Staff Management

What It Takes to Achieve Productive Staff Meetings

By Linda Conlin
Licensed Optician

Feb. 14, 2018

Your staff meetings can prime your practice for greater patient service and profitability–if they’re done the right way. Over 30 years in the optical industry, I’ve learned that an effective staff meeting is one where you recap key lessons from the previous week, then set the agenda for the coming week.

Make it Weekly & Monthly
Staff meetings that include all employees should be held weekly. They can be brief, limited to an hour, or even 30 minutes. Weekly meetings provide the opportunity to address issues and concerns in a timely manner. Overall practice performance can be assessed in real time, rather than waiting for a monthly meeting when it may be more difficult to solve problems that have passed. Including all staff keeps them up to date on all aspects of the practice, enabling more productive team interaction.

A printed agenda should be included in monthly and quarterly meetings. Weekly meetings tend to be more informal, so I don’t think a printed agenda is needed, although the meeting leader should have a specific agenda in mind.

Longer, more in-depth meetings can be held monthly, and should also include all staff. For monthly meetings, in addition to a detailed assessment of the previous month’s performance, each sector of the practice should be encouraged to report on their successes, challenges and proposed solutions from the previous month and plans for the upcoming month. Include an introduction of any new products, services, systems or managed-care participation.

The monthly meeting offers a great opportunity for education. A knowledgeable staff member could make a presentation about contact lenses, spectacle lenses, vision conditions, etc. Staff participation keeps everyone involved, and allows staff members to share their individual expertise.

For larger practices, which hold executive meetings, a summary of the weekly and monthly staff meetings should be available to the executive meeting beforehand, so practice leaders can determine if they need to include representatives from other departments. Relevant information from the executive meeting can be disseminated to employees via memo, or at the weekly meetings.

Recap & Set Goals
Weekly meetings should include a brief assessment of the previous week’s overall performance and goals for the current or upcoming week. All staff should be aware of any “news” items such as, “The autorefractor in room 3 needs repair, so all pretesting will be done in room 2.” This advises everyone that the patient flow will change temporarily so they can adjust their routines accordingly. Or, “Mary at the front desk is on vacation this week, so we will need the optical staff to handle some of the phone calls.” It’s important to provide clear expectations for the week.

Weekly goals should be based on the goal for the month, divided into four (or five) parts. If last week was below a quarter of the monthly goal, next week needs to do more than a quarter of the goal. If the month is trending ahead, don’t reduce the goal, but try to keep that same percentage ahead for the remaining weeks.

Because patient flow differs from month to month (consider August back-to-school time versus stormy February), monthly goals should be based on the prior year, and trending growth. If the practice is trending up 5 percent over the prior year, then next month’s goal would be last year’s revenue plus 5 percent. If the practice is trending down (why?), a goal of 2 percent over last year is more reasonable. If a doctor is on vacation, or medical leave, in the next month, was it in the same month last year? If not, keeping the goal the same as last year, or even a little lower, is realistic.

A positive message with an idea for achieving the goal is a good start to a productive month. Remind staff of any new products or services that will build the business. Let them know what worked well last month, so they can continue doing it. If the practice is rolling out new advertising, make sure staff are aware of the content and market. Ask staff for their input on marketing materials, and implement as many ideas from them as you can.

Avoid Gripe Sessions
Anything from the previous week that might have been better handled needs to be addressed, but beware of the meeting devolving into a gripe session. Avoid identifying, or blaming, the person responsible, and focus on the problem. Ask for a solution using IWWCW (“in what way can we …”). Perhaps a patient’s wait time before pre-test was too long. Was there a communication or scheduling error? What can be done to prevent that from happening again? Could the optical staff have invited the patient to look at glasses while they waited? If so, how can the optical staff keep informed about patient wait times?

Recognize Jobs Well Done
Include shout-outs for a job well done. Perhaps a staff member went above and beyond in customer service, used lifestyle dispensing to sell second pairs, or resolved a tricky insurance issue. Recognition in the presence of peers is a great motivator and morale booster for the entire team. Ending the meeting on a positive note puts everyone in a good frame of mind for the day or week.

Focus on Key Information
Overall optical sales information should be available through the practice reporting and accounting system, and so is not necessarily needed directly from the opticians, although the information should be shared at the meeting. Opticians should report on frames and lens styles that are selling well, and where improvement is needed. Opticians should also identify why some product is doing well and why certain areas are problematic. The opticians’ sector report will provide this information along with ideas to maximize what is doing well, and how to improve what isn’t.

Have Opticians Debrief Rest of Staff
Patients are often reluctant to address concerns directly with the person responsible, but will mention it to another staff member. A patient might say to the optician, “You know, I was on hold on the phone for 10 minutes trying to make my appointment,” rather than mentioning it to the receptionist. Any patient concerns should be shared with the rest of the staff.

Opticians are in a good position to identify patients who leave without making a purchase and why. Opticians can share information about which products do well, and educate other staff about them. This enables everyone to be able to answer patient questions.

Brainstorm Solutions to Lagging Sales
The whole staff is involved in the patient experience, so everyone should be involved in a meeting about lagging sales. Receptionists and technicians can talk to patients about sunglasses and spare pairs of glasses to get patients thinking about it. There may be a way to improve scheduling to see more patients. The billing department may be able to identify a big local employer that might be a good advertising target.

Ask Vendors to Participate
Product vendors can add fun and information to a staff meeting. Some can also provide accredited continuing education classes and/or food. See if the vendor will provide raffle items, or “prizes” for correct answers to product questions. In the case of a frame vendor, if you know you’ll be making a purchase, let the staff vote on or select their favorites. It will give them a sense of involvement and ownership.

Consult with the vendor to determine the amount of time to allow. With the vendor present, keep the business part of the meeting general, and leave out revenue information and discussion of problems. If in-depth discussion is needed, have the vendor join the meeting afterward. Inviting vendors to meetings two or three times a year helps keep everyone interested and involved in the product.

 

Linda Conlin is a licensed optician and managing editor of 20/20 Magazine’s Pro-to-Pro Newsletter. To contact: LindaConlin@OpticalCEU.com

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