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NMGMA 10 Minute Takeaway

Speaker Valora Gurganious (L) with DoctorsManagement and NMGMA President Laura Watkins

Hiring Smart: Attracting & Retaining Talent

The second Tuesday of the month, practice managers and industry service providers gather for an educational Nashville Medical Group Management Association (NMGMA) meeting to hear from experts on a variety of topics to improve the efficiency and success of medical practices. In February, Valora Gurganious, partner and senior management consultant with DoctorsManagement, discussed ways to attract and retain talent.

DoctorsManagement, based in Knoxville, works with more than 700 practices nationwide on the business side of the healthcare equation. Although her talk centered around medical practices, the observations were applicable to most business settings. It's common for companies of all stripes to have a mission statement that calls for delivering high quality products or services while meeting or exceeding customer expectations. The ability to make good on those promises, however, comes down to the team members carrying out the mission.

"One of the areas my clients struggle with the most is managing staff," said Gurganious, a certified healthcare business consultant who earned her undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt and MBA from Harvard. Yet, she continued, it's one of the most important roles. "Staffing costs can be anywhere from 20-25 percent of every dollar," she noted. And turnover, she continued, is costly. "It's not only expensive in terms of money. It's expensive in lost production and satisfaction overall," she said.

Healthcare has seen an accelerated rate of turnover in the last decade. Now second only to the hospitality industry, healthcare turnover rose from 15.6 percent in 2010 to 20.6 percent in 2018, according to a CompuData survey. Gurganious said staffing costs are rising across all positions in the face of low unemployment, which has created a demand for higher salaries and more benefits.

Talent Pool

So how does a manager attract and retain talent? Gurganious said it starts with understanding potential employees. "Millennials are your biggest pool of candidates now with over 80 million of them born between 1982 and 2000." She added this is a generation influenced by the "self-esteem movement," Iraq War, 9-11, school shootings, social media and the "gig" economy. While millennials sometimes get a bad rap, Gurganious pointed out they also come with a lot of good qualities. Typically, they are pretty confident and optimistic, are generally well educated, socially conscious, value diversity, like teamwork and are multi-taskers. They also like constant interaction and feedback, which can be hard for managers.

Another consideration is they value short-term experiences. Where baby boomers expected to stay on the job for five-plus years, millennials and Gen X employees anticipate being a position only two to three years. "You can bet after 18 months or so, they are on Indeed looking for their next gig," said Gurganious.

She added the primary reason cited for seeking a new job is "the boss." The flip side is that employment surveys show those who like their manager or supervisor stay longer and perform better. Gurganious said job satisfaction isn't always about pay raises, professional development or perks ... although all of those things help, of course. "It's really about how you make your employees feel," she stated. "Learn how to communicate with them based on their communication style," she added.


Finding the right match begins with the interview process. Gurganious advised providing a very detailed job description that includes not only work duties and necessary skills but also the qualities being sought and expectations for the employee. "Be real," she advised. "Candidates appreciate that, and it results in a much better marriage."

Behavioral interview questions help employers assess the best fit, she said. 'Describe your most stressful day at work. How did you cope?' Or, 'Describe a time you had to bend the rules to achieve a goal. What was the outcome?' Also ask questions about what the candidate finds appealing about the open position and what they find most satisfying about a job. Then, Gurganious continued, "Listen to what they say. Listen for clues. Decide if that works for you."

She added it's human nature to want to hire people who mirror our own values and talents. However, she pointed out choosing a 'mini me' isn't always what's best. "You may need a different personality to fill gaps."


Finding a fit is just the first step. "You need to onboard very well. The first week or two can set the tone for that employee's tenure," cautioned Gurganious.

She suggested getting to know the new employee's favorite charity, treat, type of food, vacation spot and weekend hobby. Then, she said, create an employee data file that is used to personalize rewards for great performance or as recognition for a birthday or work anniversary. Purchasing a gift card to an employee's favorite restaurant takes no more effort than buying one for another option but shows you have paid attention to their preferences.

Gurganious said the first hour of employment is the most critical. She suggested meeting an hour before the office opens and the day's chaos begins. Talk about what it takes to be successful in this new setting, provide another copy of the job description, have all new hire documents together and remind the new employee of why they were chosen for this position. Then, she said, allow time for questions.

It's also important to do the necessary prep work before they begin employment. Send an email to coworkers introducing the new hire before their first day. Make sure the new employee's desk or office is ready for their arrival and that training for new processes, equipment or software is set up. Assigning a mentor to help the new hire assimilate into the team is also a good option.

Retaining Valued Employees

After putting in this much work, you want to keep them ... and keep them happy. "Happy employees recruit new talent for you." Gurganious said. "If you help them succeed, the practice will succeed."

She suggested making efforts to keep in touch after the initial onboarding with a handwritten note, stop by their office or desk to speak or invitation to your office for coffee on occasion. It's also a great way to gain insights from those on the "front lines" about office processes that work well or need attention and helps employees feel seen and heard.

Harkening back to character traits of millennials, she said it's important for them to receive recognition for the good, which makes it easier to accept correction when needed. "People need to know you are noticing the good things and not just focused on the negative," Gurganious advised.





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DoctorsManagement, HR, Human Resources, Medical Practice, Nashville Medical Group Management Association, NMGMA, Onboarding, Practice Management, Talent Retention, Valora Gurganious
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