Managing Personnel

From hiring to training to supervising as a clinical practitioner

When you enter optometric practice, you become more than a young doctor of optometry. Whether you are solo or join an established practice, you become a supervisor, too. Being a boss is a role for which you may feel unqualified—but AOA is here to help you prepare.

A breakdown of the advice you need for effective personnel management:

Hiring—The consequences of hiring the wrong person are numerous and costly. Conversely being methodical in your initial hiring practices maximizes your chances of finding good staff for the long haul.

Analyzing the position—Write a detailed job description for the position you wish to fill with a clear idea of the duties involved. Start by creating a position analysis, which includes the following information:

  • Job title
  • Duties performed on the job
  • How and why functions are performed
  • Specific knowledge required for the position
  • Specific abilities needed like dexterity, memory of names, verbal and non-verbal communication skills, ability to handle people, telephone voice, mathematical skills, etc.
  • Level of responsibility, for example the need for initiative and ability to anticipate needs without instructions
  • Experience and training that are valuable in doing the work
  • How this position fits in with other functions in the office
  • Physical demands
  • Patient contact aspects of the job
  • Changes in duties or knowledge likely to occur in the future

Creating a pool of applicants—The more applicants you have to choose from, the better your chances will be of finding the right employee. Make your ad as detailed as possible, and place it on mediums like job search websites, your website if applicable and possibly the help wanted section in local publications.

Appraising resumes—In a preliminary screening of resumes and letters, you might give a numerical score to each. Criterions include experience, steady employment, educational background and the overall appearance of the resume.

Telephone screening—Screening applicants by talking to them on the telephone can give you a good idea of their comparative telephone personalities.

Job applications—Use a standardized job application to formalize the hiring process.

Interviewing prospective employees—Once you’ve narrowed down the number of applicants, start interviewing to gain further information about each applicant. What you are assessing during an interview is the applicant’s personality, neatness, character, level of motivation and attitude toward optometry and work in general.

Five or six well-chosen, open-ended questions can reveal a great deal if you listen attentively. Here are some samples:

  • What is your primary reason for wanting this position?
  • Why are you seeking a job change?
  • Which of your previous employers did you like best? Why?
  • Do you think this job will be better than your last job? Why?
  • What did you like about your last job?
  • What was a typical day in your last job like?
  • How would you evaluate your former employer? What was the office like?
  • What does an optometrist do? What do you suppose your duties in this office would be?
  • Were you assigned any new duties during your last job? What were they? How did you like assuming these new responsibilities?
  • If you get this position, how long do you think you’d want to work here if everything were satisfactory for you?
  • Do you prefer an employer who gives you a lot of responsibility or someone who supervises you closely? Why?
  • What are your greatest strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • Why should I hire you?

Testing—Candidates who still seem promising at this stage can be given a test to assess skills. Think typing and written communications skills assessments for a receptionist, or role playing with a prospective assistant.

Checking references—Be sure to talk to at least two previous employers before offering a job to an applicant, even if you feel certain that the applicant is ideal.

Making an offer—Call the applicant, offer the job and specify the starting salary. Follow up your phone conversation with a written confirmation of the terms of the offer, including salary, hours, starting date, fringe benefits and so forth.

Supervising employees—Overseeing employees includes effective delegation and communication in addition to constructive criticism.

Harassment policy—Harassment on the part of the employer, the employee or even patients can be not only disruptive to the practice but can also give rise to legal consequences. That is why it is essential to be knowledgeable about actions that can be considered harassment under the law, how to investigate any claims and how to resolve the issues before they deteriorate into a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or a lawsuit. Therefore, it may be prudent to develop a "No Harassment" policy for your office.

Praise—Nothing has a more positive effect on staff morale than praise. The best way to compliment employees is to praise what they’ve done. The most underused phrase in personnel management is "thank you."

Staff meetings—Regularly scheduled staff meetings are an effective way to promote a spirit of collaboration. Spur-of-the-moment staff meetings are usually unproductive.

Structure of staff meetings—Whatever your agenda and time schedule, stick to it. Subjects might include patient load, staff problems, financial reports, ways to improve the appointment system, telephone techniques and division of labor.

Leading a staff meeting—Putting the emphasis on problem solving is a most productive leadership technique. By encouraging staff to bring solutions, not just complaints and problems, you infuse your meetings with a positive, can-do feeling.

Evaluating staff—Employees want to know if they are doing a good job. Giving feedback to staff keeps them informed and motivates them to improve their performance. A proven way to help employees is through regularly scheduled performance reviews.

The AOA Paraoptometric Resource Commitee (PRC) offers a wide variety of programming to assist doctor of optometry, optometric assistants and technicians in functioning smoothly as an eye care team. Call 800.365.2219, ext. 4222 for more information.

Performance review—Schedule a performance review for each employee at least once a year. Think of the review not as a report card but as an opportunity for the two of you to work together for improvement.

Employee records—Keeping a file on each employee is a must. Employees’ records should contain the following:

  • Completed employment application form and/or resume
  • Starting date, beginning salary
  • Up-to-date record of sick days and vacation days taken
  • Date and amount of last raise
  • Date of last performance review
  • Copies of performance reviews
  • Notes about incidents or warnings

Terminating an employee—You may want to set goals and objectives for employees at the beginning of employment. These will help employees know what you want and how to gauge their own job performance.

Immediate dismissal—Employees should know from the onset that certain behaviors are considered unforgivable and are grounds for immediate dismissal without warning.

Firing for poor performance—The first step toward firing this kind of employee is the warning. Make clear your intention to let him or her go if improvement is not visible and permanent. Note the warning in the employee’s file. Warnings make firing more acceptable later.

Handling the firing situation—You can reduce the trauma of firing an employee by being prepared. Personnel specialists recommend that you fire employees at the end of the day or week, and in an appropriate setting.

Salary, fringe benefits and bonuses—When hiring staff, you’ll have to decide on a salary level, and later determine raises, fringe benefits and bonuses.

Raises—The amount of raises vary from practice to practice. Many consultants recommend salary reviews every six months, and new employees often receive raises after the first six months of employment. Be sure to initiate the salary review yourself.

Complaints about salary and raises—You should be willing to discuss employees’ pay or raises in terms of the job they are doing but make it clear that you will not discuss comparison salaries.

Employees’ rights—A variety of laws govern employees’ rights regarding salary and fringe benefits. Be sure to be informed on overtime, exempt and nonexempt employees and fair labor standards enacted by federal and state laws.

Fringe benefits—These benefits include paid vacations, paid sick leave, personal days, education benefits and incentives and bonus payments.

Personnel manual—The official rule book of the practice should address commonly asked questions by employees, your policies regarding patient relations, dress, smoking, drinking and drug use, paid holidays, termination and other conditions of employment, plus a job description of each position in the office.

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