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    Daniel Williams
    Daniel Williams, MBA, MSEM

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    Building employee engagement is critical to the long-term success of any healthcare business. Amy Lafko, MSPT, MBA, founder of Cairn Consulting Solutions, is an expert on creating a people-first workplace to help improve collaboration and produce better professional outcomes, and one of the keynote speakers during the 2022 Medical Practice Excellence: Pathways Conference DX.
    Some highlights from Lafko’s recent appearance on the MGMA Insights podcast:

    MGMA: Give us an overview of the “people-first” philosophy.

    Lafko: “People first” is a proven method when it comes to exceptional healthcare practices (and) exceptional business. Oftentimes, we either focus on the leadership skills or we focus on ways to make the practice run more smoothly. What I want to do is help people recognize that there are strategies and processes that they can put in place to demonstrate that they’re putting people first from an organizational design.
    I’ve seen people with great leadership skills, but they say:

    • “The way that our organization runs, we don’t have regularly scheduled meetings.”
    • “Our performance reviews are basically for questions and not helpful in any way.”
    • “We don’t have professional development plans for our team members.”
    • “We have generic job descriptions.”

    I want to give people the tools to be able to create an environment that is pushing forward the idea of people first.

    MGMA: You’ve mentioned that achieving a people-first workplace begins with an open dialogue, asking people, “What do you need? How can we create it together?” What do practice leaders need to make that happen?

    Lafko: People want that level of empowerment. There’s this misconception … we use the word “retain,” which really means we chain people to work through money. I don’t want to be that type of team member. What it comes down to is a conversation: What matters to you, and how can we help achieve it? Here’s what matters to me, and here’s what we need from you in order to achieve it. I think sometimes people are afraid to have the conversation. When I talk about “people first,” it’s always this idea that it’s about what you think, and what your intentions are as an organization.

    MGMA: The workplace is in a dynamic situation right now.

    Lafko: The reality in healthcare [is] we can’t pay as well as Target, where checkout people are making $24 an hour. We have to tap into something deeper for people. We need to thank and appreciate the people who are sticking with us and have stuck with us through a lot. I had one client say, “listen, we need this person in marketing to stay in the practice, and she wants to leave, so we’re going to just throw a bunch of money at her.” That’s not a motivator. She wants to be part of a team that’s on a mission.
    It used to be that everybody that went to healthcare did it purely because they wanted to help others. There’s a lot more than that now — an awful lot of things pulling us away from actual care of patients. If the only motivator is to care for patients and that’s not where you can spend your time, you’ve got to figure out what else is going to keep that team member really engaged in the work.

    MGMA: How do you build the trust to empower them where they fell like they can speak up?

    Lafko: The most important piece is for the leaders to be honest as well. If something’s not going well, they need to be able to share that. The way that you create real dialogue around that is by making sure you have the same common goal.
    — Episode recap by Andy Stonehouse, MA, freelance writer/editor
    This episode is sponsored by:

    • Scrubin — Let Scrubin Uniforms build you a free private uniform web store where you control what your team can buy. All of your favorite scrub, lab coat, outerwear and corporate apparel brands at exclusive MGMA Member discounts. Go to to learn more.

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    The MGMA Insights podcast is produced by Daniel Williams, Rob Ketcham and Decklan McGee. 

    Daniel Williams

    Written By

    Daniel Williams, MBA, MSEM

    Daniel provides strategic content planning and development to engage healthcare professionals, managers and executives through e-newsletters, webinars, online events, books, podcasts and conferences. His major emphasis is in developing and curating relevant content in healthcare leadership and innovation that informs, educates and inspires the MGMA audience. You can reach Daniel at or 877.275.6462 x1298.

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