Everyone Is Essential: Guest Author Bob Cooper

Obama Fist Bump with JanitorSome organizations will use the terms essential and non-essential workers as a way to distinguish between who needs to be on site in the event of an emergency, and who does not. I do understand the purpose of this distinction, however, it’s very important that businesses not give the impression that some employees are more important or valuable than others.

Have you ever thought about the importance of the Bank Teller’s role? Is this individual given the requisite respect they deserve? I once overheard a bank manager say the following – “She’s only a teller, you can’t expect her to know better.” Think about the responsibility of this role. The Teller helps to build the customer experience and is responsible for very important transactions. I don’t know about you, but I want the Tellers in my bank to be satisfied and maintain a good focus on their work.

How do you view each and every member of your team? Do you respect everyone as an important member of the team? How does each person on your team impact the internal and external customer experience?

Your employees are your most important asset, and you need to serve them. If you expect them to deliver exceptional service to others, you need to serve them first.

The following are a few suggestions to demonstrate that you view every member of your team as essential:

1) Show Respect at all Times – Never make the same mistake that the Bank Manager made by saying “She’s only a Teller, or clerk, or aide, or any other position. Sometimes the best ideas come from your front-line staff. They have dreams and aspirations and want to know that you value them for their contributions. They have feelings and want to know that you value them as professionals.

2) Engage their Hearts and Minds – Give every member of your team the opportunity to become involved in all aspects of the business. Show your staff how their work is integrated with other members of the team and is critical to the organization’s success. Find out what motivates team members, and wherever possible, allow them to become involved in initiatives that ignite their passion. They should become engaged in offering ideas to build the business and drive strategy.

3) Say Thank You – Show your gratitude for individual efforts buy expressing sincere thanks for a job well done. The key is your sincerity. If your thank you is half-hearted, don’t be shocked when one of your best performers leaves the organization because they don’t feel appreciated. You can’t fake sincerity.

4) Care About Them – Have you ever experienced a personal problem only to find your boss is only concerned with the project you are working on? I have heard bosses say – “Leave your personal issues at home.” Oh really? What if a staff member has a loved one who is very ill? Should this not matter? I have witnessed throughout my career many top performers change jobs because they felt their boss was totally insensitive to their personal concerns. When people come to work, they bring their whole selves to the office. Of course they need to perform their duties responsibly. As a leader, part of your job is to help staff keep their head in the game. You need to show empathy and assist the employee to effectively deal with their issues.

5) Bring Them Coffee – In my book “Heart and Soul in the Boardroom” I discuss a former boss named Warren. Although I have not seen Warren in over 25 years, I remember him as if it was yesterday. Warren would say – “Bob, can I bring you a cup of coffee back from the cafeteria?” He would make the same offer to every member of the team. Warren treated every member of the team with respect. What about the boss who asks his or her assistant to bring back a cup of coffee and never offers to do the same? What’s the message? This individual believes that others are there to serve them – WRONG! You are there to serve others. In turn, they will reciprocate and go the extra yard to help you win.

6) Care About Their Careers – Take the time to listen and understand your employee’s goals. Make every effort to help them to achieve their goals. The key here is to show the effort and desire to assist them to reach their full potential.

Great leaders treat every member of the team as essential. They realize that the receptionist or janitor make a huge impact on the customer experience. I will never forget what a former boss named Harry said many years ago during a meeting. Harry said – “Remember, the janitor may be at the bottom of our organization’s hierarchy, but is the CEO to his family.” I can still hear Harry’s voice. He was so right. Every human being deserves to be respected.

If you treat every member of your team as essential, and truly care about them, they will perform beyond your expectations. We must make sure the financial compensation is fair and competitive, but the differentiating factor is that staff know you care, and see them as essential to the organization’s success.

For a complete listing of our services, please visit us at www.rlcooperassoc.com or call (845) 639-1741.

RL Cooper Associates’ book Heart and Soul in the Boardroom outlines suggestions for leaders to develop highly respectful and ethical work cultures and is available in the Manage My Practice Store. For additional information about their services, please visit www.rlcooperassoc.com.

Bob Cooper on Giving Thanks as a Manager

During the holiday season we are reminded to give thanks and extend our best wishes to family, friends, and colleagues.  It’s a time to step back and reflect upon the accomplishments achieved in collaboration with your team, and feel a sense of gratitude for what you have.

Do you take the time to acknowledge the contributions of others? Do you have a full appreciation for the importance of giving praise?

Thanksgiving Dinner


Many years ago I had an eye opening meeting with an engineering director named Pete.  The purpose of the meeting was to update Pete on the progress of my work with several members of his team.  I facilitated a process improvement initiative that ended up saving the company over one hundred thousand dollars. In spite of this outcome, the group had very low morale. One day I stopped one of our meetings and asked the team why they were so upset. They said “Pete doesn’t value us.” I asked “Why do you feel this way?” Their response was “He never shows appreciation for our work.”  I shared this story with Pete in an attempt to provide him with a valuable insight.  His response was “I don’t need to tell them how much I value them, they are engineers and should know how well they are doing.”  I said “Pete, everyone wants to be appreciated.  It’s not based on one’s position or degree. You need to express to your team how much you value them.”

To this day, I can still see Pete struggling to understand the importance of giving thanks.

The following are a few suggestions for leaders regarding expressing thanks:

  1.  Make it a priority to catch people doing things right, and let them know the importance of their work.  For example, if you see a staff member going the extra mile to serve a customer, express thanks. If you see a member of your team assisting a colleague with a difficult issue, give thanks.
  2. As you walk around ask others for feedback.  Ask staff to let you know about co-workers either within your department or from another section who did something special for them or a customer.  Take the time to let the individual deserving of the praise know how grateful you are for their efforts. It’s important to celebrate successes.
  3. In staff meetings, acknowledge the team for achieving certain goals, and praise examples of excellence.  Give each team member the opportunity to express thanks to a colleague for any support provided that they appreciate. This builds a sense of team and keeps the meeting positive.
  4. Thank a staff member who brings a mistake to you, and accepts full accountability for the error, and has a plan to fix the problem.  You might be thinking – why should I praise someone who is bringing me a mistake? If you criticize mistakes, you create a fear based environment, and thus, people might look to cover up the mistake. Of course, you are not praising a mistake, but rather acknowledging the individuals integrity.
  5. Engage staff in brainstorming ideas to improve departmental performance, and give thanks for their input.  You are encouraging creativity and innovation, and must not criticize an idea.  After the brainstorming is completed, you can take the time to engage the team in clarifying and prioritizing ideas.  What’s important to remember as a leader is this – if you judge every idea as either “good” or “bad”, how do you think the person who offered a “bad” idea is going to feel?  Every idea needs to be given fair consideration with an objective assessment relative to its potential impact on achieving a positive outcome.

What do you believe is more important – a good strategy or a highly engaged and motivated group of people? They are both very important. However, if you and your competitors have similar strategies, the organization that has done a better job of engaging both the hearts and minds of its employees will always win. Highly engaged and motivated employees will assist you to develop sound strategies, and help to revise strategies as required to maintain a competitive advantage. They will want to do everything possible to help you win.

One of your most important jobs is to let your team know how much you value them. They want to know you care.  They want to know that you do not take them for granted.  They want to know that you see them as unique individuals with unique talents. They want to know that you see their potential, and will do everything possible to assist them to reach their full potential.

Great leaders know that their employees are, and always will be, their most important asset. They want to know that you care about their careers and will serve as a trusted mentor focusing on their success.

I have emphasized this in many previous tips – you must serve your staff. If you serve them well, they will produce outstanding results. You help to remove barriers and provide the tools needed for success.

I encourage you throughout this holiday season and into the future to take the time to let your staff know how much you value them.

I have one more thing to add.  What makes this all work is not just giving praise, but really meaning it. If you fake it, you can cause more damage. When others know you really mean it – you will have loyal followers prepared to leave your competition in the dust.

RL Cooper Associates’ book Heart and Soul in the Boardroom outlines suggestions for leaders to develop highly respectful and ethical work cultures and is available in the Manage My Practice Store. For additional information about their services, please visit www.rlcooperassoc.com.

Bob Cooper, President
RL Cooper Associates
(845) 639-1741
Innovations in Organizational Management

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Managing a Private Practice vs. Managing a Hospital-Owned Practice

The doctor's office on Transylvania Project, L...

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Private practices are organized in a corporate model where the physicians are shareholders, or where one or more physicians own the practice and employ other physicians or providers.   Private practices are almost exclusively for-profit.  Physician practices are organized into corporations for the tax benefits as well as protecting the owners from liability judgments.

Hospitals can be for-profit, not-for-profit or government-owned.  For-profit hospitals make up less than 20% of the total hospitals in the United States.

Financial Models

Private practice owners take a salary draw, split any receipts after all expenses are paid, and generally distribute receipts monthly or quarterly.  This leaves very little at year end to be taxed through the corporation.

Hospitals that employ physicians typically guarantee a salary and offer an incentive plan where the physicians earn more for seeing more patients and/or being more productive based on work Relative Value Units (wRVUs).  Hospitals may or may not use a practice expense and revenue model to measure the margin.

Benefits of Managing a Private Practice

  1. You get to do everything, so if you like or want to learn about HR, marketing, finance, IT, contract negotiation, revenue cycle management, facility management, and lots of other stuff, you’ll get to do it in a private practice.
  2. You are the top position in the practice, so you get to put your imprint on the practice.  You can often be more creative.
  3. Physicians can be very laid-back and practices can maintain a more relaxed, family-like atmosphere.
  4. Decision-making can be straightforward and swift, so you can help your practice to be nimble in response to news events, trends and new ideas. If your practice decides to become a concierge practice or stop or start taking a particular payer, so be it!
  5. You may find it easier to get a foot in the door and start your management career in a private practice as physicians don’t always hire managers using traditional means.  A recommendation from another manager, a consultant or a physician may be enough to get you started.

Drawbacks of Managing a Private Practice

  1. You report to the physicians who may not have business expertise and may fight you on your well-founded recommendations.
  2. There is no internal career path – you’re at the top in the practice.
  3. Physicians will make less money every time a new non-revenue generating position is added or any time equipment needs to be replaced – expect them to be generally slow to respond to capital expenditure needs, especially if they cannot see that any new revenue will come from the expense.
  4. When physicians “eat what they kill”, taking home the dollars they personally earn less their expenses, they can be pitted against each other and have conflicting priorities.
  5. Your practice could be purchased by a hospital and you could find yourself out of a job, or your job radically changed.

Benefits of Managing a Hospital-Owned Practice

  1. You report to a management professional who should understand the business and be supportive of your well-founded recommendations.
  2. You will receive support from other hospital departments: the Human Resources department will screen, orient and provide benefit support to your staff; the Information Systems department will provide and maintain your practice management system, EMR system and other hardware and software; and the Accounting department will pay the bills and write the payroll.
  3. You may be able to climb the career ladder and manage multiple practices, or become the Vice President of Physician Practices, or the COO, CFO or CEO of the hospital.
  4. You will get to interact with managers of other departments and broaden your hospital knowledge and understanding of the care continuum.
  5. You can learn a lot from the process of preparing for and living through a JCAHO (a.k.a. “The Joint Commission”) visit.

Drawbacks of Managing a Hospital-Owned Practice

  1. Hospitals use different terminology for charges, adjustments and receipts and work on the accrual system instead of the cash system, which most private practices use.  It takes time to understand and distinguishes the terminology and process differences.
  2. The entire system will be in a tizzy on a regular basis getting ready for a JCAHO (a.k.a. “The Joint Commission”) visit.
  3. You can expect to have much less autonomy in a hospital system and there may be more red tape involved in getting even simple requests filled.
  4. Hospital administration may find it difficult to relate to the perspective of the hourly staff and it could be frustrating to balance the needs of the staff and the needs of the organization.
  5. Because the hospital is the big-dollar earner, the needs of the clinics may be second, third or fourth down the line in importance.

What do you see as the benefits or drawbacks of your private practice or hospital practice job?

New Employee Paperwork Explained – Part 1: The Application

Ever wondered if you are doing things right, or doing the right things when you hire a new employee?  Then this series is for you! Human Resource Consultant Susan Hayes will cover the hiring paperwork including posting the job, the job application, the job offer letter, the I-9 form, the W-4, and the personnel file.

NEW YORK - JUNE 24:  A job seeker looks over t...

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Once you have made the decision…

…to fill a new or existing position you will post/advertise the job internally and externally.  Larger employers usually post open jobs on a bulletin board that is located where current employees, as well as the public, have access. When there are several hundred employees, possibly in several locations it is hard to get the word out that a job is open. However, smaller employers rarely need to post an available job because the grapevine works very well and word of mouth will spread the news before you have a chance to announce it.

What difference does it make if you post a job?

The main reason you post a job whether you have 10 employees or 200 employees is to be sure you are not inadvertently discriminating against any class of people. A hiring can be defended only if the job was posted and anyone with skills, knowledge and/or background to do the job had a chance to apply. If the job is not posted, there could be a question as to why certain people did not know. Were only males told that the job was open so a female would not get hired?

I’ve had to defend hirings in areas of race, gender, age and disability. If there is no proof that the job was made available for anyone with skills, knowledge and/or background, and there is no documentation of the decision process, you might find it hard to defend why you hired an applicant.  Job postings and advertisements should be kept for a minimum of one year in order to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

What’s the best way to advertise a position?

Depending on the job and your community, you may advertise your position in different ways.  Some practices give referral fees to employees who refer people who are hired.  Some programs give 1/2 of the referral fee when the new employee passes the 90-day mark and the other half when the new employee reaches one year.  Craigslist is one of the most popular places to advertise positions.  Depending on the position you may also want to consider:

  • Newspaper
  • Employment Security Commission
  • Comm unity Colleges – post jobs and also ask teachers for recommendations
  • Local or state medical manager groups or listservs
  • Specialty job boards or publications (nurses, technologists, mid-level providers)
  • Social media such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook

How should you describe a position in an advertisement?

My favorite way to give potential applicants as much information as possible so they can decide if they are a fit for the job is to place a small ad on craigslist.com, the newspaper or other media directing applicants to call a job line at your practice.  You can assign a voice mail box as the job line and instruct those interested to call and listen to a description of the requirements for the job, the responsibilities of the job and the benefits of the job.  Asking applicants to then email or mail a resume or complete an online application will ensure that your applicant can follow directions!

Why do I need to use an application?

While there is no law that states a potential employee has to complete an application, if you are an employer that is covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) there is certain information that you must collect.

Who is covered by FLSA?

Any private employer with two employees or more that engages in interstate commerce activities and has an annual business volume of at least $500,000 is covered by FLSA.  Also covered are hospitals, educational institutions and state and federal public employers.  Individual employees who are engaged in interstate commerce activities even if their employer does not gross $500,000 a year would be covered also. Interstate commerce is the buying and selling of products and services across state borders.

The application is a quick way to get the information in the beginning of the process and have it together in one place if the applicant is hired.  The application also helps you to compare information between applicants that has been standardized.  Some resumes are crafted to hide shortcomings and those shortcomings will easily appear when an application is completed.

Some people do not have resumes and the application is an easy way to have information about an applicant’s educational and work background in one place with a signature to verify the information. It can also provide legal information to refer to in the future.  For instance, if an employee puts on an application that he/she can work any day of the week and then when asked to work on Sunday, claims that he/she cannot, you can go to the application and find the claim in writing.

Most applications no longer require a full social security number.  Because the application may pass through many hands, this is one way to protect the applicant’s number from inadvertent exposure.

Many employers require even top level position candidates to fill out an application so they have documentation of experience and education.  Applicants will need to provide details and dates of past employment and education, as well as detailed information on licenses, credentials and certifications.   If the application is completed online, this application information may automatically download to a human resources program, saving the employer time and money.

It’s important for the job application to be complete and accurate. The information that you will independently verify is: Name, Address, City, State, Zip Code, Phone Number, Eligibility to Work in US, Felony convictions, and if under age, working paper certificate.

Applications should be kept in a confidential place for one year in order to be in compliance with ADA, Rehabilitation Act, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.  However ADEA requires that applications for those over 40 years of age must be kept for two years. The dilemma is: how do you know the age of the applicant if you cannot ask it on the application?  The answer = keep all applications for two years to be safe.

Read Part 2 in this series here.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Hayes’ undergraduate degree in Psychology from NC Wesleyan College prepared her to weigh objectivity with compassion. Her Masters in Public Health from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her background in benefits administration have given her a comprehensive understanding of the complexities and scrutiny imposed on businesses, particularly healthcare businesses.  Twenty years as a human resource specialist in the healthcare field means that Ms. Hayes is well-positioned to help a healthcare entity of any size find solutions for human resource issues.  She can be contacted at Susan Hayes, MPH, Hayes Consulting, 910-284-1627, hayesconsulting@embarqmail.com.

Managers: Start Using the New I-9 for New Employees Friday April 3, 2009

© Serghei Starus | Dreamstime.comNew employees must complete the new I-9 form (Employment Eligibility Verification) beginning Friday, April 3, 2009.   Here is the link for the new form: New I-9 Form

Managers, you do not need to to use the new form for employees whose hire date is prior to April 3.

What is the purpose of the I-9?  The form states that it “is to document that each new employee (both citizen and non-citizen) hired after November 6, 1986, is authorized to work in the United States.”

Reading the instructions, I was surprised to learn that providing the Social Security Number is voluntary, unless you choose to complete the I-9 electronically via E-Verify.  This is interesting since protecting the employee’s social security number has taken on even more importance with the enactment of the Reg Flags Rule, which is in effect May 1, 2009.

To order USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Service) forms, you can download them here or call them at 1-800-870-3676.

And, under the heading of Things I Didn’t Know About the I-9 Form, we learn that:

  • Employers may, but are not required to, photocopy the document(s) presented (drivers’ license, passport, etc.)
  • E-Verify is a program that allows electronic verification of the employment eligibility of newly hired employees.  E-Verify can be  obtained here or by calling 1-888-464-4218.  Remember that you do need to provide the social security number if using this program.
  • Employers must retain completed Form I-9s for three years after the date of hire or one year after the date employment ends, whichever is later.
  • Form I-9 may be signed and retained electronically, as authorized in Department of Homeland Security regulations at 8 CFR 274a.2.C.
  • Employers CANNOT specify which document(s) they will accept.
  • The public reporting burden for this collection of information is estimated at 12 minutes per response, including the time for reviewing instructions and
    completing and submitting the form.

If anyone is timing the completion of this form, be sure and leave a comment and tell me if it really does take 12 minutes to complete!