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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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Danielle Richardson

How to Be Healthier Now

4 easy tips you can implement today to start living a healthier lifestyle.

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BEING HEALTHY” IS ONE of those oversized goals we often leave to next week, next month, or next year. In celebration of this issue’s “How To” theme, I want to share easy swaps you can make to center your health now.

Most Americans live a sedentary lifestyle, with six in 10 adults suffering from a chronic disease like heart disease or diabetes. Beyond the physical, we know healthcare workers experience above-average rates of anxiety, depression and burnout. As busy clinicians and optical professionals, it can be challenging to find the time to think about our health and wellbeing in practical terms because we don’t always make the best patients.

We’re largely marketed an image of health that is a two-hour morning routine complete with a workout, meditation and balanced breakfast. But real health is not about how complicated you can make your mornings, it’s about creating habits and behaviors that help you feel well.

Below are some easy tips you can implement to start living a healthier lifestyle now.

Clearly Define Health Goals

Health, when left as an abstract concept, can be difficult to define. Instead, focus on your health goals and the intention behind them. Stress reduction? Lose weight? Gain muscle? Lower blood pressure? Spending some time clearly defining your health goals allows you to better focus your limited energy on the activities that will help you achieve them.

Track Key Metrics

Taking the stairs is the oldest health advice in the book, but have you thought about tracking the steps using your smartphone? Using technology as a tool to track your health metrics can help keep you on track. Goal setting is key, but tracking your progress is equally important and provides a positive psychological impact to keep you motivated. You can use pre-installed health applications on your smartphone or download apps specific to tracking your movement. No matter what metric you use, monitoring progress through a health app can encourage you to make better choices throughout the day.

Choose the Healthier Side Item

When eating out, aim to order the healthier side 80 percent of the time. Think sautéed vegetables instead of fries, salad instead of garlic bread, grilled shrimp instead of fried. These small changes accumulate over time to create a new habit. Choosing a healthier option isn’t about deprivation, it’s about creating a strong foundation that allows you to indulge occasionally without hindering progress towards your goals.

Focus on Nutrition

While there are agreed upon vitamins and minerals that every person needs, the amount and types vary based on the individual. Consult with your primary care doctor or nutritionist to explore the resources available to help you learn about optimal nutritional requirements based on your specific health goals. Nutritional testing can provide insight and information about deficiencies you may have and what supplementation is most effective. In addition to personal consultations, many new health tech companies offer in-home nutritional testing and coaching. Individualized nutrition is the future of health and wellness because nutrition is the missing component for many in their journey to creating a healthier life.

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John Marvin

Leading with Honesty and Authenticity Even When You Don’t Know What You’re Doing

It is okay not to know everything, but it is not okay to remain ignorant.

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OWNING AN OPTOMETRY practice with retail is a multi-faceted responsibility. First, you have a full-time job as a clinician and generator of revenue. Second, you have a full-time responsibility to manage the business and lead your employees. It’s easy to avoid any responsibility you don’t enjoy, and most doctors don’t enjoy managing a business. So, what are you supposed to do?

Running a business takes leadership. There’s a myth that leaders know all the answers. In John C. Maxwell’s The 21 Irrefutable Laws Of Leadership, Law #2 is The Law of Influence: “The true measure of leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.”

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As the owner, people look to you for leadership. They expect you to know what you’re doing. What happens when you don’t? “Fake it until you make it?” Terrible advice. People don’t react well when they believe you are dishonest and inauthentic. If you are dishonest, it tells your staff that dishonesty is okay in your business. Here are some ways to maintain your influence, even when you don’t know what to do or have all the answers:

Relax and Investigate

It’s OK not to know everything. No one does. It’s not OK to remain ignorant. In today’s connected world, you can learn anything you need to know. Think of your practice as a DYI project. There are YouTube channels, chat boards and forums on management and small business ownership, and countless articles on personnel, inventory, sales, accounting, management, and leadership. Write out a development plan using your calendar. Growing business and leadership skills takes constant education. You didn’t learn optometry in your first semester.

Network with Others

I often say others have done some of my best thinking. Seek out people who can teach you the skills to run your business. There are hundreds of networking opportunities for small business owners. There are organizations you can join, like Small Business Administration Community Groups. You can learn about all of the resources the SBA offers through a local office. One of their most valuable resources is SCORE, a completely free, country-wide network of business mentors. Experience is not the best teacher; other peoples’ experience is the best teacher.

Learn from Yourself

Experience is a good teacher if you learn from it. When a decision goes well, think about why it was successful. I strongly suggest keeping a journal of your ideas, experiences and decisions. Sue Forrest has written a great article on Journaling for Small Business Owners. You can read it in her blog at sueforrestagency.com.

Make Time to Learn

The most important step you can take in becoming a successful manager and leader is to plan. You wouldn’t try to see patients without a schedule, why are you running your business without one? Set aside at least eight hours a week dedicated to the business of your business: No patients, just the operational aspects. You can break it into two four-hour sessions or dedicate a full day. This is when you should plan meetings with vendors, interview applicants, review financials, read business articles, network in your community. Eight hours out of a 50-hour week is only about 15 percent of your time. And if you’re not willing to commit at least 50 hours a week to your practice, chances are, you shouldn’t be an owner. That could be a valuable thing to learn.

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3 Hiring Strategies for Optometry Practices

With the war for talent showing no signs of letting up, it’s a great time to revisit your recruiting efforts.

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WHEN IT COMES TO hiring, optometry practices have their work cut out for them. As if the current job market wasn’t competitive enough, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts optometrist and optician jobs will grow at 18 and 15 percent, respectively, through 2026 — faster than other industries. Couple this with a widening skills gap and it is easy to see that optometry practices must turn a closer eye to hiring strategies. As you grow your practice, set your sights on these three strategies for winning the war for talent.

Focus on Your Job Ad

Your job ad is exactly that­—an ad. It must be easy to read and compelling enough to capture the attention of candidates scrolling through pages and pages of openings.
Here are a few tips for creating an effective ad:

Hook your reader. Make your ad stand out with an enticing lead-in and include something unique about the position or practice in the headline (e.g., “Optometrist — Growing Practice, Sign-On Bonus”).

Embrace SEO. Ensure your ad is found by the right candidates by following search engine optimization (SEO) best practices and incorporating keywords in the job description. Keywords comprise industry terms, desired skills, location information, and other elements that applicants may include in their queries.

Be specific. Describe what the open position entails, emphasize growth opportunities, and provide a glimpse of what it’s like to work at your practice.

Close with clarity. Without a clear call to action and instructions for applying, you may lose out on a great hire; note when interviews will be scheduled or when the applicant can expect to hear from you.

A Marketer’s Lens

Take a cue from marketing and treat your candidates as if they were a sales lead by keeping them engaged throughout the hiring process. Share information about your practice and emphasize your unique company culture. Are hours flexible? Do you provide paid time off (PTO)? Do you offer a wellness program?

A recent survey of optometry professionals revealed health/medical insurance, compensation/bonuses, and flexible scheduling as the top three most desired workplace benefits. If you offer these, incorporate them into your ad.

Build Your Talent Pipeline

How many times have you had a “silver medalist” candidate — that one who was not quite the right fit? Or, maybe the silver medalist narrowly missed out to someone just slightly more qualified. Odds are you politely turned them down and they moved on.

Keep a short list of silver medalists and other potential hires on the backburner. By building this talent pipeline, you can quickly fill future positions without having to start from scratch. As you build your pipeline, maintain communication with your runners-up. For example, include these applications in your email marketing database so they receive occasional updates from your practice, or simply add them as a connection on LinkedIn.

With the war for talent showing no signs of letting up, it’s a great time to revisit your recruiting efforts — even if you aren’t actively hiring. These strategies will equip your practice with qualified personnel who will help keep your patients happy and healthy.

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