3 Optometry Practice Management Tips to Increase Productivity and Reduce Staff Turnover
By Mary Hollis Stuck October 29, 2021
Managing your optometry practice can feel overwhelming, even if you have a management team in place. Unlike other medical practices, you have the added stress of sales, product management, inventory, and following fashion trends. In addition, there is credentialing, coding, medical advancements, scheduling, and so much more. It may not take much to feel like you are in over your head. That’s why we have created a few tips for creating a successful, stable, and productive team to keep your practice running smoothly.
1. Don’t skimp on training! Staff training can be easily overlooked, as it is often a lot more complex than it sounds. However, without proper training, you are setting your team up for failure. Make a plan for your onboarding process with new employees. Consider all the tools at your disposal. Many buying groups, vendors, and insurance companies offer free training programs to help your practice grow; don’t be afraid to take advantage of them! Creating an in-depth training program to help new employees learn the lay of the land, from insurance coverage to optical repairs, can give your employees a sense of accomplishment, pride, and a much better understanding of what is expected of them, and how to perform at the level you want to see. Things like free webinars can be used to help employees keep up with the ever-changing optometry industry. Sign up for newsletters from your buying groups, the AOA, and your vendors. This will help you get the most out of the free services they can offer, and build a program to help your team succeed. Just remember, this is not a “one size fits all” system; what is important for your competitor may not be something you want to focus on. And don’t forget, training programs need to be regularly updated to keep up with changes being made in your practice and industry-wide.
2. Keep your staff involved. Of course, you’ve read countless articles about the importance of staff meetings; while it may seem like repetitive information, that’s only because it’s truly important. Having daily huddles and weekly, or monthly staff meetings will help you determine where your staff lies on particular issues. First, you’ll be in a much better position to flesh out whether your staff needs more training. Second, you can resolve any disconnects between management and the team. Third, you can address any dissension between team members.
Touching base with all of your employees, both separately and together, will help you build a loyal team that wants your practice to succeed. In addition to your scheduled staff meetings, set aside time to meet one on one with your staff. While this is especially important for management and team leaders, it’s also incredibly important to keep the doctors and owners involved as well. Have open conversations with your team about their needs and ideas; making sure they feel heard can promote inclusivity within the practice, which will lead to happier employees and lower staff turnover. (Remember, lower staff turnover means less recruiting and onboarding, which costs time and money!) Ask your staff how they feel about any changes you implement; while you may not let them make the big decisions, they will appreciate being involved in the process. If a team member has an issue with a change in protocol, make sure they understand the reason behind it, and the importance of making these changes. In addition, keep an open mind; you likely see things from different perspectives, and taking their ideas into account can help you make changes that will increase both morale and productivity.
3. Set goals, and give rewards for meeting them. Goals in this industry can vary greatly. In your scheduled meetings (see, still important!), talk to staff about areas where they feel less comfortable, or areas in which there is room for improvement. Consider your schedule, for instance. If you have had a higher than usual no-show rate, look into ways to reduce that, and set a timeline and a goal, or series of goals, that will help you reduce no-shows. For instance, offer bonuses if the no-show rate for the month of November falls below a certain percentage. Discuss ways to avoid no-shows with staff, to help them reach this goal. This is when it becomes incredibly important to know how to analyze the data in your practice management software. Whether you use an outside company to handle analysis, or review weekly or monthly reports yourself, be sure to pay attention to the details. Review your patient retention rates, your appointments per day, second pair sales, and lens upgrades; take advantage of companies you work with to help you come up with ideas to increase these numbers accordingly, set a realistic goal, and create a timeline that you and your staff feel comfortable with. Remember, setting unrealistic expectations can cause dissension, mistrust, and feelings of unappreciation amongst your staff. Perhaps create a timeline of different things to focus on. Consider making weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual goals, creating clear expectations of the growth you would like to see. When goals are met, reward your staff accordingly. For instance, increasing second pair sales in optical by five percent in the month of November will earn your opticians a gift card to Target. Who wouldn’t want a little financial boost to blunt the cost of a Target run? Decreasing your no-show rate and keeping your schedule full for the next two weeks could earn your staff a free lunch from a neighborhood deli. However, larger goals, such as increasing revenue by ten percent in 2022, would earn them a larger monetary bonus at the end of the year. While everyone loves a pizza party, don’t make that your go-to for anything positive that your staff does for you; adjust the reward by the importance and reach of the goal. Bigger goals deserve bigger rewards!
Creating a “circle of trust” within your team is vastly important to the success of your practice. Whether you manage your staff and daily operations yourself, or have a manager (or team of managers) in place to do it for you, your involvement is still crucial to your success. Take the time to discover what works best for you and your team, and keep in mind: what works in 2021 may need changes in 2022. Don’t let yourself get complacent in a practice that’s making ends meet. Do your best to keep moving forward, creating goals, and empowering your team.