A few weeks ago I wrote about the importance of staff training and I’ve had several colleagues ask how to handle the issue of wages and travel expense if employees are sent to major conferences that are out of town. I think sending one or two staff members to a major conference provides a level of training that can’t be matched in your office, plus the staff receive a huge morale boost for their career. The AOA, SECO, Vision Expo, AAO, and national alliance groups all put on outstanding meetings with world class speakers and a vendor exhibit area that is also educational.
There is a significant cost to sending an employee on an educational trip, but it is a pre-tax business expense investment and the return on investment is very strong. A well-trained staff elevates your practice. You can decide how many staff members you can send and how frequently. It can be viewed as a bonus for high level performers and it may stimulate other employees who would like to be considered for the opportunity next year.
To keep the expenses under control, you need an office policy for staff training and education. When I wrote the policy for my practice, I wrestled with how much to pay and how to do it. I had to realize that even though a trip to a conference is more fun than a day at the office, it is still work for the employee and they should be compensated for their time, plus the travel expense.
Here is the policy I came up with for my practice.
Education and Travel Policy
Education is not mandatory; employees do not have to attend meetings outside the office except under special circumstances that will be announced.
Educational programs and specific courses must be approved by the doctor. Several factors will be evaluated and not all requests can be honored.
The practice pays the employee’s usual wage for full days or half days spent at educational programs and in travel. It makes no difference if the days are usually scheduled for work or not.
The doctor will determine how many full or half days are spent in education and travel.
The practice pays for the registration and educational course expense.
The practice pays for travel expense but hotel and air fare arrangements must be approved by the doctor in advance of booking. Driving is reimbursed at the current IRS mileage rate.
The practice will reimburse the employee for reasonable meal expense, taxi, parking etc. upon submission of receipts. The allowance for meals shall be $50 for a full day unless special arrangements are approved.
Employees who register for courses but cancel or do not show will be charged for any fees or travel expenses that are not refundable.
If the practice is closed for education courses, no hourly wages are paid to employees who choose to not attend the education.
A spouse or guest may accompany the employee to an out-of-town conference provided it is clearly understood that the purpose of the trip is for work and the employee must spend the entire full day or half day at the conference. Also, any additional travel or meal expense will be paid by the employee.
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week
Dr. Gailmard's new book, Practice Management in Optometry: A Blueprint for Success Based on the Optometric Management Tip of the Week, is now available on Amazon.