Staff Management

Staffing: The Key Issue in All Practices

By ROB Editors

applicationWhen optometrists are asked what is the biggest challenge they face in running a successful practice, one issue comes to the fore again and again: staffing.

Hiring staff is a complex and sensitive task that requires training–both in practical aspects of interviewing and in legal concerns in checking backgrounds.

Training staff is a time-consuming process that requires patience and knowledge, both of the optometric practice and of human psychology.
A key to successfully accomplishing these tasks, which are vital to the health of the optometric practice, is having a knowledge of personality types. The axiom to keep in mind:
1. Hire for personality.
2. Train for skills.

Staffing Quiz

Why did the last three staff members leave your office?
1) Lack of ability
2) Failure to be part of the team

If you answered number one, examine how well you identify ability in the hiring process.

If you answered number two (and most do), examine how well you identify personality types and match up the right people with the right tasks.

Good staffing is critical to making patients feel welcome and well served. Here is one proven method to achieving that goal.

Four Personality Types

People fall into four basic personality types, according to Florence Littauer, author of Personality Plus.

Powerful: Enjoy control, are decisive and quick to act.
Perfect: Enjoy detail, analyze situations before making decisions.
Playful: Love people and love to have fun.
Peaceful: Avoid conflicts, excellent as mediators.

Have an office meeting with your current staff. Use Littauer’s personality test to identify the primary and secondary personalities of each staff member. Discuss how to best work together now that everyone knows the personalities of each staff member and each doctor. Then expand the discussion to patients. How can we best identify the personalities of hte patients coming through the doors without giving them a test–and how do we best communicate with them.

Good Matches

Powerful / Office Manager: The love for control and the need for achievement make this a good match.
Perfect / Bookkeeper: Attention to detail and desire for order works well here.
Playful / Receptionist: If someone loves people, assign them the task of cheerfully greeting each patient and making them feel welcome in the office.
Peaceful / Optometric Assistant: A staff member can feel a sense of accomplishment by making the patient feel happy and well served.

How critical is it to make good matches between personality and tasks? Here is a quiz

Staffing Quiz
Why did your last three patients leave your practice?

  1. The fees are too expensive.

  2. The doctor is not on my plan.

  3. My needs were not met.

If you answered number one, examine your fee structure and desired patient profile.

If you answered number two, examine the panels you are on and want to be on.

If you answered number three, look in your mirror and have your staff do the same. The leading reason for leaving a practice: The patient feels that the doctor or staff is indifferent to their needs:

  • “I didn’t feel welcome in the office.”

  • “The staff talked among themselves, like I wasn’t there.”

  • “The doctor didn’t seem to listen to me.”

This simply cannot happen in a successful practice. As team leader, the doctor must take the lead in developing an office culture that makes patients feel welcome, respected and well served.


How You Manage Staff Makes a Difference

There are two going theories in management

TOP DOWN: The CEO makes all decisions.

BOTTOM UP: Staff in involved in all decisions.

In reality, most of us manage somewhere in between these two theories. We want to involve staff in setting office policies that improve efficiency and profitability, yet we know that we alone are the ultimate decision makers.

Key to maintaing a good staff is cultivating staff loyalty. We don’t want our staff drifting off to work for another optometrist down the street. Here, a simple rule applies:

Don’t hire away from another optometric practice–unless the job applicant already has informed the other practice that he or she is leaving.

As for achieving long-term staff loyalty, that is something you must earn. Your example is key. As practice CEO, you need to model the behavior you desire from your staff.

  1. If you expect punctuality, be punctual yourself.

  2. If you expect cleanliness and courtesy, demonstrate it yourself.

  3. If you expect respect from your employees, show them respect.

  4. If you expect your staff to respect patients and do what is in their favor, exercise that same approach in dealing with your staff.

Empower Employees

When hiring a new staff member, present them with a Position Agreement. This states both the tasks they are expected to accomplish and the manner in which they will conduct these tasks.

The language should convey a sense of empowerment: “While controlling this position, I will….”

Keys to Successful Staff Meetings

  1. Make the office meeting important: Close the office for a few hours or a half-day for the meeting.

  2. Make the staff feel the meeting is important: Hold the meeting during business hours and PAY them for their time.

  3. Structure the meeting: Draw up an agenda and follow it. Don’t hold a free-form gripe session.

  4. Empower staff in the meeting: Assign each staffer a key office metric (e.g. numbers of office visits that include an eyewear purchase) to track and report on.

  5. Plan a team-building exercise: Provide a problem that requires teamwork to solve.

  6. Hold an office meeting regularly: At least every one to two weeks.

Quality Control Your Meetings! Ask:

  • How productive was the meeting from 1 to 10 and where 1 = not productive and 10 – extremely productive?

  • What did you like best about the meeting?

  • What would have improved the meeting?

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