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How to motivate the practice staff team

Offering incentives may not be enough if your management style is the problem, says Paul Williams.

With the NHS on the brink of major reform and the increasing need for cost-effective use of resources and 'whole-team' delivery of improved healthcare, now is a good time to review inexpensive options for boosting staff motivation.

It is also worth considering if your own management style is helping or hindering.

Bear in mind that the most successful GP practices are those where all the staff members pull together to provide quality services for patients, rather than individuals/team members in the same job role working in isolation from the rest of the team.

Management styles
To tailor your management style to the practice's needs, you need to identify it first.

Management styles range from autocratic to a more laissez-faire (hands-off) approach, and various degrees in between (see below).

Management style

You are a forceful character who makes your staff work through intimidation and fear.

You are quite dictatorial, but make decisions based on what you see as in the staff's best interests.

You put everything to a vote and the majority rules.

You allow employees to mostly make their own decisions and manage their own areas of the practice.

An approach somewhere in the middle brings out the best in people. If you tend to 'rule by diktat' try to bring in a degree of democracy by letting employees feel that they are also participating in the decision-making process.

Allow staff space to decide on the best course of action for their own role and for the practice.

Democrats and laissez-faire managers: you should look at asserting yourself so that staff feel a little more secure in knowing that there is actually someone in charge.

You will get more out of your staff by putting in place systems where the decision-making process is managed systematically, rather than in an 'everyone for themselves' way.

Cost-effective staff incentives
One simple technique that works well (and costs very little) is for the practice to set up a 'team member of the month' scheme, to recognise an individual who has shown outstanding performance and effort.

It is important to announce the winner publicly. For example, you can do this by having an awards ceremony and putting up a photo of the winner's picture in a prominent place, such as the waiting area.

You can give the winner use of a parking slot close to the surgery entrance until the following month's winner is chosen. Or make a small gift of, say, a pen or an Amazon voucher.

Some practices allow patients to rate staff on their customer service, and this is a good motivator. At the end of a specific time-frame, you can make an award to the person with the highest score.

Remember that the most cost-effective way of learning what motivates your staff is to listen to them. Make time to show interest in individuals. Find out what they are passionate about in their lives and what their goals are.

Expanding staff members' roles
There are many ways to encourage staff members to take ownership of, and responsibility for, the work they do.

The best way is to set an example. If you show commitment and enthusiasm, then so will your staff. When an employee takes the initiative to solve a problem or has an idea to help in the success of the practice, let them know how much you appreciate their input. Consider rewarding them in ways that may be important to that individual. This could be additional holiday, a bonus payment or time off in lieu of overtime, for example.

Regular meetings to discuss any issues staff may be struggling with or to answer questions and concerns are good motivators. Use meetings to discuss productivity along with ideas to improve services.

In meetings be open about developments and changes in procedures: the more staff members know, the more likely they will be happy take on more responsibility.

Staff training and career development
A useful way to understand the team's training needs is to carry out training needs analysis.

This allows practices to gather information on the CPD needs of the whole team.

External companies can undertake this on your behalf or you can carry out an in-house version. As a next step, you could then consider whether consulting a training organisation specialising in primary care would be a good way to link training to making improvements to patient services delivery.

If you want to improve service quality and productivity at your practice, the single most effective thing you can do is improve staff morale and motivation. Fortunately, there are many ways to do this and the good news is that most external programmes/courses do not cost a lot of money.


These further action points may allow you to earn more credits by increasing the time spent and the impact achieved.

  • Think hard about your management style. Are you overbearing or too hands-off? Record your thoughts on your style and decide whether you need to change it.
  • Discuss incentives for staff with your partners. Ask staff which ones they prefer and implement them.
  • Do a training needs analysis and organise training for staff based on the results.

Save this article and add notes with your free online CPD organiser at gponline.com/cpd

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