Article Date: 3/1/2003

business advisor
Optometric Matchmaker
Make each staffer a '10' by matching her to a position based on her traits.
By Jerry Hayes, O.D.

I once retained a management consultant to help me deal with some employee problems. He spoke with my staff and then made a provocative statement. "Everybody in your office is a '10' -- if you have them in the right job."

Because my staff was by no means functioning at a peak level, I felt like I had wasted my money on this guy. But after a while, I started to understand his point. If I could do a better job of matching the natural talents of my employees to the duties I asked them to perform, they would not only be more productive, but they'd also get along better with each other and with me.

Creating a system

I recently hired an industrial psychology firm to help me identify the personality styles best suited for employees working in an optometric office. They started by testing a cross section of optometric employees on 16 basic personality traits. We gathered the data online and then developed a statistically valid profile of the staff members who most closely matched the 'ideal.'

This led to the creation of an instrument that allows any optometrist to evaluate his current staff or identify potential peak performers before making a hiring decision.

The four traits most highly correlated with 'peak performing' optometric assistants are:

1. Conscientious, responsible, duty oriented and rule compliant. (Correlation = 8.96 out of 10)

2. Detail oriented and organized. (Correlation = 7.44)

3. Even keeled, predictable and resilient. (Correlation = 7.14)

4. Accepting, trusting and sees the positive in others. (Correlation = 4.44)

Based on these findings, the best optometric assistants are highly responsible, duty oriented and show great attention to detail. They plan well, are thorough in their work and finish what they start. The good ones are also emotionally "steady" and have a generally upbeat and optimistic attitude.

Not always what you'd expect

I was a little surprised that traits such as technical brilliance and an outgoing personality didn't rank at the top. However, I've come to learn that many extroverts aren't good at detail and following through, which are highly desirable traits, and that a reasonably smart person can learn virtually every duty in your office.

Personality varies by position

Not only do you have to hire people with the right skills, but you have to be a good enough boss to put them in jobs that fit their personalities. You want your front desk assistant to be people oriented, but organized enough to keep up with all of the incoming calls. Your ideal technician is conscientious, understands the need to follow a set routine and works with patients in a pleasant manner.

You also want to hire a frame stylist who's comfortable in a selling situation. A good lab assistant on the other hand, needs to be exacting and independent minded enough to work alone. You don't want someone in that role who has high social needs and stops every few minutes to chat.

Realizing general facts

What the profile really tells me is that the best long-term employees are the steady type. You can count on them to show up every day, do their work and get along with coworkers and patients. Those are traits any boss could love.

(For more information on how to use this profile in your office, visit

A frequent writer and speaker on practice management issues, Dr. Hayes is the founder and director of Hayes Consulting.  You can reach him at (800) 588-9636 or JHAYES@HAYESCONSULTING.NET.

Optometric Management, Issue: March 2003