Updated: Mar 14
During a meeting once, when I was trying to pitch an incentive program for my Operations Team, the response I received from my leader was that incentives are for the people “who keep the lights on” referring to the Producers in the organization. I was taken aback by this comment because as an Ops person myself, I will tell you there are no lights to keep on without the work that is done in the back office!
I see this so much in the staffing industry. There is a considerable focus on the “money makers” also known as Recruiters, Account Managers, Client Services Team, etc. Now don’t get me wrong, I love my Production partners and there is no doubt that their roles are a key part of the success of any organization and without the relationships they create and maintain with clients, there is no business! However, those “revenue generating” positions already come with built in incentives to increase production, which is an inherent part of any sales position, but what about everyone else on the team?
In staffing, it is not enough to land the client or the candidate. There is significant work required to keep them both and success is a result of the efforts between the Producers and members of the Operations Team: Payroll, Human Resources, Credentialing, Housing, etc.
Specific to Healthcare Staffing, clients have several agencies fighting for a chance to work with them. Likewise, candidates have several options and can opt to work with any agency they want. This creates a highly competitive environment which leave little room for staffing agency delays and mistakes. After an agency lands a client and scores the job for their candidate, there are several deadlines, requirements, and expectations that must be met within a certain timeframe or the whole deal can fall apart. That’s where our friends in Operations come in!
The Operations Team consists of the folks who grab the baton from the Recruiters and Account Managers and run the last leg of the race to ensure the client, state, and candidate expectations are met so the candidate starts on time. When a candidate successfully starts a travel assignment, Producers receive their bonuses, and the organization receives recognition but what’s in it for the Operations Team? The question I consistently get from the employees of my client is, where are the incentives for the team who helps you cross the finish line?
This is a discussion that many organizational leaders are having especially now during the Great Resignation. What can be done to keep employees who are not in direct production roles that have built in bonus plans? How do we hold on to high performers in roles that may not necessarily be driven by numbers? Here are suggestions based on my firsthand experiences and feedback I get from employees every day:
Make It Easier: Toss the spreadsheets and invest in systems that will support your processes. Focus on being efficient. Commit to reducing or eliminating redundancies. The biggest frustration that I consistently hear from employees, is that they are expected to accomplish a lot while still doing things manually, with dated systems and little resources. Making it easier for your team to do their work will be a HUGE win for all involved.
Performance Metrics: Create and communicate performance goals for each team that focus not only on “the numbers” but quality. Your Operations folks are quality driven, they like the details, they want to know specifically how they are performing. They also like to win! Be clear about expectations. Celebrate when they are met or exceeded. Coach when they are not.
Recognition Programs: Please get rid of the “awards” that your team cannot stand but are too afraid to tell you. You know the ones I’m talking about; “Perfect Attendance”, “Employee of the Week”, etc. Instead, create programs that support your performance metrics and promote a collaborative yet competitive environment. Reward your team members when they meet their goals. Reward positive behaviors. Be clear on how one can receive these rewards. Make the team part of the program creation to ensure you understand what incentivizes them.
Empower Them: Operations people are the “nitty gritty” folks. They are the ones you can count on to find errors and fix things behind the scenes, so empower them to make independent decisions. Show that you trust them by allowing them to weigh in on big decisions. Ask their opinion and FOLLOW THROUGH on your commitments to them.
Invest In Them: Prioritize individual career goals. Create career pathing plans that present growth options for your team. Send them to educational conferences, create leadership development programs for future leaders, pay for additional certifications and most importantly, align them with a mentor.
Bonuses, (notice this is last on the list)- Yes, everyone wants more money, but studies show that more money can only keep high performers temporarily. If you choose to create a bonus plan it should be based on your performance metrics and it MUST be accompanied by one or more of the other things on this list.
If you’ve gotten this far in this article, I suspect you are struggling to hold on to your high performing Operations people. You are not the only one trying to figure this out. Commit to focusing on at least one of these suggestions and most importantly remember that all employees simply want to feel appreciated, feel like they matter, and feel like they are important to you. If you need support implementing any of these, please message me, I am happy to help!