Staff Management

10 Ways to Reward to Retain Part-Time Employees

By Cheryl G. Murphy, OD

August 8, 2018

Full-time employees may reap the benefits of paid vacation days, 401Ks, insurance benefits, incentives, bonuses and fun perks, but it is equally important to recognize part-time and per diem employees in order to make them feel like a valued part of the team and practice.

I have worked on a part-time basis as an OD at various practices for years, and have noticed the difference that positive treatment of part-time employees can make.

According to a 2017 article in Entrepreneur, “making sure your full-time, part-time and even contract employees are happy and engaged can be tricky” and repercussions for employees feeling worn out, unappreciated and overworked can be bad for business. “Losing a good employee can cost your company money, require months or longer to rehire and retrain a replacement (assuming you can find someone qualified), affect the company culture and morale, decrease productivity, lessen the quality of customer service and impact client relationships.”

So, what can you do to help part-time employees feel energized, appreciated and a part of the team?

INCLUDE THEM. If you are having a staff meeting, see if they can make it. If they cannot because it is their day off, or they are working elsewhere, let them know they will be missed, but you understand and will keep them in the loop of any information or ideas discussed. Also invite them if you schedule a staff party or outing such as a team-building event. Make them feel like part of the family.

FEED THEM. Every once in a while, treat the staff, including your part-timer, to lunch. Have the staff “order in” after deciding on a place and taking everyone’s order. Or ask your part-time and full-time ODs what their favorite beverages are and try to keep some of them in stock in the employee fridge. Whether its iced tea, iced coffee or the good old fashioned water cooler, a refreshing beverage can energize your staff and keep them going and going and going. Remember, as ODs we spend a lot of our day talking to patients and we need to stay hydrated and energized while doing so.

CELEBRATE BIRTHDAYS & WORK ANNIVERSARIES. Make it a point to show each staff member, including your part-timers, that you remembered their day. It doesn’t have to be with a cake, it could be with a handwritten card and a small gift card to the place they always go to lunch, or by buying them coffee on your way to work. Or celebrate their work anniversary by doing something similar. You can even post the celebration on your practice social media pages. Include their picture (with their permission) and a couple of lines giving thanks to them for their dedication and service to the practice over the past year!

GIVE TIME OFF WHEN NEEDED. Part-time employees can get burnt out just like full-time employees. Often, part-timers are trying to juggle family responsibilities and obligations, and their spouse is the one who works full time. Just because they are with you less than 25 hours a week does not mean they shouldn’t get their requested days off. Showing a part-timer you are willing to give them time off will demonstrate to them that you would also honor their requests should they choose to convert to a full-time employee, so it’s important to do this early if you have interest in them working more in your practice.

OFFER INCENTIVES. Since part-time employees are usually not eligible for paid holidays, snow days, sick days or vacation days, give them the potential to earn more than their hourly or per diem wage by establishing incentives from which you both may profit. I know some corporate-run optometric practices that offer doctors small bonuses for each patient that they perform additional diagnostic testing on such as Optomap. When I worked as a corporate employed OD, the company I worked for offered about $5 per patient when Optomap was performed. The bonus was tracked and processed as an incentive in addition to hourly wage at the end of each pay period. That small amount can add up each week, and is a welcome treat in the part-timer’s paycheck.

GIVE & GET FEEDBACK. Sometimes part-timers work at more than one practice, so they can have a unique perspective. Ask them to give you feedback about your practice, and what they see that could be changed to help things work smoother, enhance patient care or increase profits. They may know tricks that they have seen work at other places they work/have worked. Seeking their opinions will make them feel valued. Additionally, feel free to give them feedback tactfully. Tell them you want them to thrive and be happy in your practice, and care about keeping them on the top of their game.

AT LEAST PARTIALLY PAY FOR CE, MALPRACTICE INSURANCE or ASSOCIATION DUES. Typically, malpractice insurance for optometrists is less than $1,000 per year, and a weekends’ worth of classes at industry events like Vision Expo East or West can be $300-$500. This still amounts to less than the few paid vacation days you are laying out for full-timers, so consider offering a set pre-determined by you to your part-time ODs to help relieve them of some of these costs. Also, consider helping them out with some of their local society, state or American Optometric Association dues.

OFFER A 401 (k). “Most small-business owners — 94 percent — who offer a 401(k) plan to employees recognize it supports recruitment and retention, according to the latest Spark 401k Small Business Retirement Planning Index. They also appreciate the tax advantages 401(k)s offer,” says CNBC in its 2017 article, “A 401(k) retirement plan is not an option; it’s a must for all companies.” Part-time employees may be eligible to sign up for a 401 (k) when one is offered by an employer and when they have worked more than 1,000 hours in a given year (which works out to about 19 hours a week for 52 weeks.)

GIVE THEM REVIEWS & RAISES. Review and reward part-timers like you would full-timers. Give them a yearly performance review, or better yet, participate in the more recently adopted business trend of frequent check-ins.

BUY THEM GLASSES OR CONTACTS. Owners may not realize the ironic hardship that employed optometrists face when it comes to purchasing glasses or contact lenses for themselves. Since they don’t own a practice, they can’t buy things at cost, or even with a discount. Giving your part-time (as well as full-time ODs) the chance to proudly pick out a new frame from your dispensary (and lenses) each year at no cost to them will be much appreciated, and will benefit your practice as the doctor becomes a walking billboard for you every time they receive a compliment on their own glasses. Or you could offer a complimentary year’s supply of contact lenses. Doctors will be able to relay to the patient how easy it is to get lenses through the practice, and how they get their own lenses through there, too.

Part-time ODs put in just as much effort as full-time ODs on the days that they are in the office, so help them feel appreciated, keep their morale high, and increase their energy and productivity. Remember, loyal part-timers may turn into full-timers. Give them the thanks and pat on the back they need to stay on and thrive.

What do you offer part-timers versus full-timers? How do you ensure they are satisfied with their position and appreciated? How do you lower your turnover rate on part-time ODs? Have you had a part-timer become a full-timer? What made that employee want to increase their hours in your office?


Cheryl G. Murphy, OD, practices in Glen Cove, Syosset and Lake Ronkonkoma, N.Y. You can like her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @murphyod. To contact her:

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