When I was growing up, my parents owned a Dairy Queen in our local mall. I got to see the process of hiring and managing employees from a young age. My dad would always say, "Good help is hard to come by. Keep it if you got it." While optometry and Dairy Queen are quite the opposite in their services, the sentiment of finding a great new hire optometrist resounds in both places.
Finding exceptional talent and keeping that talent can be a challenge. New optometrists are pretty quick to realize whether or not they want to stay with a practice, so you need to stay one step ahead of the game. Here is a top ten list of ways to hire and retain a top-notch new hire optometrist who will stay on longer than one week.
Be open and honest when hiring a new optometrist
Hiring a good employee begins with being open and honest about your practice as soon as you begin interviewing. Be upfront in order to create an environment where the applicant is also able to be open and honest. If both sides are able to get to know each other openly, you'll be able to ensure that you have a good fit. If one party feels "duped," distrust begins early in the relationship. Once suspicion arises, it can be hard to repair the relationship. Being open and honest allows for each party to find the best cultural fit and begin relationships that last.
Create clear expectations and express them during the hiring and onboarding process
I promise I am not reiterating myself here from the first point. There are some subtle differences to observe. Start with clear expectations to allow the applicant to know precisely the culture they are joining. If you expect the new hire optometrist to see 24 patients a day, but they don't want to see more than 16 patients on a typical day, there are going to be productivity issues. Or if you see primarily pediatric patients, but the applicant prefers more contact lens patients, the new doctor won't feel as fulfilled by their work.
Setting clear expectations will help you hire the type of optometrist you are looking for. You’ll also be able to keep your new hire happy because they know the culture they are entering. Sharing clear expectations early on can also help with any HR issues that may arise. Because you shared your needs and desires from the beginning, there can be a more natural conversation if expectations are not met. In the end, setting your expectations early on allows both parties to feel protected and like they understand the process.
Pay them fairly
Okay, this should be a no-brainer. But research shows that there is a wage gap in optometry and other pay-related inconsistencies are rampant throughout our profession. Do research your area for average pay for new grads versus established optometrists. Then assess your budget and create a competitive salary and benefits package. Optometry is a tight-knit community, and we are open to sharing. If your new hire finds they are not paid equally like their counterparts, their desire to continue with your practice will decrease dramatically.
Even if you feel that you have found the perfect number in order to be competitive, be open to negotiations. The incoming optometrist has also done their due diligence in researching in the area for average salaries. They are bringing this conversation to you because they genuinely see themselves joining your practice and don’t want to feel that they need to leave for better pay. Not only does negotiation show their dedication to your practice, but it also allows you to learn how each of you manages uncomfortable conversations.
Connect with them periodically before they start
Most of the time, when you hire a new optometrist, they won't be starting at your practice within days after the interview. It is especially true if you are hiring an optometrist right out of school. After contracts are signed and tax forms are filled out, there could be some life events that take place before their start day. Remember dates of graduation, their birthday, upcoming weddings, awards from organizations, children being born, state licensure testing, or any other major life events. Send a note, e-mail, or text a word of congratulations to show your interest in their life and your dedication to investing in them.
Finding other moments to connect to share your excitement about them joining your office is extremely special. There will be plenty of reasons to create connections about credentialing and HR information before their start date. Taking moments to connect personally builds your relationship. Build a great rapport before they arrive!
Ask the new hire optometrist how they want to be addressed in the office and how they want to manage their workload
Many optometrists have been dreaming of the day they will be able to put the title Dr. in front of their last name. But that isn't always the case. Many new grads are choosing to use their first name in practice, or if they are a married female, to use their maiden name. It is imperative to ask the incoming optometrist of their preferred name as well as if they have a preferred name with adults and a different name with children.
Also, it is essential to ask the incoming optometrist how they want to work up to a full workload. No matter if they have been practicing for years, or just graduated from school, it can take time for a new hire optometrist to learn new offices' processes and charting systems. Asking the incoming doctor how they want to work up to a full schedule continues the conversation about expectations and your understanding of their adjustment period.
When an optometrist feels rushed, or like they can't give proper patient care, doctor burnout can occur quickly. Investing in a good build-up in workload shows your investment in caring for patients and the optometrist.
Introduce staff members to the new optometrist
When a new hire optometrist begins in your practice, they will be a bright and shiny new face in the office. All the current employees will want to get to know them. Take a moment to introduce the new optometrist by their preferred name in practice to each person individually. When introducing each staff member include their name, role, and what questions they can answer for them. While it may be overwhelming to meet a large group of people, it is essential to create these connections early. Not only can they recognize the staff but it will also help them to establish their authority as a doctor within the practice.
Within the first few weeks of practice, work to hold a staff meeting in honor of the new optometrist. During this meeting, share how you are integrating the new hire with patients, and answer any questions about the integration of the new doctor. Showing the staff and the new optometrist that they are a valued member of the team and transition is essential. Create a culture of excitement about this new optometrist to show their importance to the practice, and deter any thoughts of them feeling like an outsider to the practice.
Check in with the new hire optometrist during the first week about their experience, and inquire about any questions they may have
During the first week of seeing patients, a newly hired optometrist can feel overwhelmed. It is expected but still can feel isolating. Checking in with the new optometrist is a chance to show empathy to these emotions. As well as connecting with them, you can see if any issues need resolution. Reaching out with problems early on can be intimidating. However, it can complicate things if issues are not corrected quickly. Not only is there is more knowledge about any complications, but it also answers many questions about practice systems or organizational processes. A new optometrist will have had specific experiences and may not fully understand your processes just yet. Connecting within this first week specifically to learn about their concerns sets you up for success for the future as well as exemplifies your dedication to making a great office culture.
Ask their opinion on a challenging case or practice management decisions
As a new grad optometrist, you can think your clinical knowledge may not be as strong, or you don't know much about practice management. But these new hires bring a fresh perspective to patient cases and practice management from their previous experiences. Asking a new optometrist's opinion shows your belief in their knowledge and skills. It may seem like a small moment during your day, but to the new optometrists, it shows you respect their perspective.
During these moments, you allow the new optometrist to invest in the practice emotionally, and, thus, in its patients. Many times you will gather great information, and find ways to help patients and grow your practice. The biggest takeaway is: when a new optometrist becomes emotionally invested within the practice, their likelihood of their leaving for another position decreases.
Connect the new hire optometrist with other professionals in the area
Establishing a practice can take a while. Finding new patients can be difficult, but it is equally challenging to find other great professionals to engage with. As a practice, you know ophthalmologists, primary care physicians, specialized optometrists, and other professionals in the community that you use for your referrals. Connecting your new hire with these professionals allows all parties to get to create new relationships and invest in one another.
Practitioners will see your new optometrist as a vital piece of your team and will show your new optometrist their unique role within your practice. Over time, these relationships will create great connections for patients and generate more referrals. Building these relationships shows your investment in a new optometrist within your practice and to the public as well.
Encourage community and organizational involvement
Last but not least! During optometry school, we are continually encouraged to get involved in national and community organizations. Then as we step into the real world, it can seem hard to balance full-time practice and remain in organizations. Your opportunity to invest in your new optometrist can be inviting them to join a local or community organization as guide them through this balance as a mentor. Allowing them to invest in their community and profession will bring high praise to your practice and many times, new patients.
As your new optometrist grows into a leader within our profession, your practice will not only be known for excellent patient care but as a place of influence in optometry. When an optometrist feels supported in growing in their community, they will not see a need to find a different position. Instead, they will want to share how their practice invested in them and helped to make a difference in their community.
These ten tips scratch the surface of ways to find and retain a fantastic optometrist. Each practice is unique, and that creates unique ways to hire and keep talent. So, you may need to step outside of these 10 tips to find and retain a good optometrist. The big takeaways are: create a culture of honesty when hiring and take time to invest in your new hire. When you choose to place these principles into action, you do more than create an incredible employee with the dedication to the practice. You receive the opportunity to mentor and create an excellent optometrist.