Insights From Our Editors

Fostering Mastery as a Way to Engage Employees

Dr. Sorrenson’s practice team. She says that investing in developing your employees will create a more competent, caring and loyal staff.

Motivating your employees to be much more engaged in their patient care and other duties.

By Laurie Sorrenson, OD, FAAO

August 23, 2023

In my last column, I wrote about Daniel Pink’s book “Drive” in which he discusses the trio of Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose as ways to engage your employees.  If you haven’t read his book yet, I recommend it. HERE is a great whiteboard animation that introduces you to these three concepts.

Tapping Your Employees’ Intrinsic Motivation

Daniel Pink’s emphasis in “Drive” on fostering mastery as a means to engage employees underscores the intrinsic motivation that accompanies the pursuit of excellence. Research shows that people thrive when met with challenges that encourage personal growth. When employees are offered opportunities to get better at what they do, learn more, and become more proficient, they are more inclined to remain motivated and engaged.

Pink highlights the innate human desire to excel at particular pursuits, a sentiment evident in individuals dedicating their time and resources to hobbies like playing musical instruments or pursuing recreational sports. As they improve, or increase their mastery over what they are pursuing, the individual’s pleasure and fulfillment increase. This intrinsic drive for mastery resonates in the business world as well.

As the owner of an optometric practice, it is crucial to establish an environment that fosters continuous learning and development among staff members, allowing them to continue to get better at what they do, and as such, stay motivated and engaged at work.

Providing Comprehensive Training & Education

Consistent efforts should be made to provide comprehensive training and education during office meetings and on-the-job training. Equally important is allowing staff members the flexibility and time off to seek external education and training opportunities. Encouraging and paying for staff to become certified by organizations like the American Optometric Association (AOA) or the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) demonstrates the practice’s commitment to their growth.

Also, recognizing and celebrating achievements, such as prominently displaying AOA or ABO certificates, can significantly boost morale and further solidify a sense of pride and mastery within the team. By investing in their professional development, employees are more likely to remain engaged and dedicated to their roles.

Investing In Your Employees Pays Off for Patients & Practice

I have had doctors express their concerns about the time and money to get staff certified, but I think it’s essential to view the situation holistically. While it’s true that not all employees can be retained indefinitely, the question arises: Is it preferable to risk increasing an employee’s marketability for another job or to have an untrained, underdeveloped (and disengaged) team?  Employee retention is undoubtedly crucial, and while some turnover is inevitable, implementing principles such as autonomy, which I wrote about last week, and mastery, discussed in this article, can foster a sense of loyalty, belonging and fulfillment, thereby minimizing turnover rates.

In conclusion, Pink’s concept of mastery presents a compelling approach to engage employees and enhance their commitment to their roles.

By facilitating an environment that supports continuous learning, providing certification opportunities, enabling staff to get better at their jobs, and acknowledging achievements, optometric practices can cultivate a culture of growth and loyalty, ultimately leading to sustained and improved employee engagement and better employee retention rates.

Laurie Sorrenson, OD, FAAO, is president of Lakeline Vision Source in Cedar Park, Texas, and the Professional Editor of Review of Optometric Business (ROB). To contact her:

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