Article Date: 6/1/2003

staffing solutions
Giving 110 Percent, Part II
The latest installment in an on-going series on employee motivation
By Bob Levoy, O.D.

Last month, I discussed the importance of work that is interesting and challenging and the need of having a say in decisions that affect one's work. The next job-related need that's perhaps closest to being universal, is the need for appreciation of work performed.

Forgetting the basics

In a recent Internet survey conducted by Bob Nelson, Ph.D., 87.9% of 762 respondents ranked "being personally thanked for doing good work" as either "extremely important" or "very important." Sixty one percent rated "being praised for good work in front of others" the same.

Yet with the pressures of day-to-day practice, optometrists sometimes forget to praise. As one assistant said, "The only feedback I get from the doctor about my work is when I make a mistake." Good work, she added, "is either unnoticed or unappreciated."

Good work that goes unnoticed and unappreciated tends to deteriorate. How often do you praise your employees? More to the point, how often have you failed to do so when praise was truly deserved?

The feedback gap

In the course of conducting seminars, I've asked more than 1,000 doctors to consider the following statement: "I let my employees know when they're doing a good job," then rate themselves on a scale of 1 to 5 (1= never; 5=always). The average response: 4.4.

So far, so good.

At these same seminars, I've also asked staff members to rate the statement: "The doctor lets me know when I'm doing a good job," using the same rating scale. The average response: only 1.7.

The difference between the amount of positive feedback doctors say they give their employees and the amount employees say they get is what I call the feedback gap. Often it's the underlying cause of employee resentment, diminished productivity and turnover.

Many are caretakers

Another real-world, job-related need: Time off for child care, elder care and urgent personal matters.

Facts: Fifty percent of all mothers with children less than one year old are in the work force. Twenty-five percent of the work force have elder care responsibilities. In both cases, the numbers are increasing.

Studies show that employees with such care-taking responsibilities tend to come to work late; use the telephone excessively for personal calls; have more absenteeism; quit their jobs more readily. The buzzword to accommodate such employees in what Business Week calls "The New World of Work," is flexibility.

An optometric assistant recently told me, "When my father died, my boss said, 'Don't worry about your work. Think only about yourself and your family. If you need a week or even two weeks, take it. We'll cover for you.'"

"It wasn't the first time that the chips were down," she added, "and he was there for me . . . It meant a lot -- especially because I knew the pressure he was under as well."

Action steps: Consider flextime, job-sharing, telecommuting, and time off for urgent matters. Let sick days be used when the children of staff are sick.

Identifying and addressing employees' job-related needs is more than a nicety. It's a necessity in order to have a productive, high performance optometric practice.

To be continued



Optometric Management, Issue: June 2003