By Laurie Sorrenson, OD, FAAO
July 26, 2023
When you look at the research on employee retention, one thing usually stands out to me, which is paraphrased in the saying, “People don’t quit their job, they quit their boss!”
But what does that mean exactly? Why do people quit their “boss”? And who even qualifies as a “boss”? Well, in an optometric office, it could be the practice owner, their immediate supervisor, one of the doctors, a manager, a combination or even all of them together!
Lack of Trust
Digging deeper, why would an employee quit their boss? One reason could be a lack of trust. This can arise when employees witness their boss or owner engaging in unethical behavior, such as refusing to see a patient just to leave the office early, or lying to patients about office mistakes, treating staff unfairly, or not being transparent. All of these erode trust.
Not Feeling Appreciated
Another reason employees quit their bosses could be a lack of appreciation from the boss or immediate supervisor. Imagine not receiving any feedback on how well you’re doing. Did you know, according to a Gallup study, that getting NO feedback is worse for employee engagement than getting negative feedback??1 Crazy, right? Feedback is so important, and positive feedback and recognition is essential for fostering loyalty!
Not Feeling Connected
Lastly, sometimes it’s just a matter of not feeling connected, whether it’s to the workplace, the owner or their immediate supervisor. Not having enough meetings, both general ones and one-on-one sessions, can make employees feel like they’re disengaged from the bigger picture. Meetings are a fantastic opportunity to remind everyone about the office culture, the mission and the core values of the practice while keeping them aware of the daily challenges and opportunities for improvement.
You know, as business owners, we often ponder over what makes patients loyal to our practice. We think about consistency, smooth interactions, friction-less experiences and those moments with the doctor and staff that make patients go “Wow!” But I believe we should also be concentrating on developing staff loyalty. If we concentrate on nurturing staff loyalty, it can significantly impact staff retention for the better.
My son, Eric Hammond, OD, and our amazing chief operating officer, Tiffany, do an incredible job of building strong relationships with everyone in the office. In addition, our weekly staff meetings, departmental meetings and one-on-one sessions also foster engagement, loyalty and help reduce turnover.
How We Nurture Staff Loyalty
Now, brace yourself, because some of the things we do to nurture staff loyalty may be a little “outside the box” and not comfortable for everyone. For instance, we cover the cost of mental health counseling for anyone who needs it, and if someone is going through a financial crisis, we often step in to help.
Let me give you a few examples: when a pregnant employee’s father got her car repossessed, we provided her a down payment for a replacement; we’ve assisted in securing an apartment to help someone escape an abusive situation; we’ve covered multiple vehicle repairs, air conditioner repairs, water heaters, medical bills, and even funded travel for a mom to her daughter’s out-of-state cheerleading competition. Our office actually maintains a separate account (thanks to Mick Kling for teaching us Profit First!) specifically for “staff emergencies,” so we are always prepared to support our staff when they need it.
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Here’s an interesting statistic: a turnover rate of 20 percent is considered normal for an optometric office. So, if you have 10 full-time employees, you should expect two of them to leave every year! Some offices even see turnover rates close to 100 percent annually!
Luckily, we’ve been able to retain our staff remarkably well. Sure, we lost a few during the pandemic, more than usual, but in the past six months, we haven’t lost a single employee. If we had a 20 percent turnover rate, we should have said goodbye to five employees during that time. We didn’t, and I believe one reason is because we put a high priority on things that end up creating staff loyalty.
Creating a trusting, loyal, engaged staff is essential for surviving all those hiccups and bumps we face with our team on occasion. It’s like having a secret weapon that allows our leadership team to have straight-up, direct and honest discussions when conflict pops up, because our staff knows we have their back.
What can you do, or what do you do, to boost staff loyalty and improve staff engagement and retention? Let me know.