The secret to effective management is that there is no secret. No matter how many airport-bought paperbacks written by ‘business gurus’ tell you there is. There’s no one great key to unlocking how to become an excellent manager and inspire those that work under you. But staff motivation in general practice is a great place to start.
It doesn’t matter how large or busy your GP practice you manage is, or how many staff you look after, one of your primary responsibilities as a practice manager is to motivate the people that make the practice a success every day. It’s such a huge part of your job and with good reason - today’s GP practice is a demanding work environment with pressures coming from all corners -summed up well by Dr Nigel Watson in his whitepaper about the future of General Practice.
“The most significant problems that general practices face are workload and moral…...if urgent action is not taken general practice will not be able to deliver a safe service.”
As a practice manager, you have the tricky job of managing not only administration teams, but also nurses and GPs. It’s no mean feat keeping them all happy and productive. So how do you go about it? Well, we’ve come up with five of our favourite ways to engage and motivate staff at your practice.
1. Say ‘thanks!’ more often
We’ll start things off with the most painfully obvious suggestion. So straightforward that it may seem strange even pointing out. Thanking your employees for their hard work or a job well done is motivating. Yet it’s often overlooked by so many managers.
A recent UK survey on employee engagement cited that a massive 48% of people feel more valued in their workplace when something as simple as verbal appreciation is shown to them by their employers. Merely remembering to say ‘thank you’ should increase engagement and motivation in half your workforce. So simple, so effective.
2. Be honest and brave
This tip may sound like the kind of advice you might expect to hear a sword-wielding king on horseback yell to his battalion of men in an old movie - but it applies to good management too. If you approach every interaction with your staff with the utmost honesty and sincerity and are unafraid to broach and engage in difficult conversations, they’ll respect you.
If you’re always genuine and professional, you’ll be a role model or at least a valued and admired manager. And that’s not to be underestimated. The better the boss, the better the staff. It’s important to set a good example and promote an environment of openness, positivity and integrity. Doing so will motivate your workforce and make them want to work for you.
3. Tailor your management style to individuals
As much as it’s possible to generalise and see an uplift in overall staff motivation, to really be able to see a notable difference across the board, it’s not wise to think too broadly. To truly motivate your team, you have to stop seeing them as just a team. They’re a group, certainly. But a group of individuals. So treat them as such.
Everyone is unique and each person you’re responsible for - your new nurse, your part-time receptionist or your most experienced GP - has different needs, wants and drives. What works to reward and motivate one may not work with another. In fact, it’s pretty unlikely that one size will fit all.
So drill down. Find out your team’s individual motivators. You can do this in a team setting or during one-to-one meetings. Ask what they want from their job and what you can do to make them feel rewarded. Then seek clarity, prioritise that list and start applying it.
4. Celebrate your team’s success stories
Whether it be the reaching of personal goals and milestones or the receipt of some positive patient feedback, it’s a great idea to share and celebrate when things go well. It’s vital you recognise each individual’s achievements personally, but it can also be productive to share and salute high performance and goal reaching in a team environment.
Sharing positive patient feedback with the wider team should cement a feeling of pride in that person and set the bar. However, as we just mentioned, take each case on its merit. If the team member is shy, perhaps lower key and less public recognition is the way forward. Always use your knowledge of your staff and adapt your approach accordingly.
It’s the flexibility and tailoring of styles and behaviour that’s central to being able to engage and motivate your practice staff.
5. Empower staff with knowledge
Many people respond well to being afforded training opportunities, offering the ability to learn and better themselves. So wherever possible, make resources and courses available to staff. It gives them the chance to further their career and should also make them more productive and effective team members. As well as being much more motivated.
This isn’t a box-ticking exercise, though. It’s vital that you give people the time and space to learn. It’s no good just sending around details for an online course and then not allowing your employees to set aside time to research, revise and complete the program.
Motivating staff isn’t a one-step process. There are many different approaches and ways to tackle it. Find the ones that work for you and your team, and you’ll be well on your way to establishing a happy and engaged workforce at your practice. Just remember - it’s an ongoing process, you need to continually work on staff motivation to keep your people switched on.