Training staff is critical to a smooth practiceEight Secrets to Managing Staff

By: John Scibal

By far every OD’s least favorite part of the job is staff management.  Give most of us the choice between correcting a staff member or root canal and “ahhhhh – open wide” – the root canal wins every time.

Our List of 8 Staff Management Tips

Here are some tips I have learned over the years. Maybe it will cut your pain.

  1. Realize that staff is the most import asset in your practice.  We are a service industry, and your staff defines the culture of your office.   The biggest factor in successful offices is a well-trained and courteous staff who see everything through the eyes of the patient. Do you devote adequate time to nurture them and give them opportunities to excel?

  2. Lead by example.  Staff members look up to you.  Conduct yourself with a positive attitude and they will too.  Laugh a lot – they will too.  Be courteous and respectful to everyone in the office – both staff and patients – and they will too.

  3. Communication and constant feedback:  Make it a habit to notice the good things a staff member does – and let them know about it right then and there.  Don’t wait for the “right moment” or an annual review to correct poor behavior.  The right moment is “as soon as possible”.

  4. Provide job descriptions.    Job descriptions should be “outcome oriented”.  While there are specific tasks that employees perform throughout the day, as the employer, you are only concerned about the ultimate outcome.  For example suppose you have an appointment clerk who is responsible for filling the appointment schedule.  The task list approach might include something like “print recall cards, mail cards, call patients to confirm appointments, etc.”  The outcome oriented job description states “maintain a full schedule of patients.”  The exceptional employee can take that and decide that email notifications or texts would better fulfill the goal and require less time.

  5. Conduct employee reviews: No, not the type you’re thinking!  Forget the checklist and scale of 1-10 on questions like “keeps work area clean” and “has a positive attitude”!  Make reviews meaningful by using the job description you created.  Make the review a dialogue about the job description.  Did the employee meet expectations?  Does the job description still accurately reflect the job at hand?  Solicit the employee’s input by asking questions like “what can we do as a company do help you do your job better”.

  6. Conduct weekly staff meetings.   When asked how often they have staff meetings, most owners answer “when we need them”.  That tells me they wait until there are specific problem areas and it’s time to lecture their employees.  Wrong!  Weekly meetings are essential and to share information and solicit input from staff.  Employees appreciate the opportunity to participate in the growth of the practice.

  7. Avoid entitlement raises.  Compensation should be based on employee performance – not how many years they’ve worked at your office.  Once you give a raise, you can never take it back.  Again, compare the employee’s performance to what is listed in their job description.   I recommend annual cost-of-living increases only.

  8. Be careful with bonus plans.  Bonuses are fine, but make sure they don’t become an entitlement.  Bonuses should be special, and given only for performance that exceeded expectations.  To be most effective, bonuses that reward some type of productivity (ie, percentage of recall, or number of AR coatings sold) should have a specific time frame rather than run indefinitely.   Better yet, give unannounced bonuses when deserved, and make them count.  An unexpected bonus of $400 to an employee is more meaningful to an employee than a $0.50 per hour raise, and in the long run costs you less!

I hope these 8 staff management tips help you enjoy Optometry more. If you would like additional help, give us a call  at 800-588-9636 or send us an email.


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