We rarely hear the argument that high unemployment (or a weak economy) is good for your practice’s bottom line. After all, reason suggests that if your patients don’t have a job, they will likely either avoid coming to your practice entirely or be especially thrifty when they do. But have you considered how unemployment affects your current staff and how that, in turn, impacts your practice?

The rate of unemployment is improving, but at a snail’s pace. Updates about the status of our economy still headline the daily news, and the lingering impact remains at the forefront of our minds. Regardless of whether your staffing situation is good, bad or neutral, the constant reminder of the large number of unemployed in our country can be a help or hindrance to your practice. Let’s look at both sides of the equation.

The Positives
High unemployment rates can mean, at least theoretically, that more people are out of work and looking for jobs. If your current satisfaction with your staff is less than ideal, now might be a good time to try to improve your team. With more people in the job applicant pool, you should have more qualified candidates and increased opportunities to find the best fit for your practice. Be selective and take your time ensuring your next hire is a great fit.

Some positions we need to fill require highly skilled employees, but I would suggest that you focus on filling the vacancies that do not require specialization. Keep in mind that someone who has been out of work for a while may accept lower pay and/or a lesser skilled job. When the economy turns or they find a better-suited position, there’s a chance they will move on. However, because nobody can predict such timelines or other extenuating factors, I’d consider that a risk worth taking.

The Negatives
On the other side of the equation, if a current employee is not happy with his or her position, they might hesitate to leave for fear of not finding another job. Someone who isn’t enthusiastic about their position, or is perhaps burned out due to a hectic schedule, is a drain on your practice’s productivity and profits.

On a related note, it’s typical for marginally happy staff members to begin looking around for other opportunities while working for you. This may lead to subpar job performance. While personal web surfing on the clock should never be permitted, if you do see this happening, be on the lookout for an unhappy employee and be prepared to replace him or her as needed.

Remember that staff training should be routine, regardless of the economy and unemployment numbers. A well-trained staff increases employee loyalty to your practice and reduces subpar performance that may lead you to turnover.

Note: Staff members frequently report that they left a practice because they were never properly trained and, as a result, the expectations of the owner were never clearly communicated.

While high unemployment rates certainly aren’t something to celebrate, there is a silver lining. From a patient-spending perspective, high unemployment may be bad for your practice’s finances. But use this opportunity to strengthen your team and even this economy can be a boon to your practice.