Tips for Boosting Staff Morale During COVID-19
This blog about boosting staff morale was written by Brian Gallagher, PT, from MEG Business Solutions
There have been numerous setbacks and challenges plaguing everyone over the course of the past six months. Through it all, your staff has been there navigating the landscape of virtual care and constantly evolving to changes from the local health department. Your employees also use creativity and the available tools to continue caring for their patients and keep clinics up and running.
For those reasons, this is a perfect time to give some support and appreciation back to your staff. It is crucial now that you complete (at the very least) three basic actions:
- Check-in with them.
- Get their thoughts and feelings on the many changes you’ve experienced.
- Listen to their thoughts, ideas, and needs.
In addition to workplace change and stress, your staff may also face challenges at home. These range from economic stress to childcare solutions – and many more. It’s more important than ever to prioritize your staff’s morale and the culture within the clinic. Though impossible to eliminate all forms of stress, decreasing it when possible is necessary.
So how do you do this?
It all starts with leadership.
Your ability to be there for your people when they need you most is the hallmark of great leadership.
PT Practice Owner Responsibilities
As the PT practice owner, it’s easy to forget that while you might be guiding it, you aren’t the only one on the ship.
Your practice is virtually nothing without the existence and support of your crew. In this case, that’s your team of employees.
The truth is that to be successful, your practice has to be staffed with an overall good – and happy – group of people. Remember – happiness isn’t simply someone enjoying the work they do.
Given the number of challenges facing your staff this year, it’s important to acknowledge and prioritize their needs. While it may not be feasible to solve all of their concerns, there are ways you can boost morale, support your staff, and make them feel successful within the work environment
Leadership requires putting the right people in the appropriate areas of your business based on their skillset and expertise.
Boosting Staff Morale By Hiring the Best People for Your Practice
The first concept a good practice owner needs to realize is that it isn’t about you – one single individual. It’s about what you’re capable of doing with others. That’s the whole theme, the real secret ingredient. Your definition of success (whatever that may be) hinges upon your ability to work well with others.
If you’re going to motivate your team, you’ve got to start with a team. And the first step is to select the right players.
The most powerful tip is to learn how to accurately and appropriately hire the staff that you need.
Focus on establishing a system that enables you to bring people on board who are aligned with your vision.
The Five Phase Hiring Process, developed over a decade ago, allows an owner to systematically evaluate each candidate in a thorough manner. If you have this system in place, you can more clearly identify who you want on your team.
You can’t change a person’s core thoughts and beliefs. However, you can help someone develop their manual therapy skills. It is possible to make someone a better therapist through enhanced training, apprenticeship, mentorship, and other learning opportunities.
Curating your team with individuals who adopt your vision and philosophy makes all the difference in the long term. Now, more than ever it’s important to make your staff feel successful and appreciated.
Effective leaders create and maintain a positive workplace culture. They do so by focusing on motivation, support, and team success.
Boosting Staff Morale with a Positive Workplace Culture
The happiness and success of your team hinges upon a healthy, positive workplace culture. Good management culture is necessary for a successful physical therapy practice. It does more than boost staff morale. This culture allows each employee – from the front desk coordinator to the tech, from the PTA to the PT – to say, “I really love my job.” Now, they won’t say this every night when they go home because there are tough days.
But this statement needs to be true more often than not. Positive management culture isn’t even always about the job itself. It also depends on the people you surround yourself – and fill your clinic – with.
Positive management culture relies on leaders to take an interest in their team. Start with the basics:
- Take a personal interest in each member of your team.
- Establish shared goals for your team.
- Give your staff opportunities to grow and learn professionally.
- Listen to feedback from your staff and accommodate their needs when possible.
Manage by performance, yes. But do it with passion, concern, and care.
Work environments and the ways you deliver care likely changed as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. That doesn’t mean the core aspects of the clinic culture are compromised. Continue to find ways that encourage your staff to go home and say, “I love my job.”
Maintaining Morale During the Pandemic
In spite of COVID-19, many practice owners aren’t going to adjust their yearly targets for 2020. Those are the 2020 targets.
You must strive to “out-create” COVID-19. When you do, you can pat yourself on the back and say, “Oh look at what happened here. There was a terrible global pandemic, and we persevered. We not only survived, but we thrived!”
This sounds odd against the seriousness of the situation, but your staff morale is just as important as your overall goals. Burnout is a real possibility, especially right now. Don’t let this happen to your staff.
Here are the things you should prioritize for the well-being of your staff:
- Career Opportunities and Advancement
Learn more about each of these aspects of boosting staff morale below. While each is unique, the truth is that one depends on the other.
The success of your team hinges on accountability for the entire team.
If each team member successfully does their job in the patient’s care, the whole group will feel the win. There are no individual stars. If each staff member works to achieve greatness for the group every day, the morale of the entire group will be positively boosted.
A unified message – and operational cohesion – ensure that all employees are on the same page. This translates to less confusion for patients and less stress for employees.
For example, the front desk coordinator’s job should not just be to cover the front desk and answer the phones. Their main responsibility is to ensure that all patients arrive on time as scheduled throughout the duration of their care. They have a shared responsibility along with the therapist to hold patients to their plans of care. This combined effort ultimately results in improved patient results and higher patient satisfaction. This, in turn, contributes to high staff morale because each member of the team is validated for their part in helping others.
This is an integral part of the team and a crucial function of the entire operation. Without this subsystem working smoothly and properly, the clinic simply cannot provide the level of care promised to the community.
Every team member should be held accountable, including leaders. Many owners don’t fully appreciate that their staff is always watching. It’s important to hold yourself just as accountable as the rest of your team.
The responsibility of making these expectations clear, understood and accepted falls to the owner. This is accomplished through proper on-boarding and continued training.
Keep your staff engaged with opportunities for career advancement and additional training.
In a world where so many things are changing, be sure your staff understands you still support them. This includes their personal and career goals. Help your staff feel successful by giving them meaningful tasks during downtime.
Encourage your staff by taking “downtime” and turning it into projects that your PTs or PTAs have always wanted to do. Give them the opportunity to learn and grow. By investing time and energy into your team, they will pay it back to the clinic.
You can get the whole team involved by creating new programs. For example, reach out to physicians and create an opportunity for PTs to take on a doctor liaison role. Take advantage of telehealth to have PTs involved in patient’s follow-up visits. Get creative and have fun. Many people are unhappy at work due to repetition – switch things up!
Not sure where to start? Ask your team what they want! Ultimately, they want to feel valued and provide the best possible care to their patients. They will put the time in given the opportunity, but if they can choose where their “extra” focus is, then engagement increases.
As you ask your staff to be flexible and creative, accommodating the challenges of the pandemic, remember your staff may need flexibility from you as well.
Your team worked hard to adjust to all of the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Those challenges happened both at work and at home. Be sensitive to the needs of your staff members and offer them flexibility. For many, continuing to work throughout the pandemic (though necessary) is stressful. You may be the owner, but you also need to take a step back and look at your employees as people, not just assets.
Many school districts are adopting remote or hybrid learning models as the fall semesters begin. Childcare facilities have smaller class sizes. Your team members may need more flexible working hours to accommodate their childcare needs. If your clinic is utilizing telehealth, this is a great opportunity to allow PTs to work remotely for their telehealth appointments, maybe a day or two a week as schedules allow. Be willing to adjust your schedule as your PTs learn theirs.
But this shouldn’t apply only to those employees with children. Implementing opportunities to work from home on a rotating schedule for all of your employees helps, too. Employees with children likely need a more “structured” opportunity to do this. However, if you have many employees without the need for childcare or supervision, work with them to create a fair schedule.
Give back to your team by being flexible during this time.
Consider the idea of doing for others.
Serve others whenever possible. This means giving to others and finding ways to help them whenever you can – starting with your employees. By serving others and assisting them with their goals, you improve yourself, too. This applies to patients and staff alike.
Give praise where it is due and encourage people to take pride in their accomplishments.
If your staff feels as though they can (and should) talk about their achievements and the success of themselves and their colleagues, the work environment changes for the better. This is what you want, and it’s what incorporating all of these ideas is meant to achieve.
Your true worth to others is how much you give in value versus what you seek in return.
Always give more in value whenever possible.
No matter what the case may be, doing for others is the cornerstone of physical therapy. This concept is essential to keeping your staff happy and motivated. Everyone loves a success story and encouraging people to speak and think about their story helps. It may be your practice, but your practice is only successful when it is run efficiently by a dedicated staff.
A Happier Team Starts With the Right Management Culture
Invest time and money in your team. Remember the most important aspect of boosting staff morale during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond:
Who you are is more important than what you accomplish.
Always keep that in mind. Again, who you are is far more important than what you accomplish. When you meet people, they’ll often tell you what they have, what they’ve done, what they own, and where they’ve been.
Don’t let that impress you.
Instead, surround yourself with people who see the world as you do. Aim to apply the above into your hiring and onboarding process and your management style. Continue to work toward boosting staff morale every day. This is especially important during these challenging times, but it doesn’t mean that these strategies end when the COVID-19 pandemic is under control.
Building a great physical therapy practice takes time and effort. Remember, surrounding yourself with people that care just as much as you do helps tremendously.
So does keeping them happy to come to work each day.
Your physical therapy practice is very important to you – and it should be. Want to grow your business, attract new patients, and expand your share of reach across the internet? Consider joining the BetterPT network of clinics. When you join BetterPT’s network, your clinic is added to the BetterPT clinic location tool. This provides the opportunity for patients to find and request appointments near their homes or workplaces. These appointments are available in-clinic or virtually via the BetterTelehealth platform.
Ultimately, your goal is to provide high-quality care to your patients, but in order to do that, you need to keep your staff happy. Boosting staff morale isn’t always easy, but if you follow the above tips and listen to those around you, it’s possible.
Brian Gallagher is the president and owner of MEG Business Management and has more than 27 years of rehabilitation experience and nearly 20 years in business. Brian’s focus is on helping others. His specialty areas include physical therapy practice management, executive coaching, and restructuring practices to encourage efficient operation. On top of this, Brian also has extensive speaking experience with regard to marketing and public relations. Brian’s practice was named Practice of the Year in 2011 and was featured on the cover of Advance Magazine.