By Selina R. McGee, OD, FAAO
March 3, 2021
Your patients and your business depend on a well-trained staff. To ensure my team is poised to provide a high level of care, while helping me to grow my practice, I provide thorough training. The strength of my staff training has created a team that helped me achieve 12 percent annual practice growth year-over-year for the past seven years.
Here are a few of the most important, high-impact ways I develop my 10 support-staff employees.
Develop Frequent, Consistent Training Times & Schedules
There is an old marketing adage that the average person has to hear something seven times before it sinks in. Consistent training reinforces good habits, discourages bad ones and uncovers opportunities for new, beneficial habits. Make sure to pre-brief why you are doing the training and debrief after the training to ensure the messaging is clear as well as generating accountability.
I enforce a consistent training schedule with weekly technician meetings and “Front of Office (FOO) fighter” meetings, along with staff-wide meetings. We do these trainings on any day other than Friday because we want our staff to be able to immediately put what they learned into practice. Designated training days are set during “administration time.” That means we are doing training while not attempting to see patients at the same time. This allows us to give our full attention to training.
Short-term pain equals long-term gain, as they say. When we slow down and train well, it costs us the money we would have made seeing patients, but the long-term benefits of training that enables better care of patients and improved staff communication, make it well worth the investment.
Regularly delivered training results in a unified, happy, forward-looking team and an improved patient experience.
Financially speaking, the enhanced patient experience that results from having a well-trained staff means higher employee and patient retention. It costs ~3x salary to replace a team member and a lifetime of revenues derived from care and product purchases to replace a patient, so it is financially savvy to train well.
To make regular training sessions as impactful as possible, deliver the training in shorter segments, with less information and consistent messaging. Frequent, regular training sessions with short, focused lessons and messaging is much more effective than unwieldy training delivered annually. In addition, weekly training allows you to provide staff with frequent and consistent feedback and guidance.
For all the training you provide, pre-brief and de-brief with your team. This sets expectations, creates accountability and ensures maximum opportunity for success.
Create Guiding Scripts & Then Empower Employees to Make Messaging Their Own Through Role-Playing
Provide scripts that frame the messaging you want employees to communicate, but let employees put the messaging in their own words. Role-play with them what they will say to patients. You can do this to prepare employees for conversations with patients about the services your practice provides, or in response to common patient questions.
We are constantly changing the way we do things. Role playing lets you work out the kinks. We utilize Google Drive to keep a repository of guiding scripts and to set specific training times for role-playing out the scripts.
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There is no cost beyond your time, and that of your staff’s, to role-play, and it pays dividends through your practice’s ability to deliver consistent patient education and a reliably good patient experience. The guiding scripts, combined with our role-playing exercises, means that no matter which team member you are working with in our office, you will get the same accurate information and positive experience.
Another benefit of role-playing is it empowers employees to think through training, rather than mindlessly memorizing information to repeat to patients. This exercise in assimilating information helps employees think critically, enabling them to have problem-solving conversations with patients on their own, without always having to come to you for help.
Frequent One-on-One Check-Ins With Staff: What’s Working, What’s Not?
Do not be married to one way of doing things. Your team (if hired properly) is smarter than you are, let them be smarter than you!
Constant communication is key to training. Developing my team is just as important as hiring well. I make an effort to check in with each of them frequently. These meetings are intentional and non-negotiable.
Like all the other training ideas I have shared, the only cost to the practice of frequent one-on-one check-ins with employees is time. In the long-run, you save the time you would have spent problem-solving by finding out from staff how to make the practice work better for your patients.
Frequent one-on-one meetings with employees shows them they are valued as individuals, and sends the message that you care about each employee’s ideas and unique perspective. When employees feel individually valued, they are more likely to treat patients in a way that shows each patient they are highly valued.
A comment I hear frequently about training is: What if I train my staff well and they leave? I prefer the question: What if I don’t train my staff and they stay?
Regularly delivered training, employee empowerment and individual attention create the kind of team that both you and your patients need.
Selina R. McGee, OD, FAAO, is the founder of Precision Vision of Edmond in Oklahoma and is also immediate past-president Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians. To contact her: firstname.lastname@example.org