Published - March 2009

By Dave Jakielo

Spring Office Cleaning
Clearing out the Dead Wood

First the Bad News: The economy is tanking and unemployment is rising. Now the Good News (for some): Unemployment is on the rise and that is good for our industry and your company. There is an abundance of extremely talented people looking for new jobs and or careers.

Given the pool of new talent that is available, now is a good time to upgrade your staff and improve your company for the long term. Have you been putting up with "warm bodies" because you needed employees? Just a few years ago it was difficult to attract and retain qualified employees; many companies, in a panic for workers, lowered their hiring standards and may have hired marginal candidates just to fill open positions. Those employees have become the dead wood on your payroll.

In the past, when asking managers about their staff, more than once I have heard them say, "Well a marginal employee is better than no employee," or "I know she has a bad attitude but at least she shows up everyday." Wrong.

Compromising your standards by hiring and maintaining the wrong person on your team can lead to:

  • Lower productivity throughout your entire operation because others are affected by an underperformer
  • Your best employees leaving the company because they feel underappreciated for a job well done, knowing you tolerate sub standard staff members
  • Negative employees becoming a major disruption and pulling everyone else down with their poor attitudes.

These economic hard times offer an excellent opportunity to clear out the dead wood and upgrade your team. You needn't fear discussing the need for a change in behavior or attitude with a problem employee because his or her replacement is standing in line for the job.

At times I've heard managers say, "Well I can't get rid of George he's been with me for years." But if George is disruptive to your organization you owe him nothing. You have provided him with income and opportunities and he has repaid you with lousy performance or a bad attitude.

Now I'm not telling you to walk in on Monday and fire George; but if you've had candid conversations with him about his poor performance or attitude and he's shown no improvement then it's time to free him up for other opportunities. Think about it: if you remove him from your company, you'll win twice. First the attitude of every employee will improve because Grumbling George is gone. It's like removing a splinter from under your fingernail. Secondly, he may end up working for your competitors- and his disruptive behavior will be their problem.

Recruiting tips
Now for the fun part-recruiting. Remember the first quality you are looking for in candidates is a positive attitude, which is more important than a mountain of experience. In the billing industry, experience is highly overrated because no two companies handle billing the same way. You can teach someone how to do accounts receivable follow-up, but you can't teach people to have a positive attitude.

Here are some other hiring tips to keep in mind:

  • Test applicants for the skills sets you require, such as coding, keyboarding, answering the phone, etc. Don't take a person word when particular skills are integral to the position.
  • Administer an assessment profile to determine the candidate's attitude, work ethic, integrity etc. This will help to ensure he or she will be a cultural fit for your organization.
  • Make sure you interview everyone three times and have three different people conduct the interviews. This is important because by the third interview, the candidate will assume he or she has the job and you'll meet the real person behind the façade.

Today finding candidates is easy. Check with personnel departments of companies in your area that have been downsizing. Almost every company that has laid off employees has some type of outplacement service and can point you in the right direction to locate the qualified candidates.

So take a look at the dead wood in your office. If you have a person whom you would not rehire today, knowing what you now know about them, it is time for a little Spring office cleaning.

Dave Jakielo, CHBME, is an international speaker, consultant, executive coach, and author and is president of Seminars & Consulting. Dave is past president of Healthcare Billing and Management Association and the National Speakers Association Pittsburgh Chapter. Sign up for his FREE weekly Success Tips at Dave can be reached via email; phone 412/921-0976.

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