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Rebecca Johnson

Rebecca Johnson: The Art of Smart Hiring

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Management advice from Rebecca Johnson

Update job descriptions, interview questions
before posting your next ‘help wanted’ ad

This article originally appeared in the September 2015 edition of INVISION.


In the eyecare business, the word “turnover” can be either positive or negative. Frame turnover is good! Staff turnover? Not so much. More than 20 percent of practices lose staff each year. When it happens, productivity, team morale and revenue can all decline. Finding a good fit is not easy … and releasing someone who is not a good fit can be gut wrenching. Over the next three issues, let’s look at better ways to hire, retain and release employees.

When a long-term staff member resigns, we tend to panic. Our impulse is to immediately begin looking for a replacement for that exact position. This can cause regrets. The next time you lose an employee, take time to define (or redefine) the position. List all the tasks the employee did, and don’t assume these duties matched the position’s job description. For example, your departing team member may have taken on the responsibility of maintaining your Facebook feed or watering the plants. Do these things belong in the new job description? Are they tasks another current employee would enjoy doing?

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Once you update the job description, it is time to meet your future employee. The first challenge in the process is carving out time to conduct the interviews. Telephone interviews can save time by helping you make a quick, first impression before you set a formal interview appointment. Call the applicant and thank him for applying. Ask about his interest in the job, and you’ll get a better idea whether the applicant is “just fishing” or if he has a true interest in working in an eyecare business. You can also get a sense for the applicant’s language use and professionalism — and whether you’re interested enough to schedule an in-person interview.

The interview is an information exchange between you and the candidate. You tell the candidate about the company and the position; the candidate tells you about himself or herself. Both of you have decisions to make, so providing honest information will allow each side to make the best decision.

Think out your questions ahead of time. Posing the same questions to each applicant allows you to compare answers “apples to apples.” Two good questions for discovering applicants’ specific characteristics are: “In what area do you feel you have a natural talent?” and “What motivates you?”

People thrive in job positions that allow development of their natural talents, and a motivated employee will work hard and remain loyal to your practice. On the flip side, if a person’s answers don’t mesh with the position, it’s best to keep looking. For example, someone who is strongly motivated by money and the desire to win may not be the best choice for an optician if you pay a straight salary instead of base pay plus commissions.

Of course, salary can be a sensitive issue no matter what your compensation program. Ask questions such as: “What salary do you expect to make in this position?” “What do you base that figure on?” “How do you think your compensation should be determined?” “What non-cash aspects of compensation are important to you?”

If you’re still interested after the in-person interview, invite the candidate back for a second “working” interview. Pay the candidate to come in for a half-day to interact with your other team members. Skill testing should also be part of this second interview. For instance, you might ask a prospective back-office technician to perform and document a comprehensive history on a “pretend patient” — or, if the candidate does not have previous experience, you can teach her how to do an autorefraction to gauge her potential.

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Ask your existing staff their opinions, too. Allowing your staff to participate in the interview process demonstrates your desire for teamwork. That’s a key part of retaining good employees, which is what we’ll discuss next issue.


REBECCA JOHNSON is a 30-year veteran in the eyecare business. She is the executive director of Business Consultative Services for GPN and owner of EyeTrain4You, an ophthalmic staff training and development company. Contact her at rebecca@gatewaypn.com.

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Rebecca Johnson

Here’s Proof That Knowledge Does Not Equal Understanding

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There is a Youtube video called “The Backwards Brain Bicycle” (invmag.us/01173) that demonstrates what happens when you mechanically change one thing on a bicycle — on this bike when you turn the handlebars left, the wheel turns right and vice versa. It sounds like a simple change. Knowing that the wheel turns the opposite way means all you need to do is turn the wheel the opposite direction from the way that you want to go, right? Wrong! As you will see, once your brain is wired one way, it is very hard to change it. Knowledge does not equal understanding.

What can a business owner or manager learn from this? Just because you tell your staff to do something differently (knowledge) does not mean that they will easily make the change (understanding). For example, you decide to go “all in” with sunwear sales. You order product and create a Sun Center. You hold a staff meeting to discuss the role of each person in supporting sunwear sales. The receptionist will ask every patient to bring in all of their eyewear, including sunglasses. The technician will discuss the importance of protecting against UV rays during pretesting. The contact lens tech will put sunglasses on every patient and walk them to a window to demonstrate the need for them with contact lenses. The optician will show the patient a polarized lenses demo and pick at least two sunglass options for them to try. At the end of this meeting, you assume, after sharing this knowledge with your team, they’ll immediately adapt and you’ll see a great return on your investment. The next month, you see a slight increase in sales, only to return  to square one in month two. Does this sound familiar?

Think about the bicycle experiment. It took eight months of daily practice to rewire an engineer’s brain. Even once he’d adapted to it, any disturbance, like a cell phone ringing, threw his brain off track again. Knowing this phenomenon, a smart business owner would create a complete, long-term strategy around the change that includes multiple sessions of role-playing, discussion and rewards. He’d bring in outside training, like frame reps, on a regular basis as a confidence builder for staff. He’d also be sure to place total focus on the change before moving onto something else. For instance, implementing new software at the same time he’s trying to build sunwear sales would be counterproductive.

I also found it interesting how quickly his son learned to ride the backward bicycle. I believe this shows that the longer someone has been doing something one way, the more difficult it is for the brain to rewire to an alternative method. This is particularly important for ECPs to remember when presenting change to a long-term employee.


Rebecca Johnson is a motivational ophthalmic staff trainer, a nationally recognized speaker and author, and director of training for Eyefinity. Her honors include the AOA Paraoptometric Special Service Award and VisionMonday’s “Most Influential Women.” Contact her at rebecca.johnson@eyefinity.com

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Nip Staff Negativity in the Bud With These Positive Solutions

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Nothing kills staff morale more quickly than unaddressed problems. Interpersonal quarrels, performance issues and hostilities between departments will have a negative impact on employee motivation and enthusiasm. Thinking that the problem will go away on its own is as counterproductive as putting spoiled milk back into the refrigerator. Negativity is contagious, and the only way to keep it from spreading is to deal with it immediately. Additionally, ignoring a problem quickly leads to lost respect for the leader, resulting in ineffective leadership.

The best way to control negativity is to keep it from rearing its ugly head in the first place. Below are a few tips that will preserve positivity in the workplace.

  • Be fair.
  • Be consistent.
  • Meet with each staff member on a regular basis.
  • Act quickly to nip negativity at the bud.
  • Recognize accomplishments.
  • Provide strategic framework, i.e. team vision and mission.

Let’s take a look at a three examples of situations that can quickly become toxic to staff morale:

  • The biller told the optician that she is tired of fixing his mistakes and that he needs to do a better job getting the right information in the computer. The optician is very offended as he believes that he rarely makes a mistake and the biller is making too much of an issue of it when he does. 
  • One technician is convinced that she does the majority of pretesting because the other technician spends too much time chatting with the patient.
  • The front desk staff feels that the technicians should help more with answering the phone. The technicians complain that the front desk staff takes too long to get the chart ready, which creates bottlenecks in the back office patient flow.

Now, let’s discuss solutions:

  • Schedule a sit-down meeting with the optician, biller and yourself, stating the purpose of the meeting is to determine what each person can do to assist the other in making their job easier. During the meeting, allow the two individuals to come to an agreement with as little involvement from you as possible. 
  • Get the facts first. If the chatty technician is creating extra workload, have a discussion with her. Compliment her on wanting to be friendly with the patients, but explain that lengthy conversations keep patients waiting longer than they should. Show her that you value her ability to be friendly and sociable by asking her greet patients at the door during the next trunk show or other event.
  • Give each group a chance to view the other job from a different perspective. Make time for each front desk member to spend the day following a technician and let each technician spend a day at the front desk.

REBECCA JOHNSON is a motivational ophthalmic staff trainer, a nationally recognized speaker and author, and director of training for Eyefinity. Her honors include the AOA Paraoptometric Special Service Award and VisionMonday’s “Most Influential Women.” Contact her at rebecca.johnson@eyefinity.com

This article originally appeared in the November 2016 edition of INVISION.

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Rebecca Johnson

Is Your Practice Moving Forward … Or Stuck in the Status Quo?

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I love the story about the little boy who fell out of bed in the the night. Hearing his screams, the mother ran in and asked, “What happened?” Through tears the little guy replied, “I guess I stayed too close to where I got in.”

I liken the little’s boy’s answer to something that many optometrists tend to do: stay too close to where they got in. In other words, status quo and business as usual becomes a safe spot to hang out in. Yes, change is difficult; however, change must happen for a practice to keep from becoming irrelevant.

Let’s try a quiz to determine if you are staying too close to where you got in.

1. When was the last time you remodeled all or a part of your practice?
  • a. Within the last year (3 points)
  • b. Between two and four years (2 points)
  • c. Over four years (1 point)
  • d. I love my mauve and blue décor and silk flowers from the ’90s! (0 points)
2. How often do you move your frame collections?
  • a. Monthly (3 points)
  • b. Quarterly (2 points)
  • c. Yearly (1 point)
  • d. How would I find anything if I moved my frame collections? (0 points)
3. How often do you post on social media?
  • a. Regularly on Facebook and Instagram (3 points)
  • b. Regularly on Facebook (2 points)
  • c. Monthly on Facebook (1 point)
  • d. My patients don’t use social media. (0 points)
4. What’s up with your dispensary technology?
  • a. We use digital measuring technology with every patient and promote it as a wow factor. (3 points)
  • b. We use digital measuring technology with every patient, but do not discuss it as a wow factor. (2 points)
  • c. We have access to digital measuring technology, but the opticians complain that it takes too long to use, so it is not used much. (1 point)
  • d. We take measurements by hand and a Sharpie. (0 points)
5. How often do you hold staff meetings?
  • a. Weekly, plus stand up meetings every morning (3 points)
  • b. Weekly (2 points)
  • c. Monthly (1 point)
  • d. We don’t have time for staff meetings. (0 points)
How’d you do?

15 points: You have got it going on and your bank account shows it!

10-14 points: You are average, and who wants to be average?

5-9 points: You are opening a wide door for your competition.

0-4 points: You might as well get back into bed.

So how’d you do? If you scored less than 14 points, then review the quiz. It is full of simple ideas to refresh your practice. Here’s a hint: If it has a value of three points, you should probably be doing it. Staying in the status quo may feel safe and easy, but you are at risk of your competition pulling the sheets out from under you.


REBECCA JOHNSON is a motivational ophthalmic staff trainer, a nationally recognized speaker and author, and Director of Training for Eyefinity. Her honors include the AOA Paraoptometric Special Service Award and VisionMonday’s “Most Influential Women.” Contact her at rebecca.johnson@eyefinity.com.

This article originally appeared in the October 2016 edition of INVISION.

 

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