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2 proven ways to build staff morale fast

What builds staff morale? Letting staff participate in the office’s operations, getting their ideas, and using their suggestions are good for morale. And there are two ways to achieve these ends.

One is to survey staff on their attitudes and opinions. The other is to set up a suggestion program. Simple as those may be, they work because people want to be listened to. They want to know their thoughts count. They want that so much, in fact, that just the act of asking questions can immediately improve attitudes.

First comes the survey

As to the survey, it needs to be writing, but beyond that there are no rules. It can be anonymous or not. An anonymous survey will bring out more candor, but be aware that it can be nastier, because the anonymity allows people to spew venom. Use it only if the manager truly wants the glaring ugly truth. Begin it with general topics, and give choices that translate to poor, adequate or excellent. For example:

  • pay and benefits – if they are below par for the position, adequate or excellent
  • workload – too much, OK or just right
  • performance reviews
  • staffer’s relationship with the other staff
  • hours
  • training the office provides
  • physical environment – whether it’s bright and pleasant, adequate or depressing.
  • guidance from doctors – whether doctors offer praise and constructive criticism, criticism that’s sometimes helpful or little or no feedback.

Then ask about the office’s individual situation. For example, if staff rotate between two offices, ask if that’s the most efficient way to operate or if there should be two different staffs. Or if there’s a new computer system, ask if there’s been enough training. To keep people from getting lulled into a mindset, make some questions positive (“what’s the best” or “what do you like most”) and some negative (“what’s the worst” or “what do you like least”). End with open-ended questions such as asking for suggestions to use the new computer system more efficiently. Or if the office deals with terminally ill patients, ask for ways to cope with that type of situation. End with a wide open question: “Is there anything else you want to tell us?”

Mostly just a case of being heard

There’s no need to report the results. Nobody cares that 43.2 percent said X and Y. Just take the results to the next staff meeting and use them as a springboard for discussions. Say “here are some things we have learned,” and ask for comments and suggestions. Later, when changes get made, tell them it was their input that brought them about. Or, if something can’t be changed, say “thank you for your remarks, but we have to continue doing it this way because . . .” If the surveys reveal problems, talk about solutions.

For topics that could lead to an unpleasant group discussion, talk one-on-one with staff and then tell the group “thank you for your input. This is what we are going to do about that.” What staff want to know is that the manager hears what they said, even if the response is “nothing can be done about that, but thank you for bringing it up.”

Then come the suggestions

After the survey, it’s the suggestion program that will keep the momentum going.

To set it up, tell staff the office wants their suggestions “to ensure the best possible experience” for both employees and patients. Emphasize that they should not hesitate to recommend “even the smallest thing,” and point out that the field is wide open, from a better way to arrange the furniture in the reception area to recommendations for providing patient care.

Make it a requirement that the suggestions be in writing. All that’s needed is a short form with one space to describe the suggestion, another to tell why it’s needed, and another to tell how the office can implement it. Thank each person who turns something in, even if the suggestion is outlandish. To keep the program from fading out, go over the ideas a every staff meeting. Or give staff a topic at each meeting and ask them to turn in recommendations before the next meeting. Also, make a hoopla over every suggestion that gets used. As long as staff can solve the problems and know their opinions matter, they see the office as a good place to work.

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