When words don’t match reality
In this brief article, we take note of how we describe ourselves and what that can install in us and others.
If I received a pound every time an admin staff member introduces themselves in a professional space as “just”, or “only” admin… I’d be rich.
This statement goes hand in hand with other use of language in teams, where I sometimes hear leaders try to show their thought of the whole team with phrases such as, “I want everyone to feel involved, from the team lead down to admin”. The word down immediately suggesting the rank of members, and perhaps their importance to.
Let’s be clear, admin are perhaps one of the most crucial parts of any public facing team. They represent the gateway and provide the public with its first taste of the culture of the team, along with setting them on their journey through the service — and setting the tone of that journey and the relationship with the team thereafter.
“…they can earn more at LIDLs”
Admin staff are seen as lesser skilled and low cost, in most organisations. This is particularly the case in GP practices, where I often hear the pain of staff retention described through the statement,
“they can earn more at LIDLs and so it is difficult to retain them when the job isn’t easy”.
Let’s take that statement apart a little.
Firstly it suggests that all people are motivated solely by pay and that the values of public service may not be there for admin staff in clinical settings.
Secondly, we have to wonder why LIDLs pay more — does this reflect the value of their staff in their eyes as a company… or the recognition that you have to compete to get engagement and skill?
Lastly, the job is not considered easy, this being pointed to for the reason admin staff leave.
As a previous NHS employee, for over 2 decades, I know the value of supporting patients — as a professional. My years of supporting practices and admin, reveals that they rarely feel like professionals, rather feeling like they are replaceable. This lack of a professional identity — pride in being admin — is missing for most. It is needed and it starts with seeing admin as critical to patient care, not “just admin” but precious, important and key admin people… and skills.
All professionals are skilled and developed in their roles — both with the core skills needed and their preferred specialisms. Admin staff need the same support. Core skill development in resilience, team work, patient communication skills — the key skills of their role. And this ties to pay, because if we recognise that managing conversations in clinical settings is more complex than scanning items in LIDLs, perhaps we need to match the pay to the skillset required. When we see the value of people, we should feel inclined to reward it and this includes creating development opportunities for admin staff.
The practices we see retaining their admin team and seeing positive patient reviews, do all of this well.
To admin staff yourselves, feel pride in the professional role you deliver as care navigators and patient support — every time you meet a patient. You are clinical admin professionals, and I’d advise you use such a title and feel it. Drop the words only and just as pronouns, they don’t help you or others to see your importance.
Realise this, every staff member in every clinical setting is reliant on reception staff to direct who to what they need — and their job is made easier when you are better at yours.
We’ve created a training course to help set you up to engage with the role identity, skills and resilience that is needed in this professional role here.
Suggest it to your manager if it inspires your interest, or be sure to complete it if already commissioned for you!