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Is Your Practice Stuck in the Past? How to Be a “Modern Employer”

All businesses have to change with the times to stay current and competitive, both for their customers/patients, and for their employees. The world of employment is always changing, with some periods of huge change happening over a very short period of time.

Large world events, such as the current pandemic, force businesses to change. Those that don’t can very quickly become “out of date” and consequently struggle to recruit great talent and retain their staff. This has an impact, of course, on how the business operates and on the service that patients receive.

Dramatic periods of change

The last time we saw such a period of change was during World War II, when businesses had no choice but to change and welcome women into the workplace. Industrial action in the 1970s saw over 10 million working days lost, forcing employment conditions to improve.

The Coronavirus Pandemic is on course to be one more example of dramatic change over a small period of time.

Employers will have the choice of either changing with the times, or risk struggling to recruit and retain their people in the future.

How the pandemic has changed employment

When the country went into lockdown, many businesses were left with no option but to figure out how to keep themselves going with a remote workforce. Working from home became normal practice for tens of thousands of employees. Of course, GP practices, hospitals, fire services and other essential services have soldiered on, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t be impacted by other businesses (mostly in the private sector) changing their ways of working. There was also the biggest focus on employee wellbeing ever seen, with businesses investing in their employees, thinking about their work/life balance and supporting employees with their mental health.

Technology is always advancing, meaning that new ways of working are being made possible all the time. Add to this that by 2025, the majority of the workforce is going to be made up of millennials—people who value flexibility, wellbeing and a business’s ethics over pay—and it suggests that these changes are likely here to stay.

So what does this mean for your practice?

When trying to recruit non-clinical roles, you are likely to be competing with businesses that allow employees to work flexible hours, work from home and work for companies that do a lot for the environment. Reception and administration work, for example, can now often be carried out from home remotely.

This doesn’t mean that practices can’t compete, however. It just means you might need to think about what you offer, make a few small changes and consider how you sell yourself. Consider the following:

  1. Practices are local. It is likely that most applicants will be relatively local, too. Use this to your advantage. Do you let people nip home on their lunch break to let the dog out? How are you seen in your community? Do you publicise what you do for your community?

There are not many businesses that are likely to be so close to where their employees live. You can use this to your advantage to make you more appealing than other employers. Employees are likely to value employers that make a contribution to their community, so ensure you are very vocal about what your practice does too.

  1. Employee wellbeing. You could argue that there is no place where employee wellbeing could be more considered than in a GP practice. The partners of the business are experts in health, so where better to put this front and centre of an employment offering? The partners and management team could work together to make this really quite special. Consider introducing an Employee Assistance Programme if you don’t have one already. These are usually services bought from an outside provider that offer confidential support to employees when needed.
  1. Flexible Working. Working from home isn’t practical for a GP practice yet. That isn’t to say it never will be, but we’re not there yet. Although some aspects of certain roles may be done from home, most roles will require the person to be present in the practice. But this doesn’t mean you can’t be a flexible employer. Think about what you and your team can do to ensure that employees feel supported with day-to-day life. Is your team cross-trained so that someone can go home if there is an emergency? Is part time/job share an option at your practice? Do you think about rotas creatively to try and ensure they work around people’s lives as much as possible? Are there any small jobs that could be completed from home from time to time?
  1. Technology. Add it to the agenda for your next PCN meeting. What are other practices in your area doing? It has been reported that 25% of practices have now been through a digital transformation and adopted cloud-based technology. Are there any in your locality that have done so? What benefits are they seeing? There might be a significant outlay when investing in new technology, but this will often pay for itself over time by making the lives of management, employees and even patients that much easier and in return, more cost effective.

Change is never comfortable. We have all been through one of the biggest periods of change that we are likely to see in our lifetimes. It is now more important than ever to ensure that you keep your business up to date and try to embrace the direction that employment is moving towards, rather than fighting it.

Thornfields run training courses on the issues raised in this article, including Updating Your HR Skills, and Managing Change. And don’t forget that our FPM HR Helpline is open daily from 8am BST, offering a full range of HR advice via an email service at hrhelp@firstpracticemanagement.co.uk.

 


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