In her latest blog, Joy Gibb, ABOC writes why allowing staff more learning opportunities builds better office morale.
Editor’s Note: Welcome to “Eye Catching: Let's Chat,” a blog series featuring contributions from members of the ophthalmic community. These blogs are an opportunity for ophthalmic bloggers to engage with readers with about a topic that is top of mind, whether it is practice management, experiences with patients, the industry, medicine in general, or healthcare reform. The series continues with this blog by Joy Gibb, ABOC, an optician at Daynes Eye and Lasik in Bountiful, UT. The views expressed in these blogs are those of their respective contributors and do not represent the views of Ophthalmology Times or UBM Advanstar.
I recently returned from teaching at Vision Expo East. These meetings are always full of energy and excitement and after 29 years in the industry I’m always amazed at how much I can learn, whether as a students or from the students! Not only do I learn, but I come back to my practice with new ideas to implement and my fire rekindled for how to better care for my patients and my fellow staff.
During my time at Expo, I hear comments from doctors who may be concerned about their return on investment when sending team members to seminars or educational meetings. The concerns are valid. It can be expensive to pay for educational hours, travel, lodging, and time away from the practice. Sometimes the employees they are most concerned about are the new ones. It’s not uncommon to hear the concerns, “I spend a lot of time on training them and getting them educated. What if they leave?”
But I have a question, “What if they stay?”
A few years ago The Better Vision Institute conducted a survey of Eyecare Professionals from across the country. The respondents included ophthalmologists, optometrists, opticians, techs, managers, and lab employees.
The question posed was how we can build better morale in the office setting. The second most popular response was being given opportunities for professional training.
It wasn’t bonuses or raises or promotions. It was being given the opportunity to learn how to be better at what they do so they can become a more valuable member of the team. When employees feel educated in their job and how the entire office functions, they are more confident in their abilities to answer questions and take care of the patient’s needs.
Consider taking your entire staff to a training meeting, where classes are offered for everyone. Most meetings today offer a track of courses for physicians and another track with courses for support staff. It can include courses on billing, scheduling, customer service, dispensing and selling glasses and contact lenses, and more efficient ways to prepare patients for the eye exam. Taking your team provides an opportunity for everyone to learn more about their particular jobs, but also allows them to share new information with each other. In addition, if the meetings are held out of town it gives your team an amazing chance to see each other’s personalities shine outside of the office. I know some practices ease the cost burden by putting reward money or incentives from labs or lens manufacturers toward the expenses.
Larger practice ideas
If you have a larger practice with many employees, you may find it more cost effective to bring a speaker to your office. When you choose this option you can also tailor the courses given to fit the needs of your team and practice. Giving the staff an opportunity to spend a day learning together can be invaluable to morale and their ability to serve the customer better.
There are also several cost effective ways to train your staff. Subscribe to some of the trade publications and make reading assignments of articles that pertain to your team members. Once they have read the article, have them teach what they have learned from the article to other team members during a staff meeting.
You can also utilize your lab and lens reps to come and educate your staff about products you may recommend. The more they know about products, the more correctly they can match a patient’s needs and expectations with product. Those educated recommendations build trust between patient and eyecare professional. It’s important for doctors to also understand product solutions so they too can make recommendations to patients. You don’t have to know prices and all the technical aspects of the lens or treatments, but ask your dispensers which products are working well and which products are good answers for certain prescriptions or lifestyles.
Many companies also offer online learning.
Typically, there are a wide variety of subjects offered and they can be done at your leisure, individually or with the entire staff, during a breakfast or lunch meeting. There are several lens companies that have online learning geared specifically toward team members who have been in the industry less than a year. You may also find “boot camps” offered locally where you can send a new team member for an intensive hands on training for two days.
Offering your team members an opportunity to learn will give them the tools they need to perform better and become more confident in their abilities to help patients. As they see you invest in them, they will in turn have a desire to perform better and can see themselves with you long term. Providing them educational opportunities isn’t a guarantee that they will stay, but if they do stay they will be the competent and engaged employee you and your patients deserve.