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Goal alignment is a challenge for any business, and the dermatology practice is no different. For goal alignment to exist, everyone in a practice needs to be working in concert with the practice’s overall aspirations and needs to understand how he or she fits into achieving these objectives. Goal alignment in the medicalaesthetic dermatology workplace maximizes employee momentum, reduces staff friction, and multiplies the team effort.

effort. Research has proven that businesses that practice corporate, departmental, and employee goal alignment are more productive, more effective, and have better outcomes. Goal alignment is successful when businesses effectively set and link employee and departmental aspirations to the overall strategies and goals of the business.

The Path to Achieving Goal Alignment

Many capable practices have clearly defined goals, but the most successful practices take the time to align them with department and staff ambitions (see Sample: Six Month Goal-Alignment Matrix at right) and make the effort to explain this process from the bottom up. They are better performing practices because of it. To achieve this level of excellence, follow the steps outlined ahead

Identify a team leader and review practice goals and strategies. A team leader or “champion” must be chosen to work with management to identify and/or verify practice goals and strategies and confirm that the mission statement is current. This information is critical to nail down as it will serve as the guiding force beneath the identification of employee and department goals. The team leader will then be responsible for bringing this information to employees and managers and establishing appropriate goals and assessment processes.

Educate staff on the importance of goal alignment. To grasp the necessity of goal alignment and achieve maximum employee buy-in, it is essential that all members of the practice team understand how their individual actions and duties directly impact the practice’s overall success. For example, some staff members do not recognize their role in the larger objective of patients-to-procedure and sometimes have difficulty understanding the impact of delayed or cancelled procedures and low retention. Understanding how their roles and responsibilities are connected to the “bigger picture” empowers employees to become actively involved in the process of creating alignment.

Communicate and explain practice goals and mission statement to staff. To align practice goals, all staff must be aware of and understand the mission and objectives of the practice. The mission provides the purpose and direction of the practice, and the practice goals define targets for accomplishing the mission. Develop a standard and ongoing communication process for reminding staff of the mission and be sure to regularly communicate practice strategies and provide updates. Utilize multiple channels of communication such as team meetings, written updates, and emails. When goals are established, present them in person to all employees as a team. Provide employees with a written copy of the practice, department, and individual goals, and send regular updates.

Establish department goals that support practice goals. Identify the key tasks and outputs of each department and how they contribute to the overall practice objectives and patient outcomes. In preparation for doing this, mangers might ask themselves these questions: How does my department contribute to the practice’s aspirations? What service(s) does my department provide to the patient that contributes to the practice goals? Examples of time-specific department goals are: 1) Decrease wait time in lobby from one hour to 30 minutes within three months; 2) Decrease wait time in exam room from 20 minutes to 10 minutes within three months; and 3) Decrease length of time to schedule an appointment from four weeks to two week within three months.

Establish individual employee goals that support department and practice goals. Develop employee goals for each staff person and set timelines and measures for progress to the goal. For example: 1) Notify back office 100 percent of the time when patients have been waiting over 20 minutes; and 2) Fill 80 percent of cancellations with patients from a wait list or with previously scheduled patients who are willing to come in earlier than scheduled.

Develop a performance tracking and appraisal system. There is a common saying “what gets measured gets done.” An important part of improving performance is measuring progress. Without a monitoring system in place, management and employees can lose sight of targeted ambitions and alignment can suffer. Use department and employee goals as well as job descriptions to develop performance standards. Performance data for these standards can then be pulled to track progress to the goals and ensure an accurate evaluation of performance. For example, to measure progress in relation to the goal of scheduling appointments, collect data on new calls and compare the number of appointments scheduled with the number of patient reminder calls made with the no-show rate for consults.

Create an incentive plan. Regularly review progress in relation to goals at individual and staff meetings. Allow staff to develop acceptable “rewards” (e.g., department of the month, employee of the month, etc.) for achieving specific objectives. Incentive programs should be developed in a way that works for staff and helps them reach their goals. When designed correctly, incentive programs encourage ownership and overall practice productivity by the employees.

Celebrate. Why celebrate success? Celebrating success benefits the practice, the employee, and the patient. Employees develop more confidence and are motivated to continue to improve performance. Quality of work improves as does the level of service provided to patients in the practice. Celebration can take many forms and does not have to be in the form of a formal party or awards ceremony. For example, at a staff meeting, invite employees to share something that worked well during their week or describe recent progress made toward a specific goal.

Accomplish Desired Outcomes

Goal alignment is an important strategy in accomplishing desired practice and patient outcomes. By taking these suggested steps, managers can be assured that the goals of employees and departments are aligned while appropriately complementing those of the overall organization. The payoff is increased efficiency and higher productivity and a work environment of shared responsibility and reduced frustration.

Barbara Sifford is a management consultant with the Allergan Practice Consulting Group, of Allergan, Inc., in Irvine, CA. She consults with dermatology and plastic surgery practices in areas of financial analysis, practice valuations, human resource issues, internal and external marketing, leadership training and team building, sales training, compensation, and aesthetic practice development.

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