Fighting off the Barbarians at the Gate
Fighting off the Barbarians at the Gate
By Farrell “Toby” Tyson, MD, FACS
We all struggle to put together a winning team in our practices, a never-ending effort that requires countless hours of training, coaching and mentoring. When we lose a member it can be a setback, but losing several employees at once can be debilitating to a practice. This was driven home to me recently when I was asked to be an expert witness in a court case. Allegedly, an ex-employee actively recruited away several employees in a short period of time to staff a competing practice.
Studies from the University of California, Berkeley and Arizona State University both stated that the cost to replace a mid-level employee was equivalent to 150 percent of the employee's annual salary. These studies don't even take into account the possibility of multiple employee losses at the same time. To help prevent a raiding of your staffing base by a competing practice, consider implementing a non-solicitation agreement for your employees.
Composing an Agreement
A non-solicitation agreement is not a non-compete agreement, restriction or limitation to employment. It is simply an acknowledgement that after employment is ended or terminated, the ex-employee will not actively pursue the recruitment of other staff members for employment at another place of work. Since this agreement does not hinder an employee from seeking employment elsewhere, it is easier to enforce than a non-compete agreement.
Time requirements should be stipulated in the non-solicitation agreement. Most practices feel a one- to two-year period following separation is reasonable time for enforcement. After this period, most of the connections and friendships have dissolved, making the solicitation process much more difficult. In addition, this amount of time allows the practice to replace and retrain for that position, and any further loss of personnel is spread out enough that the practice can more easily compensate.
Confidentiality should also be addressed in the agreement. Several times, an ex-employee has taken the emergency preparedness list of staff phone numbers and given the catalog to headhunters for a finder's fee. As you can imagine, it can be very disrupting to a practice to have your employees hounded by a headhunter throughout the day. Aside from phone numbers, confidentiality should include other proprietary knowledge of the practice. These aspects need to be spelled out carefully so that there is no misunderstanding prior to and after employment.
Safely Stored Away
All agreements need to be properly stored in the personnel files. A prudent practice should also scan in a copy of these documents and store them off site to prevent manipulation, loss or theft. It is an incredibly painful experience when your most trusted employee lets you down. Et tu, Brute?
Another way to help prevent ex-employees from poaching your staff starts with your hiring practices. If you start hiring friends of employees or, worse, participate in poaching another practice, you will set the stage for your own demise. In these situations, the employee pack is loyal to itself, rather than to the practice. If one staff member gets disgruntled or finds greener pastures, then the rest of the group will follow. What comes around goes around.
The best deterrent to your employees being wooed away? Have an appropriate work environment — provide a stimulating, encouraging job that is also financially viable. Money is usually only one component of why a staff member works for the practice. Creating the ideal workplace atmosphere starts at the top, with doctors and administrators who inspire and uplift staff rather than belittle or degrade to build a culture of loyalty.
Armed with a proactive practice culture and an appropriate non-solicitation/nondisclosure agreement, there should be no difficulties fighting back the barbarians at the gate. OM
||Farrell C. Tyson, MD, FACS, is a refractive cataract/glaucoma eye surgeon at the Cape Coral Eye Center in Florida. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ophthamology Management, Volume: 16 , Issue: April 2012, page(s): 88