By Andre Lenoir, OD
Dec. 9, 2020
Your employees are your greatest resource. As a practice owner for the last 17 years, two locations housed within subleased offices in Walmart stores, and a third to be opened next year, I have learned what it takes to build a strong staff. The ingredients of staffing excellence can be challenging, but through trial and error, and a great environment to practice as an independent optometrist within Walmart, I have refined my management style.
Here are some of the keys I discovered to nurturing and sustaining the staff you need both as a provider and as a patient.
All of us have complex lives, and never more so than during the pandemic. Children doing distance learning from their homes rather than at school, and daycare centers closed during the lockdown…this meant I had to be flexible, so working in my office would be feasible for all my employees.
This flexibility is especially important during an ongoing crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic; but, it has always been my policy to work with staff to find schedules that make their lives easier rather than more challenging. That means giving them the latitude to come in early and leave early to accommodate child-care needs, or coming in late and leaving late to make pursuing interests outside of work easier.
I provide the Vision Center (which Walmart manages) our clinic schedule two weeks before the start of every month. My team and I are able to sit down together and work out a schedule for days off, and hours in the office – one that makes sense for all of us – while meeting our patients’ needs. Walmart makes this scheduling process easy, as the store can almost always make our office hours work with the operations of its Vision Center.
Accommodating the Unexpected
The great thing about having offices housed within Walmart is I have allies when the unexpected occurs. If I have an employee call the same day to tell me they are unable to come in because they are ill, or they have a family emergency, a Walmart associate, or even the Vision Center manager, will usually step in to help us greet customers and answer the phones.
We have the best of both worlds practicing inside a Walmart–independence, and a larger team on hand to lend support as needed.
Create a Training Manual
Training new employees becomes systematic, and a process with dependable results, when you create a training manual detailing points for employees to be trained with during the first 3-6 weeks of employment. For example, in our training manual we detail pre-testing processes, including best practices and protocols for using key instruments, and how patients should be instructed and educated.
Employees can refer back to the training manual, which is available both online and in print, if they forget a lesson taught. It also serves as an on-demand learning tool. Employees also can’t claim you didn’t tell them about a process or expectation that is stated clearly in the manual, which was a documented part of their training.
Regular Staff Meetings
Once a quarter, we close the office down for part of the day to go over new office protocols and points for improvement. For example, we might decide a new office or work flow is needed, or we may need to review new requirements for one of the patient insurances we accept. During COVID, these meetings have helped us to review safety protocols and ensure staff members fully understand how to keep both themselves and patients safe.
Recognize & Reward Superior Performance
Employees who exceed your patients’ and your own expectations deserve to be recognized. We do this by calling out great performance in staff meetings and through monthly bonuses. For example, our whole staff might get a bonus if we have a 90-percent or greater show rate for patients; meaning we did a great job recalling patients, ensuring that almost none missed their appointments.
As an extra way to show employees how much I value them, I offer Employee Appreciation Day–an additional paid day off employees can use whenever they like with two weeks’ notice.
Team-Building & Fun
Mystery theater, picnic day at the zoo, miniature golf, or a relaxing lunch or dinner at a restaurant near our practice in Atlanta are just a few of the ways we spend time together having fun outside of work. These gatherings cement our relationships and give us a chance to get to know one another better in a relaxing environment. When you create bonds in addition to working well together, you have a team that’s ready to serve patients, no matter how challenging the circumstances.
Andre Lenoir, OD, is the owner of Dr. Lenoir & Associates, which has two locations housed within Walmart stores in the Atlanta area, with a third location planned for next year. To contact him: Dr_andrelenoir@yahoo.com