Employee Retention Through Personality Profiles
By Charity Q. Boulton, CMPE
Medical practices are notorious for their high rate of employee turnover. With the many hats practice managers wear, it is easy to neglect the financial and emotional value of employee retention. Most of us have some form of employee programs aimed at retention whether it is through group recognition for achievements or appreciation luncheons. We are comfortable with this form of acknowledgement. However, there are other ways to show appreciation and respect through deeper understanding.
Does the idea of touchy-feely management make your stomach do a flip-flop? You are not alone in the medical practice management arena. Many of us can barely keep our heads above water; much less invest time and energy into the feelings of our staff. However, understanding the “why” behind employee behavior can be a worthwhile investment.
It is not an uncommon experience to ask the same request of two staff members in exactly the same way and get opposite responses. One may respond positively while the other may react defensively. It could be related to their personality preferences, which affects how they perceive and react to others.
So much of what we do as a manager, at any level, depends on our understanding of others. How do we effectively discuss, motivate and instruct our staff if we don’t take the time to analyze what forces are at play with the decisions, choices, and responses that they make? Our personality, along with each staff member’s personality, combines to create a unique office culture that affects every aspect of our practice.
Throughout our careers, most of us have completed personality profiles using methods that vary as much in sophistication as they do in results. How many of our front line staff members have had this opportunity? And after doing our own profiles, how many of us are adept enough to extrapolate that data to meaningfully define someone else? The answer to both is very few.
From a management perspective, personality tests can help you understand a person’s motivating factors. This information is helpful during the hiring process as well as during orientation, training and succession. Hiring the right person for each position is the first step. Effectively communicating with the new employee to make he or she and the practice get the most from the employment relationship is crucial.
The assessments help not only managers; but also, co-workers to find an effective approach to communicating with one another. I chose to have each member of our practice complete the DISC profile this past fall. This is an assessment similar to the Myer’s Briggs profile that is widely used in the mental health profession. It breaks personality types into four pure styles (Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Conscientiousness) with over 380 blended styles that include 2 or more of the pure styles. It also takes into account a person’s natural tendencies compared to their work or stressed tendencies. It is more detailed than some of the personality profiles that compare styles to lions, koala bears, monkeys and owls; but is still easy to teach and understand.
Each person had a couple of weeks to sufficiently review and absorb their profile. During this time I welcomed all questions, which meant I had to understand the metric fairly well. Fortunately, most of the vendors I spoke with offered good resources and support for my new topic of interest.
At the following month’s staff meeting I compiled my resources and the staff’s frequently asked questions. I spent an hour discussing and teaching the DISC profile with a singular purpose and four goals. The stated purpose was to help everyone better understand their own motivations and how to communicate more effectively based on the “typical” motivations of other styles. The four goals to be accomplished were: to provide a broad overview of DISC; assist each employee in understanding their profile; teach each employee to recognize the main styles without the DISC assessment; and identify the different communication tendencies and needs of each style.
The most difficult goal to attain was to arm them with the tools to recognize and adapt to the general personality types without the benefit of a DISC profile to read. Again, I relied on the vendor’s resources for games and exercises to illustrate and emphasize the points. Surprisingly, while my goal wasn’t team building or morale boosting, the general understanding, acceptance and the trust that came from sharing with each other did, in fact, have that secondary effect.
Additionally, without betraying confidences, I graphed each employee’s work personality in the four quadrants of the DISC square using generic indicators. We discussed which types of personalities would best fit each job type in our office to demonstrate that our diverse job responsibilities require different cognitive and personality styles that naturally put medical practice employees at odds. This further underscored that the saying “it takes all kinds to make the world go around” parallels the world of a medical practice as well
Here’s how the four different personality styles might fit into a typical medical practice.
- Dominance – doctors, administrators, managers
- Influence – customer service, receptionist, drug representative
- Steadiness – medical assistants, nurses, medical records, data entry
- Conscientiousness – coders, bookkeepers, and compliance officers
With the advent of the Internet, the administration of these tools has never been quicker, easier, or less expensive. For about $30.00 and 10 minutes per test you can gain more in-depth knowledge than you could ever glean from pure work exposure. And for a couple hours of your time to educate yourself and your staff you can gain countless hours and dollars in employee satisfaction, increased morale and, of course, employee retention.
If you are interested in learning more about how to use personality profiles in the management of your staff, look for an upcoming Atlanta MGMA educational meeting focusing on this topic in 2008.
Charity Q. Boulton, CMPE is the Practice Administrator for the North Fulton Internal Medicine Group and the incoming president of the Atlanta Medical Group Management Association (AMGMA).