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Gain 'intense loyalty' from access employees
Always acknowledge good work
If a registrar makes a mistake that results in a needless claims denial, and the following day notices an error that prevents a denial, which is more likely to get your attention? "We often forget to thank people for good work, but we are very quick to criticize them when something goes wrong," says Michael S. Friedberg, FACHE, CHAM, associate vice president of patient access services at Apollo Health Street in Bloomfield, NJ, and author of "Staff competency in patient access."
"It is very important to acknowledge an employee when they do a good job," he underscores.
If you do this consistently, according to Friedberg, "some of what you get in return is an intense loyalty. And that is a really valuable asset to have."
Friedberg says that this kind of loyalty "is absolutely a retention tool. We've all experienced a vice president of revenue cycle going to a new place and bringing all their people in."
You'll get some amount of respect just from your title, says Friedberg, but "to really be a respected boss, you have to earn respect from the members of your team. Loyalty is a two-way street, and it has to be in both directions."
The main motivator for patient access staff is not money, Friedberg says, but recognition. "Throwing money at a problem, increasing salaries will work, but it is a short-term solution," he says. "In health care, in particular, money is very hard to come by, especially these days. You have to figure out ways to motivate your people without giving them more money."
Friedberg says he is hearing from his colleagues around the country that there is reduced turnover in patient access due to the economy. He recommends "getting out in front of that. Make sure that you recognize talented employees. Give them opportunities for growth." Here are Friedberg's suggestions to make employees feel valued at work:
Identify individuals with potential.
"It's always been important to me to identify and recognize people who may be in entry-level jobs and in access, there are a lot of them who have potential for growth," says Friedberg.
The next step, he says, is to figure out how to tap into that person's potential. "Employees who make $30,000 or $35,000 a year can double or even more than double their compensation, if they work in a place that will allow them to grow," says Friedberg.
a. a manager, says Friedberg, you need to give the employee what he or she needs to get to that next level. For instance, Friedberg recently gave a junior staff member books to read about management and leadership, and is working with her to develop her own leadership style.
You will always have some people who are comfortable in an entry-level position and don't want to become a manager, says Friedberg. "You need people like that as well. In fact, that is the group that runs your department on a day-to-day basis," he says. "But there are people in your department who are not only capable of more, but want more."
These individuals may not always come out and say it, though, says Friedberg. "You have to recognize people's skill sets, and what they have the potential to be good at," he says.
Own up to your own mistakes.
"It's important to talk to these folks about mistakes that you've made, and how you've overcome them," says Friedberg.
Help employees to move up.
If your organization has a management training program, Friedberg says to encourage key staff members to pursue it. "I think that putting somebody into one of those programs and having them succeed is a huge feather in your cap," he says. "It is a compliment to you, that you were able to recognize the talent."
If an employee is able to maintain the highest level on the department's career ladder, says Friedberg, it's an excellent retention tool that usually means some extra compensation.
"Many of the patient access departments that are 'best in breed' have a career ladder and training opportunities as part of their program," he notes.
Invest in training.
Staff may be promoted because they are good at the job, says Friedberg, not necessarily because they have good management skills.
"One of the things that we do not do very well at all in health care is train people," says Friedberg. "When somebody goes from registrar to supervisor in the same organization, that is the hardest transition to make. The rest of the staff feel, 'Yesterday you were my colleague, and today you are my boss.'"
Give credit to staff.
"When it's time for credit, always take a back seat and tell everyone it was the team," says Friedberg. "Acknowledge those people who helped you accomplish a goal."
Tell staff to volunteer.
Years ago, Friedberg attended a seminar where the speaker spoke about being the "go to" guy or gal, and he gives that advice to his staff to this day. "I tell them, if somebody wants you to take notes at a meeting or do grunt work of some kind, that's how opportunities find you," he says. "If you view it as a job, it's a job. But if you view it as a career, you will get a different result."
[For more information, contact:
Michael S. Friedberg, FACHE, CHAM, Associate Vice President, Patient Access Services, Apollo Health Street, Bloomfield, NJ. Phone: (973) 233-7644. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.]