16 Golden Rules for a Health Team

Make Your Health Team Happy

Many jobs rely on team’s working together successfully and in the larger organisations you’re unlikely to find success on your own. Building a great health team is the way the way to make sure that your Occupational Health business is successful.

Whether you’re just starting to recruit for a new team or if you are expanding your existing team.  Getting the right people and encouraging and keeping top talent is difficult. You want to find the best of the best – and find ways to help them thrive in your company.

I have interviewed and recruited many people in my efforts to build a great team – by telephone, by application and by the old-fashioned interview technique and although there are no guarantees of picking the right person with the right skill set, there are some general rules to follow which helped me get the right team member, making my job easier and happier too.

1.  Attract High Calibre People

There is a shortage of occupational health professionals and to attract the most talented it is important to have a clear framework and ethics to build a team in occupational health.  Be a thought leader. The more you can position yourself or your company as an authority in your industry, the more talent will naturally be attracted to work with you. Try to contribute to public consultations and work with industry leaders on new initiatives.  Run your own website and post regularly on current occupational health and safety issues.  Add value to the community by becoming more prominent, this will not only attract quality staff but also larger clients and potential contracts.

2.  Forget the Money… at First

Develop your health team with an inbuilt passion for your business in general. Money is extremely important, but when it’s the main thing on someone’s mind, it can be a distraction. It’s important for your employees to care about the success of your business, and if all they see are pound signs, their hearts may not be in it, plus if someone offers them more money they will have no compunction in moving on. 

3. Skills Required

Also what sort of skills will you need for your business plan?  List your own skill set and those where you think you may need more support or ability, such as, would it be better to work with a Human Resources specialist, a safety person, physiotherapist or another occupational health professional.  Consider the ongoing and overhead cost this will add to your business as you will need to earn enough money to pay them their salary (and yours) before making a profit – you could offer share options, flexible working or home working as an alternative to a higher salary; or what about a fancy job title in lieu of higher wages? Show me someone who is not interested in this and I will eat my hard hat.

Find out what the applicant might want. To help sort the applications try my template assessment matrix, click here

4.  Don’t Settle for Mediocre

I once held a recruitment days when 12 people were invited for a selection day and only three turned up! I had HR, Safety, lunches, rooms and tours planned – most had to be cancelled, It was both embarrassing and costly

The thing to remember is that this often happens, don’t panic and hire someone just because they are there.  It’s not fun to fire people, so don’t settle for the first so-so person you interview even if it does mean putting your project start date back a bit.

Hiring staff on this premise can lead to weaknesses within a health team from which you cannot easily escape, I can speak from experience here.

5.  Don’t be swayed by First Impressions:

Sometimes you can look at a person and see that they are ‘just what you need’ to work in your health team.  However, do not be fooled by this feeling brought on by unconscious influences.

Set out some interview questions to ask all applicants which should cover the main issues or interest to you.  Mark each answer out of 5 and add up the scores on the relevance of answer, depth of knowledge required and delivery of response.  Also make sure that the applicant gives examples of how they have dealt with a regular occurring issue in your workplace and ask searching follow-up questions.


Don’t be tempted to skew the results in favour of a candidate on one point only.

For some typical competency based interview questions click here

6.  Diversity Brings Innovation

There’s a reason diversity is a common topic among employers. To build a great team, you need diverse thinkers. A variety of races, ages, and sexes can help a team think outside the box and hit problems from many different angles. Plus, it makes your company a more interesting place to work.  It’s important to listen to all suggestions for improvement and to create an atmosphere that allows people to make suggestions without being judged by their team members.

7.  Manage Poor Performance Immediately

When building a great team it’s hard to keep a focus on a person and teams performance as well as doing your day job of running the company or section.  But the secret to success is to balance these two roles especially if you are in a service industry.  Health companies are judged not so much by overall performance but by keeping the workers happy, healthy and motivated.  Poor customer service can produce bad feeling which will quickly spread through the workforce as they discuss a nurse or doctors actions  over morning coffee or in the board room.

If you find that the new recruit is not performing as they should be, arrange a meeting and try to figure out why this is happening.  Offer support to help them do better and suggest a time frame for improvement. If this doesn’t happen, help the failing team member to move on to a more suitable business.

8.  Trust and Delegation is Crucial

Trusting your workers is an acquired skill and how you build your team can reflect where you are with that.  A highly intelligent and a hard worker will thrive if left to get on with a project, but if you can’t trust that person to do the job without checking on them or letting them do things their way, chances are they will get frustrated and move on.  Your daily operations could take a big hit if you keep employees you can’t trust.  Is the problem with the person or with yourself?  Checking on work done wastes eveyone’s time and best avoided by letting go a little.

9.  Personal Lives are Important

Understand and acknowledge that your team members have personal lives outside of work. It’s easy to take small steps to celebrate birthdays, weddings, or other significant moments in workers personal lives. If you see an opportunity to help a team member outside of work, it pays to take it. It helps build loyalty with your employees, and they tend to pay it forward with other team members.

10.  Maintain Systematic Processes

A flow chart presented in the form of a circular continuos proagramme
Reflection Cycle

If any of your processes continually fail, for example, you keep missing out on pitches to customers or key performance indicators are not being met; use the reflection model to consider what you or the team could have done better.  Once you’ve achieved success in a certain area, create a process that mimics that success over and over. Checklists can increase the effectiveness – and success – of a team or a process.

Always listen to the feedback from your team – don’t just agree that it always happens, push for suggestions on how to improve things.

11.  Be Friends with your Health Team Members

In most companies, you’ll spend more time with your team members than with your family. Being friends and getting along not only increases performance, it also leads to a great work environment. As long as you keep a goal-oriented focus and hold people accountable, you shouldn’t be scared of a health team that’s made up of your friends.

Do not be afraid to offer constructive criticism when things go wrong, prefacing any negative comment with a positive observation eg I really liked the way you spoke to that customer on the phone today but noticed you said we couldn’t help them further – maybe we could think of an alternative way of dealing with that – can we discuss a different approach? May be we are missing an opportunity here.

12.  Play to People’s Strengths

Find out what your employees are great at, but don’t forget about their weaknesses. Each team member should be spending time doing what he or she does best, but you should recognize weaknesses and help your employees improve. Don’t miss out on creating an all-around superstar employee just because they excel in one area.

13.  Reward Great Work

We all like being appreciated and this doesn’t necessarily mean having a prize or a bonus.  Sometimes it’s just a personal thank you on the phone or an email.  But don’t do this merely as a tactic for motivation.  Employees will pick up if you are just going through the motions and don’t really mean what you say.  To guard against this make sure that when saying thank you pick out why the work was good – give a reason for the thank you or the reward.  What did it mean to you or the business, did it create an opportunity, contribute to the team or something else?  Team members will quickly understand that you are aware of what they did and that you are acknowledging their contribution.Even small efforts can make your employees feel appreciated and inspire them to do even more.

14.  Great Teams know the Rules

The more time and energy you invest in training your first five team members, the less time you will have to spend training those joining after. Make a point of setting aside time with each member to support him or her so everyone shows that same support to new employees as your company grows

Put all team members on the same induction programme and check the competency of each team member by auditing or observing practice until you or your new team member is satisfied with the rules.


The front cover of Jane Coombs e-book How to Start a Healthy Business: An Insiders Guide to Occupational Health Success
How to Start a Healthy Business: An Insiders Guide to Occupational Health Success

Know your Health Team

Recognise undercurrents and performance issues in your team.  One bad team member can spoil a whole team’s ambience and this usually happens slowly but surely. 

Things to look for are changes in communications or dysfunctional behaviours that affect others.  If this is not dealt with effectively your strong cohesive team can quickly deteriorate and lose the flexibility it once had.

Also stamp out gossip, sarcasm, bullying, swearing, sexism and negativity.  It’s easy to fall into the habit of talking negatively about staff in conversation; this gossip and tittle-tattle often forms the backdrop for an uncomfortable and non supportive culture in an organisation, which then takes over and become the norm. 

Always treat people and their situations with respect whilst in the workplace and nip any ‘bad’ talk in the bud immediately, otherwise this become the norm and spill over into the dealings with your clients and customers.

16.  Support your Health Team

Health professionals support people who are experiencing health issues,

so it makes sense and is ethical that you support your team when they experience health problems themselves or struggling with domestic issues. 

Treat workers with respect and be courteous by always adding a personal comment to preface an email or a telephone conversation.  This type of regard builds respect and loyalty to your health team members and passes on to other team members and clients.

Play the role of the health team leader even if you are having a bad day yourself.  Do not be moody or self-absorbed as it makes your team nervous and suspicious of your intentions, they may also be wary of approaching you for advice or to report a potential problem or solution to a problem. 

Sometime you may forget the rules of your business and behave badly.  Don’t think you have got away with it.  Your health team will be watching your every move to make sure that your behaviour is consistent with your spoken values.  It’s OK to say sorry, I was having a bad day.  But they will be watching to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

For more tips on being successful in occupational health buy my e-book ‘How to Start a Healthy Business: An Insiders Guide to Occupational Health Success’ from Amazon here. 

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