Managing staff can be extremely rewarding and it can also be extremely difficult! Getting the right balance can be challenging because everyone is different in their views, ideas, and expectations. There are lots of ways that you can improve management of people in your workplace, and three of those include understanding what people’s needs are, good delegation, and creating systems that allow for consistency and routine.

Let’s explore these three areas:

Understanding what employees want

Managing staff is not the easiest thing I have tackled in my career. I was trained as a clinician, and definitely not trained in managing staff. Before I started any recruitment, I took myself off to study HR management to ensure I was more likely to get it right, and 7 years on from recruiting my first staff member I feel like finally I am confident that I am going okay! It is one thing to get the right staff in the first place, but it is another to keep staff happy and motivated so they are working towards the goals of your service. We often have expectations from our staff on how well they perform, but they also have expectations from us as managers and supervisors that we can forget.

So what do employees want?

There are 11 important things that employees reasonably expect of their supervisors:

1. Want to know “what is my job”

2. Want your respect, support and guidance

3. Want to know that you will deal with problem employees to create a fair workplace

4. Want you to train them so they feel confident

5. Want access to information that allows them to complete their job well

6. What to know the answer to the question “whom do I report to?”

7. Employees want to know how they are doing in their performance

8. Want to know the rewards for top performance

9. Want to be part of a winning team, with a confident boss

10. Want to know where their workplace is going and the plans for the future

11. Want their employers to recognise that they have a life outside of work

If you pay attention to these 11 things employees want in a job, you will have a real opportunity to create a team of inspired and highly engaged employees.


It is hard in any workplace to try to do everything yourself! That is often when we need a team around us – to get things completed and working well. The way we go about communicating the requirements of tasks we want people to do can make a big impact on how people feel about you as a leader, or about the task itself.

“Don’t buy a dog and bark yourself” – this was the heading of a chapter in the book The Rule Breaker’s Book of Business by Roger Mavity. I loved Roger’s take on the art of delegation. It is often assumed, like many other business skills, that as we enter private practice and we start to grow, or if we manage a service and have a team around us, that we automatically possess the skills to delegate tasks to other people. I am not great at delegation, and will be the first to put my hand up about that… something about being a perfectionist I think! How do we work out if we need to delegate?

What is important in the art of delegation firstly is understanding where your value sits in the practice/business. Ask yourself are your skills being utilised well? Are your team members skills being utilised? When delegating to your team, three important things to consider is that you don’t overload your employees all at once, you ensure they have the skills to do the task (or help them acquire them) and that they understand what is required and how it contributes to the organisation or practice.

Creating systems

How else can we ensure we are well equipped to effectively manage people? A policy and procedure manual is a really important tool. There are so many benefits going forward if you have a well constructed manual that guides the expectations of your team’s performance. If you haven’t developed one, have a half finished manual, or have an old one that might be out of date, here are some tips to get you back in the game.

But wait, let’s first think about the words “policies” and “procedures” and what they actually mean. A policy is a guiding principle by which your practice is based on. Procedures are the details, within the policy, that step out how the service will be provided, or the qualities of your practice will be achieved. For example, instructions for using a practice owned vehicle, instructions for remaining safe on a home visit, or guidelines for what staff need to do if they fall sick and are unable to come to work. Procedures can be in the form of flowcharts, checklists and written steps of the process.

To run a successful practice you need to manage the quality of your service, and the productivity in your practice – that is how well your staff function to complete their work. When you are thinking about the policies and procedures you need, start off by asking yourself what you feel are the backbones or areas of quality in your practice. There will be some areas that are common between practices, such as code of conduct, confidentiality, and leave requirements for staff. There will also be policies that will reflect the unique nature of your individual dietetic service. These might be areas such as conducting a home visit, or developing a procedure for billing external funding parties.

Okay, as with all aspects in business, my first tip is to plan. Before you launch in, it is important to plan what you are about to do. Asking yourself these questions can help focus your attention on what is needed as a priority:

• Which procedures match your organisation or practice goals and mission?

• Who is going to be responsible for getting things completed and how can you involve them in the planning stages of writing the procedures?

• Do those people involved have the skills and resources to complete their tasks well? If not, how can you structure this into your policy and procedure roll out?

My second tip is to ensure consultation underpins all phases of your policies and procedures cycle. There are many ways that you can start to share the information about your policies and procedures to your team, which will help encourage their engagement, and contribute to a consultative process. Here are some strategies that you might consider

Downward communication methods (disseminating information to staff):

• Electronic communication – Internet, intranet, email

• Direct personal contact between management and staff to communicate instructions

• Employee orientation materials and program

• Employee handbook distributed to all staff

• Noticeboards for posting schedules, written announcements, and general information

• Employee newsletters or weekly memos

• Letters written to staff

• Inserts with payslips

• Audiovisual media such as videos, slides, photos

Upward communication methods (promoting feedback from staff):

• Electronic communication (internet, intranet and email)

• Staff surveys

• Open discussions in group meetings

• Forming of committee to work on policies and procedures

• Training programs

• Business development days

• Weekly practice meetings

Ensure your policies and procedures are sustainable – that you have a clear plan of how they will be managed long term. They are of no use if people cannot find them, they are outdated, and if you are not around, people do not know they exist.

Providing education on what you expect from your team, how they can contribute and being mindful that they often do not just want more money, will set you well on your way to good people management. Keep communication lines open. Ensure your team know the vision – where are you headed – as most likely if you involve them they will want to be on the journey with you.

Happy managing!

Amy Geach graduated from the University of Sydney in occupational therapy in 2000, and completed her Masters in Clinical Science (Hand and Upper Limb Therapy) in 2007 from Curtin University in Perth. Since then, she has worked in the field of hand therapy at RPA Hospital and Sydney Hospital. More recently, for the last 10 years, she has owned and operated private practices providing hand therapy and paediatric therapy. Amy is very passionate about ongoing professional development for therapists and delivering support and education for private practice owners. She developed this passion into a new arm of her business, founding Maida Learning in 2013 to provide business education specifically for allied health professionals. Amy is currently researching marketing abilities and attitudes of hand therapists, and is completing her MBA.

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