Two burning questions should be on the mind of every practice owner and manager. The first: Are my employees engaged? The second: How can I better engage them?

Gallup found that 70 percent of employees are either “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” at work. This affects morale, productivity and customer service, and can ultimately impact quality of care.

Fortunately, research indicates that it doesn’t require extensive capital investment or time to boost employee engagement. I’ve heard this from employees in the polling I do for my optometry employee development workshops.

Most staff members aren’t primarily in their roles for financial reasons. I ask conference participants why they work where they do and each time, “exposure to a variety of roles” is the most cited reason. This rang true for 48 percent of the more than five dozen employees who responded in Nova Scotia. It was the top pick by a 21-point margin.

My workshop encourages employees to seek opportunities in their current roles that allow for greater personal fulfillment and professional development, while generating increased value for the overall practice.

 This goal overlap produces results. According to Blessing White’s 2017 Employee Engagement Report, in organizations with the highest levels of engagement, 88 percent of employees agree their work is more than just a job. It also found that engaged employees stay for what they’re able to give, while disengaged employees stay simply for what they get ... compensation.

I’ve heard dozens of business-savvy ideas from staffs about how their practice could be improved. These include: engaging patients during their wait times, giving the waiting room a fresh coat of paint, setting up social media accounts, implementing regular staff meetings, and emailing patients their appointment reminders.

In many cases, these ideas can impact efficiency, enhance customer service, and bring in new patients. When attendees leave my workshop, they’re empowered to bring these ideas back and initiate them.

To ensure this motivation carries through to action, ODs should consider two things:

First, does your practice create opportunities for new ideas to be shared? It will be difficult to harness the insights of your team without meetings or a culture of sharing. Second, is your staff incentivized to contribute ideas? Is it clear that bringing forward a new revenue-generating idea will result in a reward? Do they know they will be recognized, encouraged and thanked for their ideas?

Undeniably, financial compensation drives motivation, but my research also shows optometry employees crave “more stimulation and personal satisfaction.” Nearly a third of my workshop respondents in Regina, SK, listed the latter as their top choice for what they want more of in their role.

A raise won’t necessarily drive productivity. But an incentive program that encourages teamwork and the pursuit of excellence — like a bonus for each exam booked beyond a quota — can couple financial compensation with business results in a stimulating way.

 Engagement can begin with something as straightforward as seeking employees’ views on customer service or software. Employees want to engage. All optometrists need to do is ensure their practice’s environment is ripe for engagement.

PAULINE BLACHFORD consults with optometrists on reducing un-booked appointments, increasing sales, and improving staff engagement and productivity. She writes for the Canadian Journal of Optometry and speaks at industry conferences and events. Visit paulineblachford.com.


This article originally appeared in the November-December 2017 edition of INVISION

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