Article Date: 3/1/2003

staffing solutions
Keeping Staff Motivation High
Invest in your employees and your practice will reap the rewards.
By Bob Levoy, O.D.

You sense it the moment you walk in the front door of a high-performance optometric practice: The staff welcomes you to "our office." They speak of "our practice" and "our patients" with such obvious pride and enthusiasm that you know that what they do is more than "just a job."

To make it happen in your practice, invest in your employees -- make their work interesting and meaningful. Compensate them well. And care about them.

Fostering the right atmosphere

Where do you start? Here's an overview of the basic action steps.

Share motivation. To motivate your employees, you must be motivated. It's this desire to do something important that ignites passion among your employees. It emanates from you and has a powerful impact on those around you.


Ask often for employees' ideas and feedback. Your employees are a rich, untapped source of ideas. Use them to boost patient satisfaction, practice growth and profitability.

Empower employees. Give them responsibility and authority. A common complaint of optometric staffers with whom I talk is, "I'm treated as if I don't have a brain." Give employees the power to do their job, then get out of their way and let them do it. Trust them. It will pay off handsomely.

Grow your staff. Give employees opportunities to acquire new skills and tackle tasks that require what industrial psychologists call s-t-r-e-t-c-h. This principle revolves around the theory that the competence of most people is increased when given a challenge. It requires a willingness to accept mistakes along the way; without risk, there is no growth.

Catch them in the act. On a regular basis, catch employees doing something right and praise them immediately, specifically and genuinely. It's the single easiest and most effective thing you can do to raise employee morale.

Celebrate. Have parties, celebrations and plenty of public pats on the back for achieving practice goals, employee birthdays, anniversaries, going away or "welcome aboard" occasions, or even for no reason at all. It will create an enjoyable work environment that will boost everyone's morale.

Invest in up-to-date equipment so employees can perform well. Out-of-date equipment has a demoralizing effect on staff, especially if they frequently need repairs. The inference is: "Your work isn't important enough to remedy the situation."

Acknowledge the person. In today's time-pressured environment, it makes sense to have policies that take into account the realities of your employees' personal lives. Being an employee is only one of the roles they juggle. With more employees concerned about child care and elder care, it's important to find ways to help them meet these personal needs. You'll win employees forever if you view them as complete human beings with personal lives, rather than just as employees.

Employees are # l. Don't cave in to patients who abuse, insult and intimidate your employees. Step in at the appropriate moment with the appropriate support including, if warranted, a request for such patients to leave the practice. You'll be a hero to your staff.

Walk the talk. If you can't genuinely embrace one or any of these steps, don't fake it. You won't fool anyone, least of all your employees. And you'll only stifle morale and productivity.



Optometric Management, Issue: March 2003