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The Two Burning Questions Every Practice Owner Must Answer About Their Employees

Survey says 70 percent are either “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” at work.

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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.

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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.

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 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 ODs on reducing un-booked appointments, increasing sales, and improving staff engagement and productivity. She is a sought-after speaker at industry conferences and events, and writes regularly for a variety of industry publications. Visit her at paulineblachford.com

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The 4 Key Elements to Building a High Performance Team

It isn’t experience, skills or talent… it’s all in the mindset.

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MANY PEOPLE BELIEVE that the New Zealand All Blacks Rugby team is the greatest team in the history of sports. This means all sports, any team all over the world. They are three time world champions and have a winning percentage of 77 percent over the past 100 years. They have not lost at home in the past 10 years.

What is it that creates a high performance team? It is not merely talent. There are many professional sports teams with a roster full of superstars, but which do not live up to their potential. It is not the money invested in payroll; the New York Yankees have famously spent far more money than other teams but often fall short of even making the playoffs. The 2008 World Series Tampa Bay Rays had the 29th payroll ranking out of 32 teams.

When you break it down, all high-performing teams have certain traits in common:

Shared Leadership

A team that reaches toward its full potential does not rely on one person for leadership. Each member of the team steps up when required to provide leadership. Each member respects the talents and abilities of other team members and follows another when the job requires.

Leadership in difficult situations requires different skills, and a high-performing team recognizes that each member brings their own talents and skills.

An Achievement Mindset

High-performing teams are focused on accomplishment. They are unified toward reaching their goal, be it winning a championship or hitting a sales target. They understand that accomplishment is not a once in a while endeavor, but the result of habits executed consistently each hour of each day. They don’t understand or accept the concept of close enough. Successful teams take the view that either they got the job done or they didn’t. Failure to them is not an option; they figure out a way to make success happen.

Integrity and Respect

High-performing teams believe in the dignity of each team member. They perform their responsibilities with honesty and integrity. They know that cutting corners when offering a service is not good for the customer or the practice. If a mistake has been made, they own it. They don’t make excuses or blame the customer. They truly believe that while the customer isn’t always right, they are always the customer. They do not encourage or tolerate team members who do not live up to the same standards of integrity.

High-performing teams respect each other by listening and considering the views of others. When faced with a challenge, they work together instead of believing that they alone have all the answers. They understand that collaboration among many can produce a better result than the opinion of one individual.

Look for Opportunities

High-performing teams are continually working to improve their skills, their services, their products and their processes for delivery. They foster an environment of continual training, understanding that it is the excellence of consistent execution that delivers to the customer.

They encourage learning of new technology, new products and an ongoing review of how the work flow process can be improved. They don’t believe in “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” To the contrary, they believe that they must break it to see how they can make it better.

Developing a high-performance team requires selecting team members with the right mindset. This mindset is more important than years of optical experience or years in a particular position. The owner or hiring manager’s job, in many ways, is to select the right people, give them direction and then get out of their way.

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Editor's Note

The Year’s Not Over Yet. There is Still Time to Fix It

And you won’t need a magic spell to do it.

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IN FULL DISCLOSURE, I am not a Potterhead. I don’t know an apparate from a veritaserum. But I do love a personality assessment. (I’m a Cancer, INFJ, and Idealist, in case you wondered.) So when we asked, “What Hogwarts House would you belong to and why?” in Buzz Session (page 60), I thought I had a pretty solid idea what my Pottermore results would be… definitely Ravenclaw, maybe Gryffindor.

To my shock, I was sorted into Slytherin. The snakes! The house all the villains come from! But I’m a good guy! So, of course, I retook the test but the results didn’t change … even when I fudged a few of the answers (so Slytherin of me!)

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To be fair, I am a good guy but I can also be cunning, aristocratic and power hungry… though I prefer the synonyms clever, refined and ambitious.

Sometimes we don’t like to acknowledge our less desirable traits. Like that we can be lazy, unmotivated, or procrastinate until the stress of getting things done becomes overwhelming.

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Maybe that’s where you find yourself now. The last quarter of the year snuck right up on you and you’re nowhere near meeting the goals you set out for yourself at the beginning of it. Don’t worry, you don’t need a magic spell to fix it. We asked a few industry experts and our own Brain Squad what to focus on for end-of-year peak performance and came up with a 90-day plan you can start executing now in our Big Story on page 34.

If you’re just feeling a little burned out and apathetic, visit our Special Feature (page 44) to help remember why you do this. It’s all about ECPs’ MVPs, those most valuable patrons that have become so special the relationship has transcended the office environment. Eyecare is an intimate business and sometimes “How can I help you?” can be the start of a beautiful relationship.

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Most of us feel we’re working harder just to stay on top of things (One Quick Question, page 47). That can be frustrating. But as we head into fall and holiday planning, I hope these stories leave you feeling a little more prepared, and grateful for the privilege of working in such a crucial and dynamic industry.

Best wishes for your business,

Dee Carroll

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

dee@invisionmag.com

Five Smart Tips From This Issue

1. Party time! As we head into the holidays and the invitations start streaming in… say yes! (Manager’s To Do, page 20)
2. Do you provide vision therapy? Try practicing it at its highest level. (Best of the Best, page 48)
3. Forget Christmas cards. Birthday cards are where it’s at. (Tip Sheet, page 50)
4. Sometimes a new employee is just not gonna hack it. We tell you when it’s time to let them go. (Ask INVISION, page 52)
5. Trouble finding good help? Have you tried a working interview? (Do You or Don’t You, page 61)

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Columns

Develop a Custom Visual Standards Manual to Look Better and Sell More

Such a manual details and explains how a store should look and how to keep it looking that way.

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ONE OF THE BEST ways to guarantee your employees maintain the look and feel of your store is a Custom Visual Standards Manual, or CVSM. Such a manual details and explains how a store should look and how to keep it looking that way. A good manual allows room for change and it teaches store employees how to access their creativity while staying within the boundaries of the store’s image and brand.

Visual standards include everything that can be seen as you drive or walk up to, into and through the store to the back door. It includes: lighting, signage, flooring, surface materials, fixtures, merchandising, displays, focal areas, aisles, desks, daily maintenance, safety standards, back room standards, washroom standards and back office standards. Standards must be maintained in order to maintain your image and support your brand.

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Each person has his or her own style. Some of those creative endeavors may not exactly be in keeping with your image. A standards manual clarifies your image and gives clear direction and boundaries to individual creativity and expression.

If you are looking to establish, or recreate, your image and want to re-train your employees, a manual is one of the first steps in making this transition happen consistently and successfully.

How to develop a CVSM:

  • Assign this job to one or two people with a clear understanding of your merchandising, fixtures, signage, store design and overall brand and image. If you choose two, consider one in marketing and one in operations. Or, hire someone from the outside with CVSM experience.
  • Develop an outline for the manual with a chapter for each area of your business. Describe the fixtures in each area and how to merchandise each one. Add chapters on non-selling spaces, lighting, signage, safety and holiday decorations.
  • Take a ton of photos. Before and after shots of merchandise presentation and displays make great teaching tools.
  • Determine what final format works best for your employees: binder, bound printed manual, webinar in several parts, or training movie. Consider a quiz after each section to make sure employees looked at it. Flexibility for changes is important so plan that into your format.
  • Have comprehensive staff meetings to introduce the manual and hand it out to each person. If it’s in digital format, give everyone the link and let them know when they will be quizzed on it.
  • Rather than just stating rules, explain why the rule exists and why it’s necessary. It will be remembered much longer. Pare down the information and present it as a mix of photos and copy. People today are used to reading bullet points and listening to sound bites. Less is most definitely more, and a picture is worth 1,000 words.
  • The purpose of a CVSM is to have a standard that all employees are required to live up to. If sales lag, an easily observable issue may be visual presentation. Getting everyone “on the same page” will keep the store looking great.
  • Consider a CVSM if you have more than two stores. It will keep your business attractive and welcoming. All of which will be reflected in your sales and service.

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