Article Date: 1/1/2002

business advisor
Five Essentials for a Perfect Staff
Skill, desire and the right tools make for a productive employee.
By Jerry Hayes, O.D.

As a practice owner, you want your staff to be as efficient and productive as possible. To achieve that goal, each staffer must possess the following five things.

What the employee must already have

The following quality is something that an employee must bring to the job.

1The basic skills for the position. Identifying qualified candidates is arguably the most important part of being a good employer. If you hire a talented employee who's also a good fit for your office, your management role becomes a lot easier. Be sure to look for someone who has a desire to perform the job well and who has a sound work ethic.

My strong advice is that you never hire someone until you check his references and perform third-party testing. Inexpensive written tests that measure basic math, reading and logic skills are available from companies such as Wonderlic (800-963-7542 or

Online personality tests from can help you determine if a candidate's personality and work ethic will fit with your current office environment.

What you must provide for the employee

It's your job to provide employees with the following components:

2 A written job description. More than just listing what the job entails, the job description should explain how you want the job done.

For example, if one of the receptionist's duties is to answer the telephone, the description should include details such as, "Answer the telephone within three rings and with a pleasant voice." If you don't have job descriptions for your current employees, take the time to sit down with them and make a brief outline of their current responsibilities. Once you have an outline, you can enhance it and add details on an ongoing basis.

3 A training program. No matter how small your office, you need some type of training program. Training usually comes from a variety of sources: you, other staff, sales reps and off-site seminars. A well-trained staff that knows how to perform their jobs in a professional manner will make a big difference in how patients perceive you as their eye doctor.

4 The right equipment. It doesn't have to be fancy; it doesn't have to be new. But your staff must have the right equipment (all in good working order) to do their jobs well. Who's going to do the better job of pre-testing -- someone working with a Snellen chart and a Schiotz tonometer, or a sharp assistant using an air puff tonometer and an autorefractor?

5 Feedback. The number-one motivator for employees isn't money or recognition, it's feedback about performance. That's right -- the way to help someone perform at a higher level involves clearly explaining what you expect him to do and then giving him consistent feedback on how he's doing.

Good bosses not only inform staff members when they're doing something wrong, but also give positive reinforcement for a job well done. Be sensitive to how each employee likes to be handled, and give feedback one-on-one -- not in front of patients or co-workers.

The right mix

While every practice is different, a staff can't reach its full potential without possessing some level of all five components. It's the practice owner's job to pick the right people and to then give them the support they need to serve patients. Do that well, and you're going to have a highly productive staff.



Optometric Management, Issue: January 2002