Want a 40% Increase in Optometry Staff Retention? Change How You Hire.

May 8, 2017
7 min read
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I don't want to scare you, but I have a sobering fact about employee turnover.

Staff turnover is expensive, and optometrist turnover is especially expensive. In fact, Josh Burson of Deloitte found that turnover can cost up to 216% of an employer's annual salary!

But changing how you hire can dramatically improve your staff retention rates, thereby transforming the health of your practice. 

Source candidates in advance.

Finding candidates when you have a need to fill leads to a reactive decision. It's just like when you forget your shoes for a wedding in your hometown. Then you have to dash around the local mall, pay too much for a pair of ill-fitting shoes, only to never wear them again.

Screen candidates thoroughly.

This shouldn't be something I have to tell you, but make sure that you check on your doctors' optometry licenses. Ensure that your front office staff and opticians actually worked where they work, during the dates that they said on their resumes. And, most importantly, examine your  candidates' references and contact them before you make an offer. Don't expect a reference to answer on the first ring, or to email you within 20 minutes of receiving your note.

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Mutually discuss and set expectations.

Expectations should be discussed during the interviewing and hiring process. From an employer side, you will need to tell your staff and your doctors:

  • The hours you expect (including any potential weekend and/or evening coverage needs that might arise).
  • Any marketing efforts you expect them to initiate/contribute to.
  • Specifications about your practice flow and interactions with patients.
  • Exact job responsibilities
  • To whom the candidate will report
  • How success is measured in the position, as well as job growth opportunities

By discussing these points in advance, it enables you and your candidates to get on the same page. These same expectations should be reflected in your employment agreement.

Create proper employment agreements (contracts).

Don't forget to address the employment contract. It sets expectations for everybody involved. Clear communication is key from the get-go. By having a detailed employment agreement, you can prevent misunderstandings, and avoid arguments that could mushroom into practice-altering drama. Any questions or concerns should be addressed before anything is signed.

This means that when you hire a new member of your team, it is your job to make sure they fit the bill. Which brings us to...

Ask yourself the right questions about each candidate.

Does this person fit the practice culture? If you're a conservative, mom and pop private practice, you might not want to hire an edgy, pink-haired optician. Conversely, if you're a casual, fun-loving group who does monthly brewery tours to build camaraderie, you might not want to hire a parent of two young children who moonlights at two other jobs so he/she can retire by 34.

Does this person fit the mission and values of our workplace? If you value exceptional written and verbal communication skills, make sure that you scrutinize your candidates' resumes and cover letters, as they are representations of their most ambitious versions of written communication. Similarly, if customer service is your sticking point, pay close attention to how your candidates answer the phone, and whether they say please and thank you during the interview process.

Does this person mesh well with the team? Consider a panel interview, rather than only having a candidate meet one member of the team. Especially if you're hiring someone who will directly work with patients, front office staff, other opticians, or doctors, it's essential to make sure the candidate meshes well with your staff. You might even want to take the candidate out for a meal with a few staff members before you pull the trigger on hiring.

Don't be afraid to have "can't stands" or absolute deal-breakers when you hire. They'll help you really pare down your exact needs and hire more intelligently. The right people are out there for every practice; as they say, "there's a lid for every pot."

Be aware that new optometrists want very different things in a job.

Today's ODs don't want the same things that 70s, 80s, and even 90s grads did. Millennial optometrists have different educations, different values, and different motivations. Luckily, we did the hard work and surveyed them for you. Here's what we found.

If you're looking for what new optometrists want in their practice, our recent survey of fresh optometrists revealed that the majority are looking for 3 things:

  1. Independence
  2. Practicing under medical model
  3. Feeling a connection to the people with whom they work

Notice that none of these relate to money? But in case you're wondering, we also found that the average starting salary of a new graduate optometrist is $105,000. Interestingly enough, the numbers are slightly lower in in-demand cities, such as Los Angeles.

This is great news for you if you're looking to retire. The challenge isn't finding partners; it's knowing where to find them. We'll discuss that shortly.

On-board employees properly.

Nobody appreciates being thrown to the wolves. The most ambitious go-getters in the world will still fail if they're not properly on-boarded. Let's assume that you made absolutely sure to hire the best, brightest, and most ambitious staff member. You're so excited to get this new team member on-boarded that you just jump right in. Without structure in the on-boarding process, you are setting your staff up to fail.

The unfortunate ramification of this is that ambitious go-getters feel extra frustration when they fail. And that frustration will cause them to either underperform, leading you to fire them. That is, of course, unless they leave on their own.

Not sure where to find quality candidates?

Does it feel like it's harder to hire a good candidate than it used to be? You're not imagining it. There are plenty of great candidates out there, but it might be harder to find them if you don't know how to look. People aren't looking for jobs the way they used to. They don't check PennySaver or the Help Wanted ads.  In many cases, top talent is searching for jobs on social media! That's where they're going for professional growth and networking, so that's where they're looking for jobs. Fewer people are calling practices to find out who is hiring; it's simply no longer the way things are done.

Another thing that has changed significantly is that more people are relocating for their dream jobs. So if you have a lot to offer the right candidate, but you're not having luck finding someone locally, take action! Reach out to candidates and start networking; they just might be willing to relocate to join their dream optometry team!

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About Meredith Victor Castin, PT, DPT

Meredith is the co-founder of NewGradPhysicalTherapy.com and the founder of The Non-Clinical PT. She is originally from Tyler, TX and attended UPenn for undergrad, before graduating with her DPT from USA (San Diego) in 2010. She has worked in outpatient ortho, inpatient rehab, acute care, and home health. She loves spending time with her husband and 3 cats, and enjoys creating art and weird music.