Article Date: 12/1/2005

5_05 Fix this_2

Run A Tight Ship
Adequate staff training can influence whether your practice sinks or swims.
RICHARD S. KATTOUF, O.D., D.O.S.

Q: Are staffing issues getting worse? What do you see as the major employee problem    and how do you correct it?
Dr. E. B. Hahn
Via e-mail

A: There is no doubt that keeping employees in line has become one of the top three problems in the work place. Let's take a global look at the employee crop you are presently hiring. Many present-day workers lack structure, organization and consequences (S.O.C.) to negative behavior. The problem that I see is a lack of awareness in setting and implementing boundaries. O.D.s commonly put up with negative behavior because they lack the will to deal with the problems. When you ignore negative behavior, there is a domino affect:

• The owner/doctor becomes an enabler of improper conduct.
• Employees who don't have S.O.C. problems perceive your behavior as failing to protect them.
• New employees may pick-up negative behavior and attitudes.
• Efficiency, productivity and profitability will decline.
• Offices that lack well-defined employee boundaries exhibit much higher levels of embezzlement.

Territorial behavior

The number one problem that I observe with staff is simply that many "varsity" employees are unwilling to share their knowledge with new hires. The common term for this behavior is territorial. The following are reasons I have encountered for territorial behavior from a senior staff member.

• Consciously or subconsciously afraid the new co-worker may out perform them.
• Fatigued and tired of constant employee turnover and training.
• Covering-up their own failings and possibly embezzlement.
• Thinks doctor (owner) will put them on a pedestal because "no one else can do their job."

Break down

Dr. B.W. McGee called my company with some major staffing problems. Dr. McGee loved optometry but his inability to solve staffing issues was holding him back. The practice's gross income was stagnant for five years. His net income was no more than what he would earn as an employed O.D.

My on-site consulting and management visit exposed the problem. Evelyn, the office manager, was well-trained and skilled in all clinical and optical areas. The other three employees lacked skills because there was no organized training program. The other employees questioned Evelyn twenty to thirty times per day, with none of them learning from this interaction.

It's interesting that Evelyn had developed numerous stress-related symptoms since Dr. McGee had continued to overfill her plate.

Making it work

I suggested the following:

• Initiate a video training program supported by workshops to train all employees in all departments. (Note: This cross training philosophy is not universal. It was necessary in this practice.)
• Test employees to assure they are learning the information.
• I instructed Evelyn to discontinue answering questions if she felt the co-worker had been trained in that area.
• I also established a team commission system.

After I asserted that Evelyn is a vital component of the team, I explained that if each member did not perform, the team would not earn profit sharing. By breaking down territorial behavior, Evelyn would earn commission, decrease stress, improve her health and make work more enjoyable.

Dr. McGee's gross income has increased by 20%.

Awareness of your total operation is necessary to detect and prevent territorial behavior. OM

DR. KATTOUF IS PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER OF TWO MANAGEMENT AND CONSULTING COMPANIES. FOR INFORMATION, CALL (800) 745-EYES OR E-MAIL HIM AT ADVANCEDEYECARE@HOTMAIL.COM. THE INFORMATION IN THIS COLUMN IS BASED ON ACTUAL CONSULTING FILES.

 

 



Optometric Management, Issue: December 2005