How to Avoid and Solve Conflicts in the Workplace

Workplace conflicts are inevitable. A group of people with diverse cultural and intellectual backgrounds, experiences, opinions, and beliefs, aren’t always going to see eye-to-eye. And that’s a good thing!

As the practice leader, it’s your responsibility to maintain a cohesive work environment. Left unresolved, even minor disagreements between employees can hurt staff productivity, engagement, and morale. Developing effective conflict resolution skills is essential to building a desirable workplace culture and thus, a successful business.

Since its easier to prevent fires than it is to extinguish them, here are several tips and techniques managers can use to avoid conflicts in the workplace:

1. Define acceptable behavior and lead by example.

Every member of your staff should know what types of behaviors will and won’t be tolerated, ideally from their first day on the job. And be ready to take action if an employee crosses the line. Remember: it only takes one bad egg to ruin the bunch. Clearly defined job descriptions and chain of command as well as encouraging collaboration and professional development will help to prevent conflicts. Additionally, you should set the right example. You can do this by:

  • Being honest, reliable, and direct in your communication with staff and patients.
  • Not participating in office politics or drama.
  • Checking in with employees regularly to show that you care about them as people.
  • Never publicly criticize or reprimand employees.
  • Displaying a professional demeanor while also showing interest in your team’s overall well-being
  • Showing that you value other people’s input and respect unique points of view.

2. Be proactive and tackle conflicts head-on.

Conflicts rarely resolve themselves. By actively seeking out possible tension in the office and proactively intervening, you’ll not only minimize the severity of conflicts but even prevent some from ever arising. Encourage employees to work out disagreements with coworkers while they’re still small and make sure they know they can come to you with any challenges that are negatively affecting their work.

3. Champion positivity and respect.

It’s amazing the impact one person’s cheerful disposition can have. Your positivity will rub off on your staff, keeping aggressions and squabbles at bay. To build and maintain positive relationships with your employees, ask for their cooperation instead of barking commands, thank them when they take initiative or go above and beyond, and acknowledge their good work. When they make mistakes, miss deadlines, or get into arguments, meet with them in private, explain what they did wrong and what they can/should do differently in the future. If you find yourself lecturing a staff member more than you’re praising him/her, then it’s time to make some personnel changes.

4. Get to know your team.

Taking the time to get to know your employees—their likes and dislikes, their strengthens and weakness—will help you identify personality clashes that can spark conflict. Also, be on the lookout for cliques (one of the most common contributors to a toxic work environment). Keep your ear to the ground. While you shouldn’t contribute to the office chatter, you should have a general idea of what employees are whispering about.

5. Communicate often and carefully.

Most often, conflicts stem from a lack of information, poor information, misinformation, or no information. Communicating information to your staff clearly, accurately, and in a timely manner is guaranteed to reduce the number and severity of conflicts in the practice. Be particularly mindful of your words and tone when communicating with employees via text or email—what may seem like a perfectly innocent emoji or turn of phrase to you may be interpreted very differently by the person/people on the other end. It’s much easier to offend people when they can’t see your body language and you can’t see their reactions.

6. Embrace conflicts as learning opportunities.

Hidden within every conflict is the potential for growth and development. Differing opinions can often lead to innovation and even bring teams closer together. Having to resolve a workplace dispute with poise and diplomacy is good training for an employee looking to move into a managerial role one day.

Now that you know what you can do to try to prevent conflicts, let’s discuss how to effectively resolve the ones that do inevitably pop up.

1. Take immediate action to identify the cause of the conflict.

The root of a problem is the key to solving it. But to get to the root, you need the individuals involved to sit down and engage in a constructive conversation with the goal of finding common ground. Find a safe and private place to meet (i.e., somewhere they won’t be overheard by patients and/or noisy colleagues) then give each party equal time to air out their thoughts, feelings, and concerns regarding the issue at hand. Take a positive but assertive approach to guide the discussion and set ground rules if necessary. Encourage employees to avoid making personal attacks and playing the “blame game.”

2. Listen actively and make sure both sides feel heard.

Let each party speak without interruption. Afterward, summarize and repeat back to them what you heard in your own words. Ask thoughtful, open-ended questions that encourage the parties to articulate their thoughts in an open and honest manner, then try to read between the lines. Validating their feelings can also help deescalate tensions. It’s best to go into these discussions with an open mind. Don’t pick a side or make a final verdict until you’re confident you understand the full story. Also, be sure to take notes and save them in case you need to refer back to them at some point.

3. Agree on the best solution and the role each party plays in its execution.

You need to have a common objective, which is resolving the issue and ensuring it doesn’t resurface. After clarifying the source of conflict and talking to both parties, it’s time to brainstorm possible solutions. Once one has been decided on, outline the responsibilities each party has in resolving the conflict. The involved parties may never be friends, but as long as they can treat each other with respect, they can maintain a viable working relationship.

4. Monitor the situation and consider preventative strategies for the future.

Continue to keep an eye on the issue to assess if the solution is working and both parties are following through on what they agreed to. Decide what your steps will be if the issue resurfaces as well as what processes you could institute to avoid this type of conflict in the future. Reflecting on how you handled the situation and what you learned from it, will help you hone your conflict management skills.

Consult helps practice owners mitigate risk, navigate complex issues, and manage their teams more effectively through comprehensive HR support.

About the Author

Dawn Bauer is a Senior Recruiter who has been with Consult YHN since 2003. Previously, she spent 15 years working in banking and accounting, including 2 years in Consult YHN’s billing department. When she’s not at work, you can find Dawn either on the beach, in a shoe store, or at a concert.

How to Build Your Company Brand by Hiring for Culture and Engagement

It’s estimated that there will be 20,000 job openings for audiologists in the U.S. by 2028. Unfortunately, there are not enough licensed professionals in the field, audiology programs in the U.S., or students in those programs to keep up with accelerating demand. In fact, there may be more audiologists retiring from the profession over the next decade than entering it.

When you take this dearth of providers and factor in the cost of hiring new employees (an average of $4,000+ per hire), the cost of employee churn (fees paid, human capital involved with the onboarding process, downtime to train), and the damage done to your staff morale and patients’ perception of your practice, the price of failure becomes quite clear.

Ultimately, for your business to be successful, you need to be competitive in identifying, attracting, and hiring top talent. If you don’t hire the best people, your competitors will—it’s a zero-sum game. The upside is that when you get it right and hire the best, you’ll be in a great position to develop the culture you need to take your practice to the next level and become an “Employer of Choice” in the hearing healthcare field.

Hiring for Attitude & Culture

Your “brand” is who you are. It’s reflected to the outside world through the prism of your practice culture. It’s how your community, patients, employees, and competitors perceive you. For better or worse, it’s best reflected by the team you’ve assembled. The good news is that this is all within your control. Should you desire a different culture, a better brand, you can create it. And you do that by hiring the right people.

To define “the right people” in the context of hiring, we should start by reviewing the difference between skills and traits: skills are relatively easy to teach or develop while traits are very difficult to teach or develop. Now consider how you vet and weigh skills and traits when making hiring decisions. Why are skills so important to you and could traits be even more important? Remember: the traits of your employees will rarely change, the collection of traits across your entire staff is your culture, and your culture is what defines your brand.

Researcher Mark Murphy’s three-year “Hiring for Attitude” study of 20,000 new hires at over 300 organizations showed that most “misses” (bad hires) are not due to issues of technical competence (lacking skills), but rather issues around attitude, attributes, and emotional intelligence (traits). Of the 9,200 new hires that failed, the vast majority—81 percent—failed because they didn’t have the right traits for the job, resulting in poor cultural alignment to the organization.

This shouldn’t be a surprise since skills are relatively easy to vet. Did you ever hire an audiologist who didn’t work out? Did they have the skills for the job? Or was it something else that led to their failure—attitude, work ethic, emotional intelligence (EQ)? You need to identify which traits are most important to your organization’s culture and then vet for them during the interview process.

This is my own personal list (feel free to make it yours!):

  • Work ethic
  • Coachability
  • Empathy (EQ)
  • Respect
  • Self-awareness (EQ)
  • Positivity
  • Passion
  • Energy

It’s not always easy to resist the urge to overvalue skills due to cognitive biases at play. Those same biases can also cause us to minimize the importance of traits when we make hiring decisions. Have you ever described your ideal candidate to a recruiter as someone who can “hit the ground running” because they “have all the required skills” or, one of my favorites, “requires little supervision because I don’t have time to manage them?

I’ve heard these kinds of statements a lot in my 20+ years as a professional recruiter. And when I do, I know that it says far more about the hiring manager and the organization’s culture than about the candidate they’re seeking. If you have a sound grasp of what’s teachable and are willing to teach it, you’ll stand a much greater chance of hiring the right people and building your best culture. While it may seem like an arduous task to build skills in an employee, remember that it’s almost impossible to build or change traits, attributes, or attitudes.

Building & Maintaining Your Culture

As an owner or practice manager, don’t forget that you play a very important role in building and maintaining your desired workplace culture—you’re required to lead! Be mindful of how you carry yourself and how you interact with your staff and patients. All of your actions and behaviors matter. These are the behaviors that effective leaders exhibit:

  • Exude unerring positivity
  • Communicate with utmost clarity
  • Possess a clear vision and work tirelessly to gain alignment to that vision
  • Listen with compassion and empathy
  • Build trusting relationships with words and actions
  • Express gratitude

You should intentionally engage in these actions, behaviors, and attitudes every day. Great leadership is not accidental!

Becoming and ‘Employer of Choice’

You’ve hired all the right people, they’re all highly engaged, and finally, you have the culture you’ve always wanted and known you deserved. Congratulations! All that’s left to do is maintain the culture you’ve worked so hard to build and solidify yourself as an “Employer of Choice.”

The best way to do this is to first, identify your “brand champions” (i.e., the best of the best, the most engaged of all the engaged). They’re easy to find. Simply look for employees who:

  1. genuinely enjoy their job/don’t just do it for the money,
  2. look for opportunities to mentor, and
  3. demonstrate the behaviors of leaders (see above)

Second, give them additional responsibilities! Any good leader loves a good challenge. When you give these employees opportunities to mentor, encourage them to evangelize your practice through social media, community groups, and professional associations, and hold them accountable, they will value themselves even more, and then they will thrive.

Conclusion

Creating a great culture, one that emphasizes growth and development, will demonstrate your organization’s value to candidates. When you offer opportunities to learn and grow, when you can site real-life examples of employee development, and when you can identify an evangelist within your organization who can speak to your culture of growth, you will then be in a great position to attract additional, like-minded employees.

Practices that utilize Consult’s industry-leading human resources consulting and staffing solutions see incremental increases in revenue and the highest levels of measurable engagement. That’s because our experienced recruiters vet candidates for the highest skill level as well as aligned cultural fit.

About the Author

Ernie Paolini is responsible for Human Resources and Recruiting Services at Consult YHN. He has more than 20 years of experience in building and managing technology-driven HR and recruitment organizations. His areas of expertise include behavioral interviewing, employee relations, compliance, and onboarding.

Thinking About Hiring a Practice Development Representative? Find Out What You Need to Know!

When hearing aid dispensing practices first open their doors, most of the responsibilities, including marketing the practice, fall on the owner. But as the practice grows, it becomes healthier for the practice, and the owner themselves, to hand off some responsibilities to other employees.
Ultimately your staff will become a key factor in driving your practice’s success. Excellent products, the latest equipment, and a great location are certainly important, but the depth, quality, work ethic, and attitude of your staff are paramount to the practice reaching its financial goals. It will also greatly impact the number of patients you’re able to help hear well again.
One of the biggest areas for growth in a private audiology and hearing aid practice is physician referrals. Studies show that over 60 percent of people rely on their primary care physician when it comes to choosing a hearing healthcare provider. So, it stands to reason that obtaining referrals from local physicians and through community outreach is essential to your practice’s growth.
A Practice Development Representative (PDR) can be an effective addition to your team to continually drive revenue and patients into your practice. However, like with any new employee, you must first plan effectively for how you’ll hire, train, manage, and compensate your future PDR.

Understanding Their Role

So, what does a Practice Development Representative do exactly? The purpose of a PDR is to promote the services of the practice to all potential referring entities within your market to increase the number of patients entering your practice from those entities. Referring entities can include, but are not limited to, primary care physicians, otolaryngologists who do not currently dispense, large area employers, unions, senior housing, assisted living centers, and nursing homes.

Planning the Hire

Prior to hiring any new employee, practice owners should work with their Account Manager and Consult Recruiter to create a proper job description. Understanding who you are seeking and exactly what you need them to accomplish is not only crucial for the interview process, but also to the new employee’s long-term satisfaction in the role. Define what your PDR will be held accountable to and how he/she will be compensated. For example, the number of daily visits, phone calls, contacts, appointments made (and kept), and the revenue expected from his/her efforts. Using this job description during the interview process is the best way to set clear expectations with potential hires on how their performance will be judged and how they will be compensated.

The Interview Process

During the interview process look for the specific characteristics and qualifications called for in your plan/job description. Here are some key attributes we have identified over the years in successful PDRs:
  • Sales experience
  • Motivated by success and financial reward
  • Self-starter
  • Accountable to numbers in their previous jobs
  • Strong oral and writing skills
  • Strong organizational skills
Find out why each candidate responded to your ad (“Why do you want to do this job?”). Ask how they have been managed in the past (was there a quota or specific numbers that needed to be met? If so, how successful were they at hitting those numbers?). Look for a motivated self-starter who was a significant contributor to his/her last employer. Ascertain what strengths the candidates can bring to the position. Ask them to discuss precise past experiences that are related to your needs, specifically their sales experience. Have them describe the ideal sales job and tell you about a career goal they met and why it was important to them. Additionally, ask candidates to describe their ability as a market developer (did they ever call on medical practices and if so, what were their results?). Ask them to tell you about the two most common objections they faced and how they overcame them. Lastly, make sure this is a person you feel comfortable making the face of your practice in your community.

Training

Let’s assume the person you hire has all the basic skills to be successful in your practice. He/she still needs training that is specific to your practice, especially if he/she hasn’t previously worked in the medical field. Someone in your practice must be responsible for training your new PDR. Create a 30-day onboarding plan that outlines what will happen on each day and who is responsible to make sure it happens. This is another time when you can lean heavily on your Account Manager and/or Consult Recruiter. Like many practice owners, you may be too busy seeing patients to handle training new hires. Nevertheless, the success of your PDR relies on how competently this part of the process is fulfilled. Again, there is no need for you to go this alone—Consult has more than 25 years of experience training employees and getting them up to speed quickly. So, lean on us!

Compensation

Many compensation plans exist for PDRs. In formulating your plan, make sure it controls the cost of dispensing, motivates high performance, and allows for meaningful assessment (and reward) for growing your practice. Compensation plans typically include a base salary plus commission. Commission is usually paid on the profit margin of hearing aids after referrals or appointments generate a net profit that is some multiple of their salary. The right plan, along with the right candidate, will create a win-win situation for increasing revenue for your practice and the service being provided to your patients.

If you’re unsure hiring a PDR is the right decision for your practice or want to learn more about the position, don’t hesitate to reach out to your Account Manager. Or click here to learn more about Consult’s industry-leading recruiting services.

About the Author

Pat Marotta is an Account Manager in the East Region and has been with the organization since 1998. After dispensing hearing aids for six years, Pat became the New England Regional Manager for Beltone where he primarily worked with dispensers to increase market share through advertising and manpower and set up more efficient office processes and procedures. Pat has worked in the hearing healthcare field, on all sides of the business, for over 30 years.

Candidate Care: Why It Matters and Five Tips to Improve It

One thing we know about today’s candidate market is that it will be more competitive tomorrow. And, as hiring becomes more aggressive, a skills shortage is soon to follow.
Don’t let the record high unemployment rate fool you—the healthcare job market is just as competitive as it was pre-pandemic. That’s why it’s important to understand the factors that impact your business’s approach to finding, attracting, and retaining top talent.

It’s important to provide your candidates consistent support. For example, I call candidates to ensure they are prepared for their upcoming interviews and then I also call candidates after the interview to see how it went. I do this because if I were the candidate, I would appreciate this level of attention and care.

Candidate care should start the second you first open a job requisition and extend all the way through the rest of the hiring process, regardless of whether the candidate is offered the job or not. The entire process is an opportunity for your practice to build a relationship with the candidate. Do everything right and he or she can become a spokesperson for your organization. Do it wrong and it could affect your company’s reputation and interview process moving forward.

Here are five reasons why the candidate experience matters along with helpful tips on how to improve your own:

1. It improves communication and trust

By going out of your way to find opportunities and update candidates, you’ll immediately foster a relationship of trust. Providing feedback, good or bad, will prevent you from burning any bridges. Maintaining regular communication with candidates through the hiring process will also keep you updated on the candidate’s overall job search (for example: if they receive and accept another job offer or decide to stay with their current employer). I make it a point to stay in touch with candidates that I think are impressive because even if they’re not a good fit for one position, they could be for another position down the road. One time, even though I had to pass on a candidate after our initial interview, she was so pleased with the process and my responsiveness that she referred someone else to the role. So, I can tell you from experience that candidate engagement and interest will come naturally if you put forth the effort.

The #1 way people discover a new job is through a referral

2. It influences interview outcomes

It’s important to keep in mind that the interview process can be daunting, especially for candidates who are new to the job market or have worked at the same company for many years. If you can help alleviate some of the stress they’re feeling, they might have a better chance of succeeding. Prepping candidates before they interview with the decision-maker is vital. For example, even though I prep candidates for front office positions before they interview with an office manager, it’s up to that office manager to then prep the remaining candidates before the final interview with the owner. Tell them who they will meet, what to bring, what to wear, and any other tips that might be beneficial. Afterward, provide feedback on any areas where they can improve so they can sharpen their interview skills. Job seekers want and appreciate constructive feedback.

94% of job seekers want to receive interview feedback

3. It creates allies and can strengthen your brand

Many candidates believe how they’re treated during the interview process is indicative of how they would be treated as employees. This is their first insight into what a typical day looks like at the company. In other words, they’re evaluating you just as much as you’re evaluating them. Any inefficiencies in your hiring process or lag in response time could be seen as red flags to potential hires. And if candidates have a negative experience with your practice, there’s no guarantee they’re going to keep it to themselves—they might tell their friends and family, they might post about it on their social media, they might even leave a review on Glassdoor. On the other hand, a positive candidate experience can propel your brand and lead to more referrals.

78% of candidates will tell friends and family about a bad interview experience

4. It increases the quality of hires and decreases the time to hire

By providing a superior candidate experience and making a good first impression, there’s a much greater chance that when you do extend an offer, it will be accepted. Research shows employers have only 10 days before qualified candidates disappear from the job market. An easy, user-friendly career page and application can speed up the process and ensure your perfect employee isn’t taken by the practice down the street. Consult YHN’s experienced recruiters can help streamline your practice’s hiring process by working with you to develop core competency models and job descriptions as well as interview and assessment questions. We’ll even prescreen candidates to evaluate their skills and provide timely feedback on each, allowing you to make the final hiring decision with greater confidence (while also conserving a lot of time and energy).

68% of candidates think the way a company treats them in the hiring process reflects how it treats its employees

5. It increases candidates’ likelihood to stay at the company long-term

Once an offer has been extended and accepted, be sure to check in with your new hires regularly. It shows that you care about how they are doing and that they are happy in their new role. Answer any questions and address any concerns they may have (questions about human resources policies/procedures, suggestions for improvements, etc.). Being there for them as they start their new position ensures that you’re able to work towards a solution, if needed, and that your placements become long-term.

Remember that a candidate’s experience doesn’t end the moment you extend an offer. Providing new employees with the resources to be successful and creating a positive workplace culture will help them become a valuable contributor to your practice’s growth. Every company has room to improve its candidate care. We should always be considering how we can improve our processes to attract an even higher caliber of talent. Doing right by people is always good business.

Take the stress out of staffing. Leave it to Consult Recruiting!

About the Author

Jason DiOttavio joined ConsultYHN as a Corporate Recruiter in 2011. Previously, he worked as an agency recruiter for a staffing firm specializing in IT/Administrative roles including such large companies as Dietz & Watson. When not working, Jason enjoys spending time with his wife and two young daughters. He’s also obsessed with cooking shows and finding new ice cream and donut shops.

Getting it Right: Hiring for Culture and Employee Engagement in a Post COVID World

While today’s unemployment rate, due to the ongoing pandemic, is significantly higher than it was three months ago, it is sure to fall as the economy comes back and small businesses work to restore payroll and headcount in order to conform to Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan forgiveness parameters. Rest assured there will, once again, be more job openings than available candidates. And the cost of hiring will continue to rise as the candidate talent pool shrinks.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), it now costs over $4,000 to hire and onboard a single employee. When you consider the additional cost of employee churn (fees, onboarding, downtime, training, morale, etc.) it becomes easy to see that to have, and maintain, a successful business, you need to be competitive in your quest for hiring top talent (if you don’t hire the best, your competition surely will). COVID-19 has moved the goalposts, but the rules of the game remain the same.

If you received a PPP loan then you may need to hire staff quickly in order to restore payroll and headcount by December 31, 2020. Resist the temptation bring in additional staff to, merely, fill empty seats. If your PPP loan is not entirely forgiven then you are left with, at worst, a low interest loan that you have plenty of time to pay back. Careless hiring decisions in the service of getting 100 percent loan forgiveness should be avoided. As hard as it may be in these uncertain times, you should do your best to adhere to sound business strategies. Especially when it comes to hiring.

A good place to start when building a plan for hiring is with your culture. It’s “who you are.” It’s how your community, your customers, your employees, and your competitors perceive you. And it does not happen by accident. It’s best reflected by the team that you’ve assembled; for better or for worse. Think about your culture and whether it’s the one that you want? Now, think about what you have and think about controlling it.

The first step in creating the right culture is hiring the right people.

Many of us first consider an applicant’s skills when hiring. That makes perfect sense…or does it? There are biases at play when we make decisions. Confirmation bias and the “Halo Effect” can impact how we value skills and traits. And when we overvalue strong skills and undervalue troublesome traits, we could be setting ourselves up for failure (a bad hire).

A recent study on “Hiring for Attitude” suggests that most new hires fail NOT because of technical competence (skills), but because of other factors related to emotional intelligence, work ethic, coachability, self-motivation, and temperament. Remember that skills are relatively easy to develop while traits, attitudes, and attributes are not. And traits, attitudes, and attributes are what contribute to your culture—for better or worse.

When vetting a candidate for hire, make sure you’re looking at the following traits which are predictors for high levels of Emotional Intelligence (EQ):

During interviews, ask candidates a question relating to conflict resolution (for example: Can you tell me about a time that you had a disagreement with a co-worker and how you resolved it?) and then consider the following:

  • Did they know what they did wrong (self-awareness)?
  • Did they control their emotions/anger (self-regulation)?
  • Did they really understand the other side (empathy)?
  • Why did they seek to resolve the conflict? Did they engage for the right reasons?
  • Did they exhibit a certain social grace in solving the issue? Were they mindful of the outcome or social cost?

This exercise will give you a strong indication of the candidate’s EQ, covering many of the most important traits that contribute to a great culture. As you build your team around these traits, you’ll be rewarded with the culture that you deserve. The result: you become an “employer of choice” and have “brand champions” who will help curate your culture because:

  • They enjoy their job and don’t merely do it for the money
  • They look for opportunities to mentor
  • They demonstrate the behaviors of leaders
Creating a culture of growth and development is a great way to demonstrate your organization’s value to candidates. When you offer opportunities to learn and grow and can speak to the policies and procedures that you have in place to encourage growth, can offer examples, or, better yet, identify an evangelist within your organization who can speak to your culture of growth, you’ll be in a great position to attract like-minded employees.

A key thing to keep in mind as you evaluate or create your ideal culture is that the ideal work environment is one built on respectfulness, transparency, and fairness. And always remember: while people may ultimately come to work for you because of money, they will stay—or leave—because of your culture.

Consult YHN’s experienced recruiters can help you attract, vet, and develop a team that will define the company culture you’ve always strived for. Talk to your Account Manager today or contact our Recruiting Department at recruiting@consultyhn.com.

About the Author

Ernie Paolini is responsible for Human Resources and Recruiting Services at Consult YHN. He has more than 20 years of experience in building and managing technology-driven HR and recruitment organizations. His areas of expertise include behavioral interviewing, employee relations, compliance, and onboarding.