Staff Management

How We Kept 25 of 29 Team Members Through the Great Resignation

Dr. Hammond with his practice team. He says that the fun, lighthearted culture of the office lends itself to engaged employees who are happy to serve patients and give their best effort.

By Eric Hammond, OD

April 5, 2023

Since the start of the pandemic, practices around the country have struggled with hiring and staff turnover. The “why” of this varies depending on whom you ask – more money, work-from-home opportunities, or maybe a COVID-prompted midlife crisis in some cases. Regardless of the cause, the amount of time needed to train and recruit new staff on a routine basis can strain your business and the mental health of you and your staff.

Over the last three years, our practice has grown considerably, and with some turnover during the beginning of the pandemic, we had to hire 29 people. Of those, the majority were employed within two weeks, and we still have 25 of those 29 people!

Since then, we have discussed internally with our administrative team how we managed to do this. Was it how we were hiring? The amount of money we offered? What was the secret sauce that not only found these employees, but has kept them with us for several years when the new norm seems to be a new job every year?

Instead of spinning our wheels on it, I decided to do the obvious – I asked them! Here are the top four things our newest employees said “sold” them on our office.

Our Personality Profiling/Aptitude Test Before Interview
All of our newest employees had to fill out a personality profile we use from Culture Index, as well as a few aptitude tests from HireSelect by Criteria. Using these tools gave me greater assurance that I hired the right person for the right job while also ensuring they had the basic skills needed to succeed, like computer literacy and decent typing speed. Additionally, it was a tremendous weed-out tool that allowed us to avoid people on Indeed just applying for every job they could find. Usually, those people won’t take the additional time to fill out any further tests we would send them.

My main concern, and what other doctors have expressed to me, was that taking these assessments would be so time-consuming that it would turn off too many applicants from continuing the application process. However, this requirement did not prevent us from receiving enough applications for open positions.

In fact, prospective employees told us the personality assessment was the number one reason they were intrigued with our office.

It sent them the message that they would be valued members of our team. They were impressed that we cared enough to get to know them and determine where they would do best in our office. This is a 180 degree different perspective compared to most corporate settings where these applicants have often been sent the message that they are just another body in another chair. I brought up their profile with applicants during the Zoom interview, discussing why I felt like their results would fit well with the job they were applying for.

The new employees felt seen and heard, and knew we had made a good effort to get to know them and worry about their success and work happiness.

The Working Interview
Several new employees told us they felt the working interview was one of the best they ever experienced. All of our staff was welcoming – they knew their name and sometimes a fun fact about them already. I made sure to go around and talk to multiple staff about who was coming and mention their last job or where they were from.

Our team knows hiring new people will only make their current jobs more manageable, and we want to ensure we put our best foot forward. I don’t hide this from the staff – they are all highly involved in our hiring process. I ask their opinion, listen to their concerns and genuinely want to involve them in hiring decisions as much as possible. After all, they are the ones who will be spending two-thirds of their lives with these people!

We also pay the applicant for being there, which was brought up a few times by my new employees. They felt like I valued their time by paying them for the working interview, whether I planned to hire them or not.

Our Office Culture
Whatever your culture is, whatever makes you “you,” lean into it. Embrace it, and make sure it’s quickly apparent. Our new employees all fit our culture perfectly, and I think that’s because they were able to feel our culture during their working interview day, and it spoke to them.

I have a laid-back personality. My feet go up on the table when I talk to people, I tease most of my staff relentlessly, and them me. My office has been pranked numerous times with pictures of interns, balloons and other silly things. A few of my staff members and I play “ninja” where we fake attack each other in the hallways. And in the same breath, they see me take late patients daily, help techs with contact lens trainings and sometimes work other doctors’ patients up when we are busy.

One of our core values is fun, and it’s obvious. But another value is professionalism and loving our job, which is helping people and being a good team player. I’ll have fun and goof around as much as the next person, but that’s also accompanied by doing a good job. They see that as long as the job is getting done and the main work is finished, goofing around and not having busy work, so to speak, is OK.

I say all this to show we definitely have a feel for our office, and we have attracted like-minded individuals who approach life the same way (at least most of them, anyway). Whatever your thing is – put it on display. Make it obvious this is what you’re about, so you attract employees who reflect what you’re looking for.

Getting Paid Extra on Saturdays/Providing Lunch
Every Wednesday we have an office meeting where we close during lunch, which we provide food for. This is our team-building/camaraderie time for everyone to hangout, hear what’s going on in our office, discuss any difficulties we are having and sometimes play games! Our staff has told us these gatherings are as important to them as they are to us.

We also pay for lunch on Saturdays (we have a shorter lunch break on Saturdays) and our employees make an extra 50 dollars for that day. Like paying for their working interview, paying extra for weekend work shows we value their time, and that we know working Saturdays can be hard. But it’s also our most booked-out day, usually several weekends in advance. They know our patients value us being open, and it’s an important part of who we are. However, no one wants to work Saturdays. So we show our appreciation with food and extra money that they are doing this for us. Many of our younger employees choose to work every Saturday for this reason. “Free” money and free food is quite the motivator for a person in their twenties. Our staff has let us know that these extras for weekend work make a positive difference to them.

I hope that learning what worked for us will give you ideas for how to attract, and then keep for a long time, your ideal team of employees.

Eric Hammond, OD, is a partner with Lakeline Vision Source in Cedar Park, Texas. To contact him:

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