Getting employees to act with purpose, dedication, attention to detail and a high standard of service is the biggest challenge to running an optometry clinic. I hear it repeatedly consulting with optometry clinics across North America about their employee engagement and recalling strategies. I also experienced it as a clinic employee for over 17 years.

Data reinforces this challenge. According to employee engagement analysis by Gallup, the top quarter of businesses outperform those in the bottom quarter by 10 percent in customer loyalty, 20 percent in productivity and 21 percent in profitability, all due to engagement. Research by Ere Media also found that replacing an entry-level employee costs 30-50 percent of that employee’s salary. That jumps to 150 percent for mid-level employees. Overall, $11 billion is lost annually due to employee turnover across the U.S.

That’s a lot of numbers, and the impact can be hard to understand. So, I created a workshop to help optometry staff develop ideas and foster intrapreneurial initiative —entrepreneurship within a company — to positively influence their clinic, and to experience more career satisfaction as a result. Conducting this workshop at conferences and clinics, I’ve heard a lot from staff about what their employers could do better. Based on that feedback, here are three simple steps to increase employee engagement at your clinic:

Inspire your team with a clear vision.

It’s inspiration, not motivation, that ultimately rallies the troops. While it seems simple, identifying your vision and repeatedly communicating it to your team helps everyone have a sense of purpose when executing their respective roles.

Your vision or mission statement should be short, concise and answer why it is you do what you do. Referring to it regularly in meetings, placing it on your website, and ensuring your whole team feels part of your vision are all ways to help motivate your team through inspiration.

Set compelling and concrete goals that benefit everyone.

Your goals may involve increasing the number of new patients you reach, growing your eyewear sales or reducing unbooked appointments. While your staff will determine whether or not the clinic achieves its goals, it’s you, the business owner, who stands to benefit financially from attaining them. Be sure to implement a system that acknowledges your employees’ dedication to accomplishing these goals.

Starting a conversation with your employees about how they would like to be part of the clinic’s success is a good way to engage staff — it promotes inclusion over the imposition of a system they may not be on board with. After setting a budget and any necessary parameters, put it to staff to choose how they would like to celebrate when the entire team meets its monthly or quarterly target. Using a social or team-building activity as a reward for achieving a goal provides an extra opportunity for engagement.

Show your people that you care. 

This is by far the most important of the three steps, and it does not have to be a big endeavour. In fact, Gallup data found that private recognition from the boss, increased responsibilities, and positive evaluations or reviews are among the most memorable forms of recognition.

If you don’t know where to start, try engaging in a few minutes of one-on-one conversation with an employee, giving them a thoughtful card where you acknowledge their unique contributions or even asking their opinion about something relevant to their role.

Employee engagement is critical to the success of your clinic, and making improvements doesn’t have to be complicated. Get the ball rolling by taking small steps to increase your communication with your staff.


Pauline Blachford consults with optometrists across North America on how to reduce un-booked appointments, increase eyewear sales, and improve employee engagement and productivity. She writes regularly for the Canadian Journal of Optometry and is a frequent speaker at industry conferences and events. For more information, visit paulineblachford.com.

This article originally appeared in the January 2017 edition of INVISION.



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