view from the top
Overlooking the Obvious?
When you train new staffers, do you forget
to teach them the basics?
Gary Gerber, O.D.
"I'm sorry, you'll have to see an eye doctor
to have that taken care of. We just sell glasses." No, I didn't overhear
this at an optical shop run by an optician. It was in a private optometrist's
office (the owner was a young residency- trained, medically oriented doctor).
I later found out that the receptionist who took
the above call was responding to a patient who asked if the doctor could take a
piece of metal out of his eye. Newly hired and with little training, the
receptionist gave the above reply. Interestingly, what happened in this office
often happens in many -- we train our staff in policies and procedures but
forget to educate them on the most basic facts of our business and industry.
For this reason, I have recommended that my
clients adopt a few unconventional training policies for both their rookie and
Work with a clean slate
A typical first day of training in most practices
involves having the new hire follow around a veteran employee. While this isn't
necessarily the wrong thing to do, it rarely helps to take advantage of the
"clean slate" most new employees bring to a business. A new employee's
first day is the best time to indoctrinate her about your way of doing business.
That's why I recommend to my clients that their new employees shadow them. Let
them see your philosophy of eye care in action with your patients. Observing
your level of care, skill and concern will educate your employees more
thoroughly than any document possibly could.
ILLUSTRATION BY PETER
Let them know who you are
Where did you go to optometry school? How did you
start your practice? Did you buy it from another doctor or open cold? Were you
always in the same location? You should record these and other historical points
of interest and have all of your employees (both old and new) read them.
Additionally, give a firm and accurate definition
of exactly what optometry is -- as defined by you. Make sure your staff is
perfectly clear about the entire spectrum of services and products you provide.
Test your staffers' knowledge
While many of us survey our patients, few of us
survey or quiz our staff. And given the continually changing scope of care that
we practice, it's a necessary task. For example, after attending a continuing
education class, you might want to start recommending silicone hydrogel contact
lenses for continuous wear. But your veteran staffer, who's heard you tell
patients to never sleep in their lenses, might not share your enthusiasm. After
training your staff about new procedures and technologies, quiz them at
regularly prescribed intervals. Catalog these quizzes and use them to train new
Work your way up
Make sure all of your employees (especially the
new ones) know the most basic demographics of your practice. I've visited
offices where it took five minutes of searching for a receptionist to find the
office's fax number. Make e-mail addresses, Web site addresses, office hours and
other "obvious" items readily available to all employees and include
it in new employee training.
Sometimes it's hard to view your business from an
unemotional and analytical standpoint, but if you want to get your staff
absolutely current and uniform in their training, it's best to take this
approach. Just start with the basics and go from there. So doctor, what's your
Dr. Gerber is the president of the Power
Practice, a company specializing in making optometrists more profitable.
Learn more at www.powerpractice.com
or call Dr. Gerber at (800) 867-9303.
Optometric Management, Issue: December 2003