I’ve always tried to develop a good office culture in my practice with my staff. I truly believe that if staff members like their job and feel respected by their bosses and co-workers, the result will be better attitudes and a stronger desire to achieve the goals of the organization. If all goes to plan, in addition to creating a more pleasant work environment, the practice receives a big benefit in the end because customer service is better and the patient experience is enhanced. That results in more word-of-mouth referrals of new patients and better patient reviews on social media. A strong organizational culture can be a big factor in building your practice.
That is all well and good, but how does one build a positive office culture? It is both simple and complex at the same time, but read on.
Starts with the leaders
The culture of an organization is really a reflection of the leaders. That is typically the owners, doctors and office managers, and if you’re one of those, it starts with you. At the simplest form, you need to really care about employees as people and you need to show that you care with actions. Treating staff with respect, kindness and fairness is a good start. Treating patients the same way and demonstrating the customer service culture yourself as you work with difficult patients are additional ways to set the tone of the practice. You are a role model for staff and you set the prime example of how to act.
Holding frequent staff meetings and communicating well are important factors in building your culture. Be interested in your staff. Ask them about their lives, without getting overly personal. Ask for their input and opinions on practice decisions and projects. Give employees verbal praise when deserved and be patient when they make errors.
Having some fun
We are also trying to find ways to make our office a more fun place to work. There are many great ideas for this and I’ll share a few in upcoming articles. The one we are working on right now is casual Fridays, which is spilling onto Saturdays as well because it might make working Saturdays a bit more bearable.
We have always provided staff uniforms in my practice as an employment benefit. We have cycled through many variations of health care uniforms, pants, tops and jackets in various colors or prints. We like a professional look and we replace the items twice per year so they look good. There are always challenges in getting all the sizes we need and choosing materials that wash well with few wrinkles. We don’t make every staff member perfectly happy in every case, but we have become veterans in the uniform process and we do very well.
Once per year, we have a special event for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation where staff members get to wear blue jeans to work and they make a donation to the cause for the privilege, which is matched by the practice. Everyone enjoys this day so much, and since society is changing, we decided to begin having casual Fridays (and Saturdays) every week. To keep the staff looking like a team and to enhance the identity of the practice, we printed t-shirts for all employees with the practice name and logo and they can pair this with jeans and any shoes they want (within reason).
We bought the custom t-shirts online from one of the many places that sell logo sportswear. We chose a bright color shirt which is thicker and higher quality than most t-shirts. It comes in a big range of sizes and there are cuts for men or women in round or V-neck. The shirt has the practice logo on the front left chest and a very large version on the back. This year happens to be the 40th anniversary of our practice and we had a special logo designed for this year only that has the number 40 worked into it. We are using the tag line: “Providing 20/20 to Northwest Indiana for 40 years.”
The t-shirts can be worn with a long sleeve shirt under it if the employee wishes. We are also supplying a zip up fleece jacket with the practice logo.
You may wonder if I can be sure that all this trouble and expense will pay off. I don’t know that I can be sure, but it is just my instinct.
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.