Article Date: 4/1/2002

Staffing Solutions
Uniting Your Office
Combine these four ingredients to get a successful staff meeting.
BY JAMES C. LANIER,JR., O.D., F.A.A.O.

What do you try to accomplish at your staff meetings? If your goal is good communication among your employees, then you're definitely on the right track. Handled properly, staff meetings are the perfect venue for effective dialogue and problem solving. Read on to see what we do in our practice.

The four segments

We recommend first that you set aside a regular time for staff meetings. No matter what, hold those meetings as scheduled. Close the office during that time, if necessary, or hire a part-time employee.

You could have your spouse cover the front office during that time. We post a sign explaining that we're in a meeting but that patients are welcome to sit in the waiting room until we're finished.

We divide our hour-long meetings into four 15-minute segments:

ILLUSTRATION BY ROY SCOTT

1) Educational. In this segment, we try to teach our staffers about medical issues outside of their everyday activities.

Our doctors may discuss postoperative laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK), cataract surgery or new glaucoma treatments. Our optician may describe a new line of frames, lens coatings or a new progressive multifocal. Sometimes we teach a new technique, such as using a tonometer or an optomap, as well.

2) Problem solving. Here we try to improve upon issues that weren't handled in the best way the first time. We explain what happened, what we did and discuss what we should have done. We strategize to do it correctly the next time.

Mishandled issues often boil down to miscommunication, such as a change in a patient's insurance benefits. Listen to your employees. Frequently they're the best problem solvers because they're on the front lines.

3) Policy update. We take these 15 minutes to address such issues as new insurance companies we've signed with, or companies whom we've dropped, and to address any changes in office procedures.

4) Thank-you session. Mark Twain said, "I can live for a month on one sincere compliment." That's what we aim for to wrap up each meeting. One member of the group will identify one other member and publicly thank him for a favor, a helpful hand or anything else that's truly appreciated. For example, one staffer might thank another for covering for her when she had to leave early to tend to a sick child.

The doctors also participate in this exchange. Our male employees appreciate this approach just as much as our female staffers. It unites the group and builds camaraderie. It's a sort of bonding session. We find that this appreciation carries over to our dealings with patients -- we realize that we should thank them, too, for helping us thrive.

We've also found that this one-on-one personal approach is more effective and genuine than routinely handing out a plaque or gift certificate for the "Employee of the Month," as we used to do. We now recognize an "Employee of the Year" only once, at our annual Christmas party, and each staffer votes on who she thinks deserves it.

Try it!

If you're finding yourself stuck in a rut with meaningless staff meetings that don't achieve any purpose, try this approach instead. You'll accomplish more and probably have a happier bunch of employees, too.

DR. LANIER PRACTICES AT DRS. WOOD, LANIER, BOWMAN & ROGERS, WITH OFFICES IN JACKSONVILLE, AND PONTE VEDRA BEACH , FLA. THE PRACTICE HAS A STAFF OF 16.

 


Optometric Management, Issue: April 2002