An excerpt from 222 Secrets of Hiring, Managing and Retaining Great Employees In Healthcare Practices by Bob Levoy O.D.
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Over-Negotiating The Job Offer
Most job applicants aren’t comfortable haggling about their worth. They want you to make an offer that both of you consider fair and reasonable. They don’t want to feel that you are trying to hire them for the lowest possible dollar. Many say they’d rather work for someone else.
Additionally, although it it’s theoretically impossible in a free-market economy to hire someone at too low a salary, it happens. It happens because of job applicants’ ignorance of their economic worth; because they are desperate; or because they’ve been oversold on the benefits of working for your practice. And what happens when they learn they’ve been taken advantage of? They leave. Or worse, they stay and take their resentment out in numerous ways – none of which are good for your practice.
Not Being Realistic About Compensation
In many cases, a position’s salary range is inadequate to attract the caliber of person required. This leads to frustrating interviews, rejected job offers, and either the hiring of a candidate without the necessary qualifications or (worse) the hiring of a qualified person at a salary lower than what he or she is worth.
What are the reasons for unrealistic salary offers?
• A departing employee was paid a below-market salary and the new salary is based on the old.
• Using cost accounting methods, salaries are based on “averages.” Problems arise however, when an ideal person for the job is not an “average” person or the position itself is not an “average” position.
• Salary guidelines are used with the objective of holding costs down.
• An attempt is made to maintain parity between this position and another position in the practice where the incumbent is underpaid because he or she has held the job for a long time.
How is the problem best solved?
Action step: Let the marketplace determine salaries. If this indicates that the practice’s entire compensation program is need of an overhaul, then that problem must be solved before the one of recruiting new employees can be addressed.
Hard learned lesson: “Don’t make the mistake of paying employees less than your competitors or settling for less-qualified candidates to save a few bucks,” says Bob Vidal, writing for The Patient Centered HIV/HCV Practice. “If your compensation package targets the lower 50 percent of the market, you would most likely require more people to do the tasks of a better-qualified individual and commit more management time or spend more dollars in staff training. Your practice will become a ‘feeder’ to the higher paying practices in your market – that is, you will hire and train inexperienced people, only to have them leave your practice when they gain the experience.”
See Chapter 10: Retention-Friendly Compensation Strategies.
Failure to Discuss Expectations
“Perhaps the greatest cause of failure of new hires,” say Sam Deep and Lyle Sussman in their book, Power Tools, “is that people begin assignments without a complete understanding of what is expected of them. When you interview job applicants,” they advise, “make sure your expectations are known in order to help prospects decide whether the position is one in which they can thrive.”
“Managers must clearly communicate the skills, behaviors and performance levels that employees are expected to demonstrate,” says Courtney Price Ph.D. and Alys Novak, M.B.S., co-authors of The Medical Practice Performance Management Manual: How To Evaluate Employees, Second Edition. “When you communicate clear, understandable and agreeable expectations to your employees, you are creating an environment where employees can succeed. It is only in this type of environment where the organization will reach its goals, employee morale will be high, and hard work will be noticed and recognized.
See Chapter 10 for a further discussion of mutual expectations.
More Hard Learned Lessons About Hiring
Here are additional hiring mistakes shared by healthcare providers and office managers who in many cases, learned about them -- the hard way.
• Never hire someone whose first question is, "What are the benefits?"
• Never hire someone you can't fire – such as friends and relatives.
• Don’t telegraph correct responses to job applicants. This happens when you ask yes/no questions. Even a simple question such as, “Can you work overtime?” telegraphs your expected response. Body language such as nodding your head also indicates you’re getting the response you want. For best results, use closed-ended questions no more than 10 percent of the time and carefully monitor your body language.
• A person with an extensive self-employment background is very likely to go back to self-employment.
• Beware of job applicants who reveal confidential information about former employers, practices or patients. You’ll be next.
• Beware of a history of “job hopping.” Three jobs in 5 years may be too many unless the changes show a sensible pattern such as higher pay or more responsibility.
• As certain as you might be that you've found the perfect candidate, resist the temptation to hire somebody on the spot – unless you've been unable to fill the job for a long time and delay could jeopardize your chances of hiring the person. In general though, it's always good to give yourself a day or two to make sure you're not overlooking faults that could later surface. The best approach: let the candidate know you're interested and ask for a day or two to make the final decision.
• Don’t ignore intuition. As objective as hiring needs to be, one should not ignore that “tug” inside that says “something just doesn’t feel right here.”
Often this comes from your past experience and facts you’ve had to face through the years. Listen to that inner voice.
Vidal B. The Secrets to Retaining Talent, The Patient-Centered HIV/HCV Practice, March 2004, 3-4
Deep S, Sussman L. Power Tools, Reading, MA: Addison Wesley, 1998.
Price C, Novak A. The Medical Practice Performance Management Manual: How To Evaluate Employees, Second Edition, Englewood, CO: Medical Group Management Association,2002