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Tenure vs. Merit

Tenure vs. Merit

I’ve heard more than my share of chiropractors complain about staff. In fact, “the staffing issue” is the biggest stress to the established practice over 100 visits a week. If you’re under 100 visits a week your biggest stress is how to get over 100 visits a week.

The truth is working with people can be difficult, but a lot less difficult if you understand two separate and essential phases to developing top-quality staff people: the launch and the follow-up.

This piece is about the launch and even more specifically, it’s about leveling the launching pad by making your expectations crystal clear from the start.

I owe this discussion to my friend and business associate, Dr. George Birnbach. Ever since I heard him explain it, I’ve had the following conversation with every staff member and it’s saved me countless headaches.

As a short aside: I know that most chiropractic offices struggle greatly with employee launching and follow-up training. I hear “I don’t know how to do a launch or train, Noel” – and those are the honest ones. The clueless just think it’s the pool of applicants.

So few DCs have anything in the office titled New Employee Essentials (or similar) written on it or an established weekly training time. Most employee launches are just two-words: “Good-luck!” And follow-up training is three words: “Hang in there!” Is it a wonder we have the turn-over we do?

Contrast that with the thousands of successful companies who rate their new employee orientation and follow-up training procedures as THE top reason they are successful and you start to see staff launch and follow-up training in perspective.

The following is a key piece to my launch and integration portion for Sound Chiropractic and Five Star Management. You can use this for new or established employees right out of the box.

Here’s the setting: It’s an orientation meeting between me the owner and a new employee. We are sitting in my office and I’m explaining my part of how to be a successful employee at Sound Chiropractic Centers.

Owner: “Can you tell me what tenure means?”

Employee: “Isn’t that what professors get?”

Owner: “You’re right, but what does it mean?”

Employee: “Not sure, but it protects their job, right?”

Owner: “Exactly. What tenure means that your employer can’t have your position or the conditions of employment changed without extraordinary circumstances.

“Now, can you tell me what a merit based job is?”

Employee: “I’m guessing here, but it probably means that the employee must earn their position, right?”

Owner: “You are exactly right. The position is always evaluated based on the merit of the person in the job.

“Now, tell me – is my job a tenured position or a merit position?”

Employee: “You own the company, so I guess you’re tenured, right?”

Owner: “Wrong. I’m merit. Every private business owner is paid in the strictest sense in a merit system. Did you now that the overwhelming percentage of small businesses go broke? The mortality, or death rate, is 80 percent in the first five years and just as high in the next five years. In short, we are here because I’ve worked my tail off.

“Now, tell me, is your job tenure or merit?”

Employee: “I bet its merit, isn’t it?”

Owner: “Exactly. Merit, and like me – always will be. You can do brilliant work for 10 years and you decide that you want to start coasting on your reputation and you and I will be done – just like that.

“Does that sound harsh?”

Employee: “Not really. I think I get it.”

Owner: “That doesn’t mean that you can’t earn loyalty. That is built on reputation. If you earn a good reputation as a hard worker who we can count on for reliable consistent work who is willing to go the extra mile – then I will support you to the hilt.

“Now, let’s go over the goals of the clinic and your position again and I’ll explain how your job fits into the ‘big picture’ at Sound Chiropractic. I’ll outline the stats I’ll have you keep, explain your training schedule and make some assignments. Does that make sense? Super.”

What I’ve just done in a fair and kind way is let my new hire know that I work hard and expect that she will too. I also let her know that I will measure her merit with the organization objectively (stats) and that I will train her to do good work so she can earn merit and a good reputation. I’ve also explained that time spent with the company does not mean security – but merit and a good reputation will mean she will have my strong support.

Suggestion: Read this article with your staff and ask for a reaction. It will help you lower your stress, put you back in the driver’s seat and make practice more fun again.

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