27 July 2021

Finding the right team

KnowCents

I frequently hear business owners, in and outside of general practice, complaining about how they cannot get good staff. 

For general practice, this is about getting excellent GPs and administrative team members. I have a lot of growth left in this area. I am still making plenty of mistakes around hiring and keeping talent. 

Two things come to mind: What does a good staff member look like? And why would they rather work with us than someone else?

What does a good staff member look like? 

We have some core values that everyone needs to be comfortable with. This is spoken about repeatedly during our interview process. We ask multiple questions to try to ascertain, “Does this person demonstrate behaviours consistent with our values?”

Often our rate of employment is one out of 80 applicants. I have hired the wrong person many times. It causes friction within the team, and it is no fun telling someone that they must move on. Better to not hire them. 

I found out early in my time as a business owner that I did not like firing people. We are now much more careful about hiring. We are much clearer in the behaviours we want to see in people that work with us. However, we keep making mistakes in this area, though less frequently, so we still have to have tough conversations regularly and let people go. 

If you aren’t prepared to let people go, then your business will rapidly fall to the lowest common denominator. Those working hard will look around and ask: “Why should I work hard when no one else is?” 

Having some clear values in your business is also like having a compass while orienteering: it keeps everyone headed in the same direction. If someone gets off track, then you can refer back to your values and get them back on track. If they do not demonstrate a willingness to change behaviour, then it is time to for them to go. 

Often the reason that people are off track is our fault. We have not been clear enough about our expectations or have not given them the necessary tools to be able to do the job. I tend to start blaming others when things go off track. It normally works out better when I have a good look at how I have failed them before I start with the blame game.

We also try to let people know how they can “win” at work. We want to be very clear about what we want them to do.  It makes it easier to point at a scoreboard as a measure of success or failure rather than have some vague idea that they are not doing their job right.

We then try to pay people so that they are not looking somewhere else. Then let them have autonomy and mastery over their job. 

Why would they rather work with us than someone else? 

We are all in competition for the best talent. This is a worthwhile question to spend time thinking over. 

Our points of difference: clear leadership willing to fight for our values; our doctors rarely get asked to be bulk-billed; there is a consistency of billing amongst the doctors; we provide excellent nursing staff and very good administrative support; our facilities are excellent. 

This applies to people working in your business. It applies to patients who are going to pay for your services. 

I did not figure this out on my own. There are plenty of amazing books out there about how to have a good business. Jim Collins is one of my favourite authors about having an amazing business. Please go and read all his books. 

Dr John Deery is chair of the Australian GP Alliance

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