellowships are the focus, as are the procedural skills picked up in previous practice. These are concerns, and with good reason – they can’t be dispensed with.


BUT where do disciplinary and inter-personal problems occur? 90% of the problems requiring discipline or even firing within a practice occur with Attitudes and Habits – the A and the H in the KASH Square. That’s significant, isn’t it? Can you think of examples where you had issues with a staff member or a physician? How many of those issues were related to knowledge or skills? Few, if any – right? With relation to staff, the problems usually include tardiness, laziness, and just plain orneriness. With physicians, it tends toward lack of teamwork, lack of follow through, or even arrogance.

It’s obvious that considerably more attention should be paid to identifying these attitudes and habits in prospective physicians and staff, and that BEFORE we bring them on board.

If You Could Hire the Right People, What Would It Mean to Your Practice?

Workforce Focus

By Tim Connor, Rodeo! Performance Group, Inc.

Practice principals and practice managers frequently lament the fact that practice staff – or physician colleagues – just don’t fit in. Is there an answer, or is it just a situation everyone has to learn to live with?

What Difference Would It Make?

Instead of making this an article for your reading only, let’s build a worksheet you can DO something with. How about it?

Get some paper, a pen, and set aside the additional five minutes to jot yourself down some notes.

First of all, if you had the right people, what would go away?

There’s a good question. Consider this from the standpoints of frustration and complaints – both from customers and staff, what exactly would go away? How do you feel when you’re putting out “personality fires” – issues related to how people get along? Are your days longer because you find yourself dealing with complaints that really ought not to be there in the first place? Do you find yourself having to bolster morale because of ongoing frustrations among staff related to chronic issues in the practice?

Think about it from the standpoint of rework: things that have to be done over in your practice. What wouldn’t have to be done over so much? Things might include calls to get coverage when someone suddenly isn’t available. It might include billing issues, scheduling issues – both for patients and practice staff, or procedures that have to be redone because of errors. How about lost reports, charts, or data; do you ever find yourself having to redo or reschedule these?

Consider it from the standpoint of costs: are there things you’re paying for that you really shouldn’t have to pay for, but having the wrong staff make the expense necessary? Costs related to repeated exams or procedures effectively double the cost of that procedure – both in materials and staff time. Late billing in fact reduces cash flow, and in many instances means you won’t collect as much – or might not collect the money at all. What other costs can YOU think of?

And think about it from the standpoint of wasted time: what activities are you doing now that you would no longer have to do if the right people were in the positions? Much of this work is inextricably tied to the problems you’ve already listed above. Take a minute and quantify the amounts of time you are spending in each of those problems each week. Would you like to get it back?

Second: If you had the right people, what would you gain that you don’t have now?

In this section, begin with time. You looked at the amount of time lost in the preceding difficulties, what exactly would it mean to you if you had that time available, what would you do with it? Are there services your practice could do, but you haven’t had the time to plan for? Would you use your newly found time to increase the efficiency of the practice, or to develop a program that would improve your staff satisfaction, thereby cutting staff turnover? Maybe you would use it to go home earlier and help your spouse and kids remember what you really look like!

Gains to a practice actually begin, of course, with the time to do them. But let’s get a hard list of what some of those gains would be.

What about new services? Your practice, no matter what its type, has a large group of patients with common needs, what are they? Are there procedures you could add that would specifically address those needs? Would those procedures add to your revenue, and which of them could be added using your current staff, equipment, or space?

An Example of New Services

One OB/GYN practice Rodeo! worked with had a physician who, after many years in the field, noticed that there were nutritional issues common to most of his patients. He began to study those needs and, over the course of time, began recommending nutritional changes to his patients that resulted in significant improvements in their long term health. It finally occurred to him that he could use this approach in adding a new nutritional aspect to the practice, and he found that there were compounding pharmacies willing to underwrite part of the cost of doing so. The end result? A whole new practice service that not only improved the clinical health of his older patients, but added significantly to his practice revenue.

Third: If you had the right people, how would it affect your patient satisfaction?

This is almost a “Duh!”, but consider for a moment the benefits that accompany a smoothly running practice with the right people working it. Satisfied patients mean a large reduction in the number of complaints coming in. Is that a situation you would like to have? What would that mean to you in terms of mental stress? In terms of recovered time?

Satisfied patients also mean a reduction in liability, a very real concern in today’s litigious society. The hard fact is that when people are happy with the care they are getting AND the way they are being treated, they are much less likely to sue. One study found that 70% of patients sue because they were unhappy with some non-clinical aspect of their practice experience. Would you like to reduce your practice exposure by that amount?

Pulling It All Together

So, it’s obvious that having the right people in a practice has enormous benefits, related to redeemed time, reduced aggravation, increased revenue, reduced cost, and reduced liability. But how to go about getting the right people in the first place, and how to keep them when you have them? Those are the critical questions, and they will be answered in the second part of this series: How You Hire Really Matters – Part 2 in Hiring the Right Staff.

Curbside Consult: Hiring a New Physician

Workforce Focus

By Tim Connor, Rodeo! Performance Group, Inc.

Medical practices in Florida normally have more patients than they know what to do with, and many could expand capacity if they had the colleagues to help. But what about hiring the right person…should you hire the first physician who sends you a resume? Many practice principals focus on the pressing need they have for relief, and ignore the side effects that can arise from a poor choice in a new colleague. Hire in Haste – Repent in Leisure!

Your Values – How Important Are They to Your Practice?

Before you even begin the search and hiring processes, you really ought to think through, and write out, the values and principles that are important to you in running a practice. Why is this important? When you started your practice you had specific dreams in mind. They probably included a good income, bringing real caring to a community, reasonable time for your family, maybe even pioneering some new clinical approaches. Those desired outcomes drive the values you’ve considered important in the operation of your organization. Staff know what they are; answering the phone, friendliness in treating patients, all kinds of things. But you also live those values out: how you handle call, emergencies, and different levels of visits. It might take you an hour or two to sit down and write out those values, but the payoff in clear expectations for a new colleague is huge, not just in terms of money, but in reduced conflict and better cooperation. Ever consider how much of your time might be tied up dealing with a new partner who didn’t understand – or agree with – your principles in taking call or providing friendly service?

Credentials vs. Habits: Digging For the Answers

Nowadays are credentials are what people look for in a new hire. That translates into what knowledge and what clinical skills the applicant has. In fact, 95% of the money spent by businesses both in hiring and developing staff is in these two areas. Sound like it makes sense, doesn’t it? But consider for a moment: when a problem arises, is it in the areas of knowledge or skill? It’s not! By far, the biggest source of problems and conflict come from attitudes and habits a colleague has. And you sure don’t want to wait until that person’s on board to find a ticking time bomb. So you have to take the time in the interview process to ferret out habits and attitudes in the applicant’s work make up.

Sorting for Results – The Key Is to be Consistent!

A little time at the front end to save lots of time over the years! Write out the questions you will ask each of the applicants, make copies, and use the same questions on each applicant. What’s the benefit? It lets you do realistic comparisons. That’s important because you always have first impressions of applicants, either good or bad. Those impressions can color the questions you ask, sending you off in all sorts of directions if you don’t have planned questions ready. And those “rabbit trails” of discussion are very difficult to sort through – and compare – when it comes time to make the decision.

Don’t Assume Anything! Write Out Your Agreements

Doctors are intelligent, relational people, and there is always optimism at the beginning of a new partnership. But it’s just common sense to write out the expectations each of you have at the beginning of a practice relationship, because sure as shooting you’re not going to remember them two years down the road! In a worst case, there will be serious disagreements about what was said, and differences based on memory are VERY likely, even between friends.

So take the time to plan before you hire. You might lose a day or two, but remember, you’re hoping to spend years with this new colleague – make them happy and productive years.

Eliminate Teamwork and You Eliminate Quality

Workforce Focus

By Tim Connor, Rodeo! Performance Group, Inc.

Teams seem to move in and out of vogue, but the simple fact is that 99% of business is performed in concert with other people in the organization. If that concert is well orchestrated, the outcome is beautiful and valuable; if it’s NOT, the effect is the same as fingernails running down a blackboard. Teamwork is the breath of business life.

Start with Your Business’s Framework

As the framework of a building defines its final shape, so it also defines its final product quality. Unfortunately in today’s businesses, a commonly used framework has had an unintended but disastrous effect on business quality: that framework is the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. These accounting principles – GAAP for short – are very well organized and commonly used. The problem they cause arises from their assumption that controlling costs in the functions of the business, (functions such as accounting, production, sales, etc.) will automatically control costs across the whole organization. That doesn’t work.

How Is Your Product Produced?

A business’s product, whether it’s held in the hand orma service that’s experienced, is produced, sold, and serviced by a people from across the company. It has to be designed or planned first, then assembled or organized. Someone needs to contact the customer and point out its benefits, and someone else makes sure it’s shipped. Follow up is provided after the sale, and if a problem occurs someone has to be sure it’s corrected promptly and well. Do you see the movement in this large process? It’s horizontal. But GAAP organizes a company functionally, or in a vertical direction. The result is that authority, departmental flow, and budgeting move up and down, and really have nothing to do with the horizontal flow needs of the company’s core process at all. There’s a name for this, by the way, it’s called “silos”; and it’s common in U.S. companies.


What’s the result? Department policies and procedures interfere with the flow of the production process. Productivity drops, costs go up instead of being contained, and conflict erupts throughout the organization. That’s not even mentioning the drop in quality which is obvious to external customers. Dr. Edwards Deming estimated that up to 90% of business processes are waste, most due to poor organization of the process itself.

Can Anything Be Done about It?

One of the easiest solutions is to stand back and look at that horizontal process from a team perspective. What does that mean? It means starting at the end: What does the customer want?, and then backing through the process toward the beginning, asking along the way: What has to be done to make this work? This sounds easy, but it gets harder as the size of the organization increases. The bigger the company, the more territorial departments tend to be, and the more demanding the budgeting process imposed by GAAP.

An Example of a Team Approach

In one organization, a large hospital, the issue came down to the flow of inpatients through the institution. Since payment was on a fixed basis (a set payment for treatment of a specific medical problem), it was prudent to make the patients as well as possible and discharge them in a timely manner. Doing this allowed beds to open up for other patients to be treated. The executive staff knew that getting each patient treated in an optimum time – not too short, not too long, just enough to get better –allowed the hospital to treat more patients, and kept finances on a more even keel.

Since many department-based teams had tried and failed to make lasting improvement in the lengthy stays, a team was chartered to approach the analyze the way the process really flowed – across department lines. Team members were pulled from all the involved departments, and charged to find out if length of stay could be shortened by removing waste and rework from the flow. The team learned that the average revenue generated per patient day (one patient in one bed for one day) was about $3000. Their goal, then, became the removal of process waste, shortening the overall length of stay and opening up beds to generate revenue.

One of the first things the team found was that departments were being penalized for working to shorten length of stay! Now, don’t get the wrong idea, this wasn’t done intentionally. But GAAP dictated that the way to keep costs down overall was to keep costs down in the various departments. Each department head therefore lowered those costs in the best way possible, which usually meant limiting staff. But the limited staff meant that the overall process was hurt by late test results, missing reports, or slow support response. When the team members discovered this, the team was able to show the execs that by optimizing staff levels (putting the right number of people on instead of keeping staff artificially low) the extra staff costs would be offset by the new revenue.

An $12 Million Dollar Benefit

There was some trepidation among team members in making their recommendations, because the cost of increasing staff was calculated to come to about $200,000. But the team’s plan was implemented, and length of stay dropped drastically within 3 months. In fact, the saved time and newly opened beds allowed enough new admissions that the hospital projected new revenues of $12 million, offsetting the $200,000 expenditure by a significant amount(!).

But there was another benefit to this as well. Because improvements actually followed the flow of the service delivery process (inpatient care), hospital staff from across the departments could see that progress was really being made. Patients were seen faster and actually got better faster. Physicians were happier because they were able to get information quickly and do a better job with their patients. And best of all, staff felt they had enough people to do the job right, and could see the benefits they were providing. Morale shot up across the organization.

How Can This Help You?

So employing teams is really systematically using the people you have to carefully plan and deliver your processes. Organizing your business to do this can add considerably to your bottom line, and take morale to new heights. What would it be worth to your business?

Staff Conflict 101: Turning Disunity Into Alliance

Workforce Focus

By Tim Connor, Rodeo! Performance Group, Inc.

There are weird notions around today about conflict and its causes. Most people think that it’s avoidable – it’s not. Many people even have conflict with themselves! The real issue with conflict is that leaders don’t use methods to minimize it, and don’t channel its beneficial attributes into effective activity. The same elements that produce conflict are the basis for high performance teamwork. Don’t believe it? Read on.

“If he’s going to keep acting like that, I’m not going to have anything more to do with him.”
“Those two are constantly picking at each other. They’re bringing the morale of the whole department down.”
“That division is always at odds with everyone else; they’ve never been team players.”

Sound familiar? Is conflict like this a daily occurrence with your organization? Let’s look at three major causes of conflict, and how you can channel that divisive energy into effective teamwork.

Cause #1: Lack of Direction or Purpose

This is very common in American business, whether it’s found at the top of the organization as a lack of corporate direction, or at a department level as staff not knowing how their team fits in. It results in apathy and active misdirection, both symptomatic of the root issue.

Apathy. Let’s face it, when staff don’t know where they’re going, or how what they do fits in with organizational direction, it becomes pointless to work hard. After all, the essence of “drive” implies a direction, so don’t expect employee energy if a destination isn’t clear. So that relates to stated direction.

But, it’s important to understand the more insidious problem of failing to clarify a group’s role in helping the organization move toward a given target. This issue is most common in larger organizations, but can be found in smaller ones when the leadership gets out of touch. The conflict produced here isn’t overt, but it’s constant nature lowers morale into the pits.

Active Misdirection. There are always staff who are pushed to get things done, and if the direction isn’t there, they WILL find something to complete whether it’s compatible with other departments or not. This is especially troublesome in those types of organizations with specialized departments, such as hospitals. When a department’s function requires people with specialized training, it’s very easy for that group to become shortsighted and see their own work as an end in itself. Add leaders who don’t work to make the department’s part of the bigger picture clear, and you’ve got real trouble. The conflict arises in dealing with other departments, who see the unit’s ingrown focus as a lack of teamwork and selfishness.

What Can You Do? A good leader must first work to understand the organization’s direction. If you’re not in executive management, that may require tactful discussion with executives to get clear on what the direction really is. But you need to be clear on it. Once that’s accomplished, block out an hour to work through your group’s part in moving the company toward its goal. It’s always a good idea for you to be clear on this before you get with the team to discuss it. They will have questions, procedural issues, and plain old-fashioned grumps like “How are we supposed to do THAT…?”, and you will be better prepared to answer them if your own mind is lucid. Finally, find relevant measures to report on performance, both to your own boss and to the staff in your department. This is a critical part often overlooked, but it serves to demonstrate to the working staff that they are accomplishing something worthwhile.

Cause #2: Lack of Organization

Disorganization is frequently viewed as just a fact of life, but its effect on inter-personal conflict (as well as on perform-ance) is devastating. Look at some of the commonly heard comments within a disorganized department…

  • Where’s that part? I need it to finish…
  • Why is this information always missing?
  • The chart is gone AGAIN!
  • I did that whole project, and now you don’t NEED IT?!

Are those comments indicative of conflict? The most common outcome of lack of organization is frustration, and the anger that stems from that frustration. Lazy staff will just go along with it as inevitable, and grump about it around the water cooler. Conscientious employees will worry and fret over the extra work they have to do to “get it right”. And they will work to get it right – up until the time they quit. You will find turnover heavily affected by disorganization in a unit. Whatever the habits of your workers, you will find that confusion within a department will produce sullenness, gossip, and low morale.


What Can You Do? Time spent analyzing the department processes and needs, and then developing a plan to correct issues, will pay off large dividends here. If you don’t believe that, look at the “new ideas” that are a part of Lean: The Five S’s. They are nothing more than old fashioned organization of the workspace to be productive. Once a work area is organized, and steps are taken to smooth the flow of work through the process, you’ve provided a means to have people take pride in their work. People who take pride have high morale, and people with high morale have fewer complaints and are much easier to manage.

Cause #3: Lack of Accountability

Welcome to the 21st Century, where accountability is considered out of date and even intolerant! Because that thinking is now common in our society, you will – as a leader – have to creatively demonstrate its importance. Perhaps the first thing necessary is for you to be convinced of its value yourself.

What Is Accountability? A good question to start with, but the meaning is “to hold responsible or answerable for actions”. It’s based on the principle of responsibility, and in mature people it begins with a willingness to take personal responsibility for one’s actions. When applied to a department or work unit, it means that the whole group is held accountable for its actions or outcomes. Now that accountability usually takes the form of financial indicators because they’re easy to measure. But the lack of account-ability in other areas is the starting point for conflict among staff. The conflict can take many forms: anger at other staff for not pulling their share of the load, dissatisfaction with leadership for playing favorites, or resentment when unrealistic expectations are foisted upon work groups (yes, leadership has to be accountable for its own actions!).

What Can You Do? To be effective in reducing conflict arising from lack of account-ability, leaders have to first understand that dialogue with the working staff is necessary. Why? Because developing agreement on what rules will be followed will generate self-policing among staff, and result in much less work for the manager or leader. Sure, you will still have to have requirements placed on the group by business imperatives, but that staff agreement on accountability will make a big difference. Once you’ve done that, you have one more job: enforce those rules fairly and every single time it’s necessary. You will find that conflict will diminish and morale will immediately go up.

In Summary

Conflict within a group – or even between two people – is inevitable. But understanding its causes and working to reduce those sources is the job of a leader, and one that will make his or her work life much more enjoyable.

The Devastations of Staff Turnover

Workforce Focus

By Tim Connor, Rodeo! Performance Group, Inc.

Staff turnover can kill a business. Not only does it negatively affect morale among remaining staff, but it sabotages customer satisfaction, productivity, revenue, and the business’s ability to grow.

Finding the right staff is critical, as we discussed in the article Finding Staff to Complement Your Business. But what about keeping good staff? Is it important? Is it worth the effort to keep the right folks on the job? Let’s look at the four areas that staff turnover affects – in a business of any type. Those areas are: Productivity, Revenue, Long Term Viability, and Satisfaction to the Customer.

Effects on Productivity

Increasing work for the remaining staff. This is rather obvious, but think about the work that’s being left undone. If a staff member has to cover the phones because the receptionist has quit, she is going to omit work somewhere. In the choice between her regular work or answering the phone she’ll do the one she feels is more important. But in her consideration she has to think of the effect of unfinished work on other folks in the business, and she will likely make her choice based on the amount of flak she thinks she’ll get from others. If she’s conscientious, her sense of duty will play into it; but one of those jobs will not be done well, and staff and customers know it’s not being done well.

Lower morale for ‘good’ staff. Staff who work hard – those with a sense of duty and industry, tend to be much more negatively affected by the increased work generated by high staff turnover. These staff like to get things done completely and well, and that’s almost impossible when a vacant position’s work also has to be covered. Consequently, and this is a killer, it’s the best staff who tend to be most depressed or angry about vacancies, and are more likely to walk if the situation remains unresolved.

Effects on Revenue

Whether it’s because they’re physically missing or that they can’t do as much when they’re filling in for others, missing staff mean you’re just not going to get the same sales volume. With staff vacancies, neither remaining staff nor the boss can work as fast. Vacancies result in technical work being delayed, information not being collected, customer calls being delayed or missed altogether, and sales not being supported. All of these will result lower revenues now, and probably in the future.


Effects on Customer Satisfaction

Modern customers are extremely aware of service and product quality. As the new millennium unfolds, offshore competition has made many of its inroads through higher quality products and better services to support them. Because of this, most American companies have had to increase service levels far beyond what they were 60 years ago. While that’s not a bad thing, it means that you’d better be keeping up with customer expectations.

Guess what? That’s difficult to do when you are turning staff over. Besides the negative effect on remaining staff, there are the challenges that new staff bring to the business. They have to be trained, and the learning curve to get them up to speed takes time – there’s no way around it. During the training period mistakes will be made, and many of them will involve customers. Customer problems have to be resolved, and THAT takes time, and a good knowledge of the business, which often means that older staff have to be involved, adding to their discouragement and lowering morale.

The result: high staff turnover is going to guarantee lower customer satisfaction for your organization.

Hiring Staff to Complement Your Business

Workforce Focus

By Tim Connor, Rodeo! Performance Group, Inc.

Businesses today are facing significant challenges and shortages of qualified staff. Finding and keeping good staff is critical.

How important are staff to your business? That’s sort of a basic question, because everyone knows that without staff you can’t do your own job. But really, how important do we consider our staff? After all, they haven’t been to school as long as we have, they don’t know as much, they don’t make the money we do. Shouldn’t it be easy to replace them when we need to?

It’s easy to fall into the trap of under-rating the importance of staff to a business; but it’s at least as bad to have the wrong staff in your organization. Who are the ‘wrong’ staff? Most of us would say those who don’t work hard, or take too many breaks, or don’t know what they’re doing, or who don’t take initiative. Now, these are serious defects, but the problem goes deeper – are we seeking staff who really complement the business?

When you opened your business you had an ideal in mind. Most likely it included finding and pleasing customers, providing a high quality product, delivering top-notch service to support your product, and getting customers excited enough to tell others about you. Business owners have values they bring to their business. The problem is, most don’t take the time at the front end to formalize those values, and they almost never seek to hire staff who share those same values.

So what happens? The staff who are hired don’t match the ideal the owner had in mind. They might be too brusque, or even unfriendly with customers. They might not get along with other staff, and become a constant source of irritation. They might get flustered when the business gets busy, frustrating both customers and other staff. Maybe they just don’t have the drive that you were wanting in your staff.

But really, can you do anything about that? Sure you can; and the answer comes in two parts:

First, taking the time to identify and formalize your own values, and then build them into the business. What attitudes do you really want in your business? Do you want customers to feel fussed over, or are you happier with more of a formal professionalism? Do you want staff who take initiative, or would you rather have people who check in before making major decisions? Are you concerned with neatness and order, or do you like an atmosphere that’s more laid back and friendly? When choosing any of these approaches, you will need to plan your office structures so the attitude can happen. Failure to plan such a structure may make it difficult – or impossible – for your staff to act the way you want.

Second: For hiring people, translating those values into behavioral interviews is key. If you want certain attitudes and behaviors, you have to build an interview that goes beyond the resume and surfaces underlying conduct. People, especially those who can’t hold jobs for long, can be very good at ‘saying the right thing’ – even when they don’t usually act that way. Part of your challenge is developing questions that will dig out those past behaviors. The questions might be aimed at finding out the prospect’s reaction to a busy environment, or how they usually handle a customer. Questions can be worded to surface bad attitudes under stress, or a prospective employees work ethic.

Believe it or not, the bulk of a business owner’s time and money are spent hiring people with the right knowledge and skills – but the majority of problems and firings are based on attitudes and behaviors.


In summary, if you want your business to move closer to your mind’s ideal, you have to take time to identify and formalize your values, building them into the structure of your business – how it is run. THEN you have to develop an interview process that surfaces a prospective employee’s behaviors, and checks them against the attitudes you are seeking in the day-to-day operation of the business.

Building Staff into a Team

Workforce Focus

By Tim Connor, Rodeo! Performance Group, Inc.

Hiring the right people and reducing turnover, two important steps. But building staff into a team is the challenge that will set your business above your competition.

Suppose you’ve made the effort to decide what kind of people you’re seeking for your business, and you’ve even gone to the trouble of making sure you hire staff who match those criteria. Is that enough? No it’s not. As the business leader, your last critical activity is to build staff into a team, and there are four areas you should address to accomplish this.

Tell ‘Em What’s Going On

Whether a business is large or small, communication is always at the top of staff complaints. Most bosses assume this means they should talk more, but that’s only a small percentage of it. When you hire good people, one of the characteristics that makes them “good” is that they want to know they’re making a difference. How will they know they are doing that? They’ll know it when you build a system to keep them abreast of how the business is doing. Now, you don’t have to tell them everything, but you should keep them informed of the important stuff. “Like what?” you ask? Well, how about the challenges the business is facing, new procedures you’re considering, or new twists the market is taking. You might let them know when you or other leaders are going to take time off, and even give them a little report when you get back. Tell them honestly how their work is affecting the success of the business; people want to know when they’re doing things right. By the way, if there are bad things going on, focus on the effect of those bad things (gossip, customer service issues, incomplete work) rather than pointing out individuals and ‘hanging it on them’. There IS a time to do such a thing, but it’s when you’re meeting one-on-one with the person involved, don’t point out individual problems in general meetings with other staff.


Listen To What They’re Telling You

This is the second critical piece of good communication. Most business leaders are challenged for time, so planning for listening is important. Set up a bi-weekly or a monthly meeting for listening. You want to avoid a gripe session, so – especially at the beginning – carefully script it and stick to the script. It’s wise to take notes, and then to take action where action is called for. By the way, there’s nothing wrong with deciding that you are NOT going to do everything that staff would like, but it IS important to respect them enough to tell them face to face that you’ve decided not to, and why. Regular feedback is ESSENTIAL. In a small office, giving feedback about action taken on the past month’s concerns is enough. In a larger organization, you may want to post a bulletin board listing concerns and the action that followed them. One owner set up an actual team whose job was to follow up on staff concerns and see that action was carried through. Done in cooperation with the management, this is a very good idea. It’s important, though, that this type of team and leadership communicate regularly to avoid misunderstandings.

Involve the Staff In Making the Business Work

Everybody wants to be part of a winning team, good staff especially so. Once you’ve laid out the challenges that the business is facing in your “listening meetings”, find ways to get the staff involved in helping to meet those challenges. The same business that formed the team for dealing with staff concerns also had staff teams for other major areas, such as the physical plant and internal processes. Not surprisingly, their process team was able to make several changes in scheduling procedures that significantly improved flow through the business, raising customer satisfaction and also building employee morale. You might be pleasantly surprised at what staff can do, but again, it takes planning to make it work. Don’t just form a team and hope for the best.

Reward Staff For Making the Business Successful

Finally, a reward system for making the business successful is an investment, not a cost, if it’s done right. To do it right the rewards have to be tied to important values and key results in the business, and not just to monetary gains. Do you want customers to be delighted with your service delivery? Find a way to reward for that. Are you concerned with a smooth flow of customers and information through the business? Look for the data that will allow you to monitor the flow. Monetary rewards are the most common, but they should be tied to actual performance so that they are only paid when the business is performing to known goals. Rewards can also be in the form of awards, pins, dinners, etc., but should always be tied to actions or results that make the organization more effective.

Leadership Development Consulting | Ocala, FL

A national company based in Ocala, Florida.