Optometry support staff – assistants, receptionists, administrators, technicians, and beyond – are vital to your practice’s success. Patients make appointments to see doctors, but their very first (and last) impressions come from other team members. Plus, these personnel juggle so many different responsibilities to keep your office running smoothly.
In today’s candidate market, it’s increasingly important to not only find but also keep top-quality employees. The BLS predicts optician jobs will increase 15% and technician jobs will grow 13% between 2016 and 2026, meaning these professionals will have plenty of options and focusing on employee retention in optometry will be paramount to your practice’s bottom line. While competitive salaries and benefits will always be key factors to minimizing turnover in any industry, we’ve identified five additional ways to retain optometry staff.
In order to keep the right employees, you need to hire the right people in the first place. Recruiting talent with the necessary technical experience and optometry qualifications is one thing – these credentials are easily verified or can be obtained if lacking. However, it’s the critical soft skills that you should really be hiring for as well, as it’s far more difficult to improve these traits through training:
Calm under pressure
Desire to learn
Build your team with candidates embodying the qualifications above – or create your own list based on your organization’s mission and core values – and you’ll be on the right track to achieving and maintaining high optometry staff retention for the long term.
Once you find a quality candidate and they’ve accepted the offer, your work is just beginning to retain them. Proper onboarding is critical to helping new hires feel welcome and thrive.
Even before your new hire starts, keep them “warm” with regular communication – especially if a significant amount of time will pass between when they accepted your offer and their first day on the job. Invite them to team events, take them out to lunch, or simply call or email on a recurring basis. Start building the relationship right away.
It’s also imperative to set clear expectations about the job from the very beginning. This can be done via a detailed job description and employee handbook. Even something seemingly insignificant like a minor dress code faux pas can start a new hire off on the wrong foot.
Have a general plan in place for the new hire’s first day, month, and quarter and share this outline with them. When your new team member sees how you’ve fully thought through their place in the company and how they can contribute, it’ll be evident how important it is to retain optometry staff in your practice.
After they’ve read your handbook and plan, you could try an immersive onboarding technique. Optometrist Aaron Werner of El Cajon, CA has all new hires receive a full eye exam on their second day of employment. “This allows them to not only see but feel the experience we expect all patients to have,” Werner stated.
There’s enough to be nervous about on the first day of work at a new job. Do your best to mitigate any unnecessary surprises.
Support employees in joining a professional organization, earning a certification, or completing a training program. This will send a clear message to your staff that you are invested in them as people. In fact, an ATPO survey found that certified technicians have 32%–37% longer tenure compared to non-certified technicians.
You could also take it a step further and remove potential barriers to professional development like Ken Krivacic, OD, MBA:
“Last year we sent five of our employees to International Vision Expo East for training, and also as a reward for a good year. We also encourage all staff to attend continuing education events. We allow them time off to attend the events and pay for their hours at the event and the education itself. For some staff, we will reward them monetarily if they complete training in their field. For example, if our techs become certified we usually reward them with a monetary bonus upon completion of the certification.”
Encouraging your staff to improve themselves simply makes sense for your practice as well. What could be better than being known for having the most knowledgeable optometry staff in town?
Asking your support staff to weigh in on important practice matters is smart for two reasons: 1) they’ll feel heard and appreciated and 2) you’ll get extremely valuable insights on patient needs. You can ask for this type of feedback in team meetings and one-on-one sessions, or you could set up an anonymous way for personnel to submit concerns.
Regardless of the way you get this information, make sure you act on it. If your employees feel that their thoughts and opinions are ignored or disregarded, your optometry staff retention levels will plummet.
Treat your team members’ insights like expert opinions. Fostering an open, collaborative workplace known for approachable leadership will enable you to retain top-quality staff and attract talent of similar caliber.
If you want to have high employee retention in optometry, never assume your team members know you appreciate them. While it may feel natural to simply let top performers do their thing, “no news” is not “good news.” Show how much their hard work and dedication means to you if you expect them to stick around.
Raises, bonuses, gifts, and other monetary rewards are impactful, but don’t underestimate the power of no-cost recognition like the prime parking spot for a week, public praise at the next team meeting, or an extended lunch break. And as always, saying “thank you” goes a long way.
Recruiting new team members is an expensive endeavor, and turnover for a single role can cost 50% to 200% of the person’s annual compensation. Armed with these five ways to retain optometry staff, you can be confident you’re taking the right steps to building a loyal team for your optometry practice.