Article Date: 10/1/2003

staffing solutions
A Matter of Compatibility
Hire people who best fit your office culture and your practice will thrive.
By Bob Levoy, O.D.

Knowledge and skills are, of course, important factors to consider when hiring new employees. Equally important, though, is identifying what personalities are a good fit with the culture of your practice.

Culture in this sense of the word refers to the way the doctors and staff function in a practice, the doctor's approach to management and the day-to-day "style" of the practice. Culture also includes the core values of a practice -- the kinds of things considered important, such as quality and service; initiative; teamwork; friendliness; punctuality; neatness; and a sense of humor.

When there's a good fit between the culture of a practice and its employees, people tend to be happier, harder working, more productive and, as a rule, stick around longer.

They ought to know

Chuck Williams, Ph.D., interviewed one of Home Depot's co-founders, Bernard Marcus, about the company's corporate culture for the book Management by (Southwestern College Publishing, 2000).

Mr. Marcus explains, "It starts with the basics -- hiring the right people -- the folks in the store who will create the shopping environment." He continues, "We want extroverts -- people who like other people. We look for people who have pleasing personalities and people who are highly motivated and who want to learn. You have to be discerning in finding them. Typically, out of 8,000 applicants, we hire 200 people."

Journalists similarly asked Herb Kelleher, chief executive officer of Southwest Airlines, about his company's corporate culture in an article published in the Journal of the American Compensation Association (winter, 1995).

"It starts with the hiring," he says. "We are zealous about hiring. We are looking for a particular type of person, regardless of which job category it is. We are looking for attitudes that are positive and for people who can lend themselves to causes. We want folks who have a good sense of humor and people who are interested in performing as a team and who take joy in team results instead of individual accomplishments."

Advice for the matchmaker

In the previous examples, the top management of the companies mentioned expressed being highly focused on the type of person best suited to the long-term goals of their organizations.

Action steps: To begin the search for employees who are compatible with the culture of your practice, first get a solid handle on the core values of your practice. Then, when interviewing job applicants, ask questions and make observations that enable you to learn about their values, temperament and job-related priorities. For example, you could ask them to describe the best boss they ever worked with.

If you make a mistake and hire team members who don't fit the culture of your practice, it will become readily apparent to everyone concerned. In such a situation it's best to just cut your losses and move on.

Reality check: Most optometric practices have unique cultures in the same way that employees have job-related priorities. These preferences are neither good nor bad, but the differences are part of what makes some practices (and some employees) more or less attractive to one another.



Optometric Management, Issue: October 2003