How to hire top talent

September 15, 2008

The leaders of two professional ophthalmology organizations discuss ways to hire top talent and retain them. Included in their tips are over-looked sources for potential employees such as national chains, the importance of job descriptions and what to include in them, and training.

Key Points

Jarrettsville, MD and Philadelphia-As with most businesses, finding and keeping good employees is often a challenge for ophthalmic practices. During a recent presentation, two industry consultants provided suggestions based on their professional and personal experiences as part of the presentation, "When and How to Hire Top Talent."

Pamela B. Fritz, president of the national consulting firm Ophthalmology Resources LLC and executive director of the American Association of Dispensing Ophthalmologists (AADO), focused her remarks on optical laboratory managers and personnel. Then, Kathy McNelis, COA, NCLC, president of Dynamic Ophthalmic Training and an AADO board member, spoke on recruiting and training office employees.

Newspaper classified advertising, the Web sites of professional associations such as the National Academy of Opticianry ( http://www.nao.org/) and the Opticians Association of America ( http://www.oaa.org/), and general employment Web sites such as http://Craigslist.com/, are often fertile sources of potential employees, said Fritz. She also recommended using state job banks and sales representatives who call on the practice. "They know where the good opticians are; they know there are people who are unhappy," she said.

An additional advantage of chain employees is that they are trained in selling and accustomed to meeting sales goals. "If the person has that mindset it can really help drive your dispensary," Fritz pointed out.

Written job descriptions are highly important, and new employees should sign a form stating that they have read and understood the description of their position. "You're getting them to say 'Yes, I understand these are my responsibilities, and I will be able to fulfill them,'" Fritz explained. She recommended reviewing the job description with the employee after 90 days to make sure they are fulfilling the requirements of the position.

Fritz advised including non-compete clauses in managers' contracts. "I'm investing a lot of money and training in that employee and I want to make sure he or she is going to stay with me for a while and not go down the street to a competitor. You have to determine the geographic boundaries, but a non-compete is definitely important for your management people," she said.

Compensation packages for optical managers generally include a base salary, benefits, and incentive bonuses. It's important while negotiating to remind prospective employees that benefits are part of their compensation, Fritz said.

Regarding incentives for optical managers, Fritz said she often establishes two levels of bonuses-one based on sales of selected items, and a dispensary performance bonus based on month-to-month or year-to-date sales increases. If a practice has multiple dispensaries, the lead optician could also receive a bonus. In all cases, though, it is important to structure incentives based on sales increases in the individual offices, so as not to favor optical shops located in more upscale areas.

In addition, bonus incentives should account for the cost of goods. "In most of the practices I've worked with that are dispensing, the cost of goods is running between 45% and 50%, which is totally unacceptable," Fritz said. "I've set a benchmark of 35%, because I want the practice to achieve a minimum 30% profit margin."

Training office employees

McNelis, who still works part-time as an ophthalmic assistant, said practices often overlook the importance of front desk personnel. "I feel that the front desk, and the people who answer your phones, are the most important people in the office to the success of your practice," she said. "They are the first face the patient sees when they come in, the first voice they hear when they call. So it is critical to find the right person for that job.

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