Nicolette Scott, OD
Sept. 8, 2021
Patients need a well-trained staff to provide them with topnotch care, and you need a well-trained staff to help you build your business.
We currently have five doctors and 20 support staff in our four-location practice. Not including seasonal help, our employees have been with us on average for just over three years.
Here is how I create a staff that is primed to both care for my patients and help me grow my practice.
Work History + Skills Assessment
We look at a candidate’s work history (a history of holding a position for less than one year is a red flag). We also ask all candidates where they see themselves in five years. Finally, we give candidates a basic skills test, which is a written test consisting of 20 questions to assess their knowledge of basic math and writing skills. Candidates must pass the basic skills test to be hired.
Provide Opportunity for Growth
With four growing locations, we have a lot of opportunity for growth in our company. As long as employees have a desire and talent to learn, they can move up in our company. For example, one of our employees was hired as a technician several years ago. She had little optical experience, but she showed the desire and the drive to learn more. Within six months, she was working as an optician, and within one year, she was managing one of the locations. Today she is the regional manager and oversees all four locations.
We offer frequent workshops for each department that are run by the doctors and managers. We also had off-site workshops in the past (before COVID). For example, during our slow times, we sent our technicians to observe cataract or LASIK surgery, and we sent our opticians to our local lab to see how a finishing lab works.
We also give our employees opportunity for personal growth. We brought in a financial planner to do a workshop with staff on how to create a budget, save for retirement, pay for college and manage other aspects of their finances.
Reinforce Positive Behavior with Shout-Outs
We use a group texting app called Group Me to give frequent shout-outs to employees who get praise from a patient, get mentioned in a Google Review or just go above and beyond. The praise is frequent and for all employees to hear. We also give gift cards periodically to employees who have excelled in best attendance, best team-player, best optical sales, most mentions in a review and for other small, but important, achievements.
Offer Constructive Feedback & Corrections
When you praise your employees often, it makes it easier when you have to hold them accountable. “Rules without relationship” doesn’t work. We give employees many chances to learn from their mistakes through honest feedback. We audit opticians’ jobs (five jobs per opticians per week) and if they make a mistake (incorrect pricing, ordering the wrong product, etc.) we review it with them immediately so they learn from their mistakes. They have a goal, and if they are consistently missing their goal, then they get additional training.
We also offer frequent workshops to brush up on important skills and learn new ones. We make sure employees are set up for success and that we have the “right butts in the right seats.” For example, I hired an employee to be a receptionist, and after several weeks, we both realized that her skills were much better suited to be a technician. We switched her position, and she has thrived ever since.
It’s important to find the right person for the right job. Also, we need to realize that all employees and doctors have flaws. Instead of wasting time and energy changing a flaw that is never going to go away, make sure employees are in a position that minimizes their flaws and highlights their talents. Offer praise and correction at a ratio of 5 to 1 (if not 10 to 1). If you have done all of that and you have an employee who is still not performing, don’t be afraid to hold them accountable. One of two things will happen….the employee will either improve, or will leave. Either outcome is good for your practice in the long run.
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Flexibility, Understanding & Transparency During Trying Times
We definitely had to think outside the box during the pandemic to keep our workforce thriving. We never had anyone in our company working remotely before the pandemic, but for certain positions it made sense.
One of our employees had four children at home, and she wanted to keep working, but it wasn’t feasible for her to come into the office with her children doing distance learning at home. Her main duties were answering the phones and handling accounts receivable, so we gave her a phone to use at home and she was able to work remotely.
We were transparent with our employees about every decision we made during the pandemic and why we made each decision. I think it helped our employees to trust us and feel confident that we would come out of this crisis on top.
Spend Time Having Fun Together
We think of our employees as customers. Aside from just earning a paycheck, we ask ourselves, “Why are they choosing to work here and what are they getting out of this?” Most employees want to feel like they are part of a family. We meet quarterly for a staff outing and spend quality time together. We do activities like Topgolf, shuffleboard, wine tasting and cooking classes.
Our employees are happy, and they have fun at work. Patients can sense it as soon as they walk in the door. They know that there is something different about our office compared to other doctors’ offices. The most telling metric is our Google Reviews.
Our company has over 500 Google Reviews with an average rating of 4.9. We feel secure that our staff appreciates us as much as we appreciate them–a feeling of mutual respect that everyone who visits our practice benefits from.
Nicolette Scott, OD, is the co-owner of Broad View Eye Center, along with Josie Kosunick OD and Douglas Wiersma, OD. The practice has four locations in Ohio. To contact her: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo credit, top of page: Getty Images