Top 5 Ways to Limit Staff Turnover - E8
In episode 7 we discussed the office meeting. I love using that as a way to get the whole team on the same page and instill the core values of the office. Today I want to continue talking about staff but at a more granular level. Our goals as practice owners are to see patients, deliver outstanding patient care, and hopefully that translates into an amazing business. In order to do all three at a high level, we need our staff to perform at a high level. The best way to do this is keep them happy and limit staff turnover. I am going to break down 5 things you need to consider to do just that.
Make Sure the Job They Are Doing, is the Job You Hired Them For
We have all been there. It is the middle of January, our busiest time of the year, and a staff member puts in their 2 week notice. It already feels like you are short staffed and now this? This is one of the scariest times to be hiring because you are in need, your judgment may be clouded, and you will make exceptions. This can lead to a poor work environment and more staff turnover.
Let me explain. You have to hire with a specific role in mind and you need to convey this to the hiree. If you make an exception and the new hire cannot do what is needed in the office 1) you are going to have to adjust their role. If they thought they were going to be an optician and you find their skill set is better suited for a work-up tech or front desk person, are they going to be fine with that? If not, they will not last long at your office and 2) if they can not do the job they are hired for, who has to pick up the slack? You got it, you or the rest of your staff. My guess is it is not going to be you, so you are creating a much more difficult work environment which again will lead to staff turnover.
The goal here is to not hire when you are in need, be slow and deliberate and make sure you are very clear about the skill set and responsibilities needed in the position you are filling. Everyone is happier when you make a good hire.
Support and Appreciation
In episode 6 we discussed how to implement change. You have to give your staff clear expectations, structure, and most of all support to do what you are asking them to do. In the case of a manager, if you set goals but do not give them the tools to achieve what you ask, they are going to become incredibly frustrated and feel like they are canoeing upstream without a paddle. Make sure you give them the power to make the changes you are asking for. Moreover, your staff needs to be empowered to help patients. If they constantly have to ask the manager or the practice owner what to do when a person breaks a frame, has a complaint, or is in any way unsatisfied, they will feel like a cog in the machine, not a person with a purpose. People want purpose in their jobs, so make sure your staff has it.
That being said, everybody likes praise and very few if any truly like criticism. I find that for every critique I offer, I have to give 3 positive affirmations to even it out in my staff's minds. This wears on me and is hard to consistently do. 2 things I have found to help are 1) save all the critics for the office meeting. This makes it much less personal and you get everyone on the same page or 2) if it’s something that cannot wait, work through your office manager. My manager is much, how shall we say, more nice than me. I tend to be direct and to the point. I do not think this is the best way to offer input (specifically criticism), and instead of me changing, the message is delivered much more tactfully when it comes from the manager.
Lastly, make sure your praise is sincere and authentic. A broad “great job today” will fall on deaf ears. In the moment build them up or at least document the specific situation and bring it up later so they know you are watching and they are doing a good job. People like working in a job they feel they are good at.
In my opinion, this is the secret sauce to having a happy staff. Believe it or not, your staff will never care about the business, patients, or outcomes as much as you. Yes, their livelihoods depend on a well run office, but they do not see it like you. They have a very ego-centric perspective. Your job is to give the best options for your staff while still accommodating your patients needs. These generally are not in line with each other. For example: patients love early mornings, after school, nights, and weekends. Your staff does not want any of the above. They would be happy with a 9 -5 or even a 9-3 schedule if you let them. They still want the same income, but they have lives too!
I have found having longer nights (7pm mondays and 6pm Tuesday-Thursday), a short Friday, and no weekends is a healthy compromise. We grind 4 days a week and you feel it by Thursday. On Fridays we close at noon and they have 3 days to be with their families. This still does not answer the need to play in a volleyball league on Thursday nights, school open houses that are held on Mondays, or watching their daughter’s volleyball games during the week, but you cannot make everyone happy and still run a successful business.
If you operated the hours they wanted, you probably need less staff and that is an option they do not want to hear. SO, make sure you do your best to allow your staff to have functional (hours-wise) lives outside the office. You do this and they will stay and want to work for you forever!
We have to consider the wages you are paying your staff. If you are too cheap, do not offer enough perks (PTO, Paid Holidays, Vacation) you will never compete in this job market. That being said, I have found time and time again, your staff WILL make exceptions to wage if you offer them a better work-life balance. I have seen employees take less money to have better hours, especially with young families. Again, you have to do what's best for the office overall, but if you do not have a staff, you are not going to be able to effectively care for your patients.
The last thing I will leave you with is make sure your staff feels like they are learning new things and growing. In small offices there can only be so many people ordering, billing, or managing, but everyone can feel like you are investing in them and their futures. Give them opportunities to get ABO training, conflict resolution training, CPR certifications, etc… All of this has value when they go home and discuss their jobs with spouses or friends and family. In the case of my office manager, I like taking her to Vision Expo West every year. She gets to see how big the industry is and it helps her buy into my vision and goals for the office. It does not hurt that she gets a weekend in Vegas either!
The moral of the story is, a happy staff makes for happy patients and a happy owner! Make the necessary changes now, and keep that turnover rate down. Get to work my friends!
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