Could your practice benefit from hiring part-timers? Find out.
Bob Levoy, O.D., Roslyn, N.Y.
Have you ever wondered whether part-time employees are worth the trouble? Many practitioners are realizing that it's no trouble at all to hire them. In fact, they're benefiting a great deal by saving money on benefits and by retaining experienced employees who would've otherwise retired. See if your practice can benefit from this type of hiring.
If the circumstances fit . . .
If you answer "yes" to one or more of the following questions, your practice may benefit from hiring part-time employees.
- Is it hard for you to find qualified, full-time personnel?
- Does your practice have peaks and valleys of activity?
- Does your staff lack the time to implement ideas that would generate practice growth?
- Do your employees have child or elder care obligations that infringe on their schedules?
- Has burnout become a problem for any of your staffers?
- Has employee turnover been a problem in your practice?
In many areas of the country, part-timers are the fastest growing segment of the labor force. The following are some of the perks of part-time staffers:
- They expand the pool of applicants to include those who may have left to start a family and now want to return part-time.
- Hiring part-timers gives you a huge recruitment edge over practices that offer the same compensation but no part-time.
- Use part-timers to help smooth the peaks and valleys of workflow and to improve patient service when your practice is particularly busy.
- Because part-time employees have reduced hours, they bring renewed energy to the job. They can better focus on their work and usually miss fewer days.
- Using part-time staff retains older employees who have valuable skills and experience. Surveys indicate that many of them would extend their working lives if they could work part-time rather than choose between full-time work and retirement.
Dr. Gindoff (see "A Case from the Success
Files") has retained two valuable employees who, after many years of employment, were (at their request) granted part-time status.
- They reduce labor costs during slow times when full-timers aren't needed. Also, employers aren't generally required to provide fringe benefits for employees who work less than 1,000 hours a year. Check with your state.
Smoothing the differences
In my opinion, the benefits of hiring part-timers far outweigh the disadvantages, but here are a couple of points to consider. If you don't handle the part- and full-time staffs properly, you may wind up with a lack of continuity. Also, patients who are used to seeing the same person in the practice may not feel as comfortable with a new part-timer.
If you hire or already have part-timers, keep in mind that they may feel like outsiders. To foster a connection, schedule staff meetings at times when they can attend, keep them informed about policy and protocol changes and provide frequent performance feedback.
Out of the Success Files
By Bob Levoy, O.D.
I spoke to Stuart
Gindoff, O.D., M.B.A., F.A.A.O., managing partner of the Eye Center South in Sarasota, Fla., about his part-timers.
He said, "We have four part-time employees and we're extremely satisfied with the arrangement. One reason is the saving in overhead costs." He explained that he doesn''t compensate part-time staffers with paid sick time or vacation time. Dr. Gindoff also doesn't pay part-timers when the office is closed for a holiday (unless it's a regularly scheduled workday), and because of their employment status, he's not required to contribute to a retirement fund for them.
Dr. Gindoff pointed out another advantage of having part-time staffers. He said that with them, his office has more than one employee trained to do a specific job. "When another staffer can't come to work, we can call in 'substitutes,' " he explained.
I asked Dr. Gindoff if he thought consistency was a problem and he replied, "For the most part, this hasn't been a problem. However, if there's a visible difference between two part-timers doing the same job, then it's the supervisor's (or doctor's) responsibility to straighten things out."
Finally, Dr. Gindoff said, "If we didn't have such a shortage of trained ophthalmic labor in our area, we'd hire more part-timers."
Dr. Levoy is a seminar speaker and writer based in Roslyn, N.Y.
Butterworth-Heinemann will soon publish his newest book, 101 Secrets of a High Performance Optometric Practice. You can reach him at 5l6-626-l353 or
Optometric Management, Issue: May 2001