Article Date: 11/1/2003

business advisor
Dealing With Review Time
Be fair and just when handing out raises -- make your expectations known.
By Jerry Hayes, O.D.

This is the time of the year when staff members often come to you requesting that you "review" them. In essence what they're really saying is, "I'm willing to sit through some criticism if you're willing to give me a raise." As such, this situation can turn into a trap and I'm advising you not to fall into it. Here's how and why.

Set the record straight

It's difficult to keep an employee focused on performance issues when she's concerned about how big of raise she's going to get. And once you give her a number, the last thing she's thinking about is what she has to do for her next raise.

To justify ever-increasing salaries you have to create an incentive for your staff to continue growing. I think the best way to do that is to:

For example, you might tell a new frame stylist that her next raise will depend on her learning how to take all necessary measurements, write up a lab order, check the glasses in and perform a complete dispensing and adjustment without your help. Set a target date to review her review in three to six months and discuss the specific salary that you'll grant her if she succeeds.


This will only work if both you and the employee agree in advance on what you wish to accomplish and by when. Then put it in writing. When staff members successfully master new skills to your satisfaction, congratulate them on their achievements and then come through with the promised raise. Otherwise, you're going to have some less-than-motivated employees on your hands.

On the other hand, if they don't perform to your satisfaction, then you have to have the backbone to say, "Sorry, but you didn't live up to my expectations so you're not getting a big raise this year."

Giving the bare minimum

It's appropriate to give an employee just a cost-of-living raise when she hasn't grown her skill level but is still performing well enough to keep. Cost-of-living raises currently are typically about 3% each year.

Giving raises on merit

You should consider giving an employee a merit raise when she improves her job performance or her skill level in a demonstrative and visible way. For example, an employee who used to be shy but has learned how to be friendly and assertive on the phone is doing her job better and deserves your consideration for a merit raise. A front desk receptionist who learns to take case histories and use the autorefractor is someone who's learning new skills.

In both cases, the employees have increased their value to the practice, justifying a possible raise. Merit raises usually fall within the 6% to 10% range, depending on how much the employee makes now and how long she's been with you.

Make your intentions clear

While many optometrists tend to lump performance appraisals and salary reviews together, I think it's better to do them separately. It's your responsibility to tell your employees what aspects of their jobs they need to improve on and to then let them know that future raises depend on improving performance and learning new skills.

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: November 2003