Hiring for the Future

Recruiting and retaining good staff in optometry practices makes for a stable foundation—so long as it is done properly.

By Jason Ortman, OD

Many optometric practices are understaffed. One of the biggest obstacles to the success of a practice may be the lack of a well-trained staff, which translates to an inefficient and poor patient experience. Patients do not like to wait, and they have plenty of other options when it comes to eye care services. How can optometrists hire, train, and incentivize staff effectively in order to maintain patients’ trust and sustain business?

TO THE POINT

Good quality employees who genuinely want to see your practice grow and do well must be offered compensation packages commensurate with their experience and value to the practice.

Identifying the Greatest Need

In my practice, we have five classes of positions: administrative positions, front desk positions, opticians, optometric technicians, and contact lens technicians. Each role’s job description spells out the respective requirements and responsibilities. The hiring process is based on need. We assess whether there is a shortage for a specific position by taking several metrics into account, including efficiency, the necessary skills, and the revenue generated by each position.

The hiring process presents many of its own challenges. Each staff member is an investment. To find the best fit for our office, we hire staff based on personality and intelligence. Experience working in optometric offices is also beneficial, but it is not the most important factor. You can teach a lot of the skills needed for a specific position, but you cannot teach someone to be nice or smart. After a new hire starts, it usually takes 4 to 6 weeks of working in the office before he or she starts to feel comfortable. When staff members become proficient in their positions, we then cross-train them for other positions, which greatly improves office efficiency.

The Compensation Conversation

Many potential employees have questions about salary and compensation, as they should. Internally, we develop a salary range based on the position and its role in our office. We employ a hybrid system that considers our own salary brackets along with the candidate’s experience, skills, and qualifications. We give candidates a salary range during the interview process, but the exact figure is not divulged until we make an offer.

Salary is not the only important aspect of the compensation conversation, however; benefits are also an essential factor. The potential for bonuses, 401(k) programs, health insurance, and vacation time are vital in attracting competent candidates. Additionally, education benefits tend to be overlooked as potential compensation. Employees value continuing education and the prospect of learning more and growing in their positions. Our practice offers paid continuing education for both our staff and our doctors.

In my experience, good employees genuinely want to see the practice grow and do well, and they are excited when it does. It is important that employees share in such success. Our practice incorporates specific monthly goals from which the whole office sees financial benefits, such as bonuses, which give each of them a personal stake in the business.

When a Staffer Leaves

You can attract talented staff and motivate them to stay at your practice by providing competitive benefits packages and instilling a sense of collective success. Still, an employee might leave a practice. Sometimes people leave due to factors that the practice cannot control, such as a return to school or retirement.

In an effort to retain as much of our staff as possible and avoid high turnover, we routinely evaluate whether we are offering salary within the average range for a specific position. Additionally, we examine what we have done to create an environment in which our employees would want to stay by periodically using satisfaction surveys to find out what aspects of employment, compensation, and culture are appreciated and what can be improved upon.

The true goal of any practice is just to serve the patients because, without them, the practice would be nothing. It is easy to forget how valuable the staff is in helping to build a practice, but they are one of the most important assets optometrists have, and staff can make the difference when it comes to patient experience and satisfaction. The more a practice values its staff and demonstrates its appreciation, the more likely it is to be successful. n

Jason Ortman, OD
• optometrist, Castle Pines Eye Care, Castle Pines, Colo.
drortman@cpeyecare.com