Staff Management

22 Specific Ideas to Incentivize Optical Staff

By Colleen Hannegan, ABOC, CPO

Nov. 7, 2018

“People work for money, but go the extra mile for recognition, praise and rewards.” –Dale Carnegie

When you think about how to incentivize your optical team to provide better patient service and generate greater sales, you may think first of cash bonuses. However, money is just one of many ways to motivate staff.

When was the last time you took a moment to personally thank an employee for a job well done? Or handed out a cash bonus or gift card as an extra thank you for the optician who expertly managed an angry patient?

My philosophy is that an employer needs to consider that rewards are earned. If the business is reaching its sales goals, and more, the staff should be rewarded with a percentage of the amount above the goal. Say sales are $10,000 more for the month of August over last year, and remakes were 50

percent less at the same time, and you have four opticians and two front-desk employees. You might take 10 percent of additional income ($1,000) to pay the opticians an additional $200 each and support staff an additional $100 each, provided they all worked full time that month.

Here’s what I’ve experienced myself in three decades as an optician of what works best in motivating optical teams to better care for patients and to build profitability.

Pay Attention to How Each Individual Prefers to Have Appreciation Shown Them
In “The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace,” Gary Chapman and Paul White, two psychologists, identify five ways people communicate and express appreciation. That means each of your employees may prefer that appreciation be shown to them in a different way. Here are the five ways identified by Chapman and White:

WORDS. Using words such as, “Thank you for always being on time every morning.”

ACTS OF SERVICE. Offering to help them do their jobs even better, such as by asking, “How can I help you with that creative front window display idea you shared?”

MATERIAL GIFTS. That means tangible gifts, such as, “Here’s a $50 gift card to Trader Joe’s for your extra efforts this month.”

YOUR TIME. Showing your appreciation by offering to spend time with them, such as a one-on-one meeting to discuss achievements, goals, or just to listen fully when they need to talk about a pressing personal issue.

TOUCH. Some people like appreciation to be shown to them through physical expression, such as a high-five or a pat on the back for dealing especially well with a difficult patient.

It takes time and attention to notice how each of your employees likes to be appreciated. So, before you start handing out thank-you notes, or pats on the back, notice how each individual on your staff shows appreciation to others. That will tell you how they each would like to be shown appreciation.

Ideas from Opticians Themselves on Best Ways to Incentivize
I recently asked a large group of opticians about how they like to be shown appreciation from employers.

Cash and gift cards ranked high. Everyone loves $50 or $100 in hand to start a weekend, and a thank-you note from the boss when exceptional work is displayed on a regular basis.

Personalized gift cards are especially appreciated. Give gift cards that show you know each of your employees’ particular likes and needs. For example, you might give a Home Depot gift card to the weekend builder, or an employee you know is in the midst of a major home renovation. If you know an employee loves Italian food, you could give them a gift card for dinner for two at a popular Italian restaurant near where they live.

Specific ideas from the opticians I spoke with:
• Complimentary eyewear

• Authority to do some frame buying

• Not micromanaging them; giving them greater authority to use their own judgment in decision-making

• Going to trade shows and getting paid for it

• Cash in the form of sales spiffs, bonuses throughout the year and/or end-of-year bonuses

• Time and a half at the end of the year for unused personal time

• Paid CE

• Paid memberships for optical societies and certificate renewals

• Professional clothing allowance

• Spa gift cards

• Verbal, public recognition

• Sincere thank you from practice owner

• Insurance benefits

• Saturdays off occasionally

• Profit sharing in the practice, so everyone gets rewarded when you have a profitable year.

Incentive Ideas from the Business World
Here are a few more ideas garnered from a recent Forbes magazine article on compensation ideas for staff:

• Snow days. A ski pass or just an extra day off for the avid skier/snow lover or beach day, pool day.

• A new $50 Kindle plus $30 a month to purchase books for six months ($250 approx.)

• Movie tickets. Buy a discount pack from Costco. $36 for four Regal Passes or $90 for 10.

• Open House for Employees’ families. Meet and greet, and give your staff an opportunity to share what they do. It also gives you the opportunity to brag about the staff to their families.

• Post-it Notes praises

• Free lunch for the team

• Car wash gift cards

Don’t Always Show Appreciation the Same Way
Mixing it up in how you show appreciation keeps it fresh and thoughtful. Knowing you are thinking of new ways to show you appreciate their service to your practice creates continual dedication on their part. And makes it more fun, too.

The incentives suggested can be delivered quarterly or semi-yearly, or on any schedule you like. Employees shouldn’t expect something every week or every month simply for doing their job. But  incentives two to three times throughout the year, beyond paychecks and year-end bonuses, goes a long way to showing employees you’re glad they work for you.


Colleen Hannegan, ABOC, CPO, a licensed optician, owns Spirited Business Advisor. This consultancy works with small businesses, including independent eyecare practices, on how best to serve customers and generate profitability. To contact her:

To Top
Subscribe Today for Free...
And join more than 35,000 optometric colleagues who have made Review of Optometric Business their daily business advisor.