Holiday how to: Gifts, goals and goodwill

December 6, 2016
Use these tips to give staff, and patients, a truly happy holiday.

Excerpted from page 12 of the November/December 2016 edition of AOA Focus.

The holidays are just around the corner. Don't let lack of time preclude you from providing your staff, and patients, a truly happy holiday. Heed these experts' tips.  

1. Employee bonuses or holiday gifts?

There is a wide range of options for year-end rewards for employees and no real standard, but the holiday season is a good opportunity to garner goodwill with your staff, says Neil Gailmard, O.D., chief optometric officer of IDOC, a practice development organization, and CEO of Gailmard Eye Center in Munster, Indiana.  

"Start by considering if you want to pay a work-related bonus or holiday gift. If your goal is to pay a bonus based on job performance, it is better to plan for that well in advance and share your goals with employees so they can work to achieve them. If you decide to pay a work bonus as a holiday surprise, be aware that employees may tell their co-workers the amount they received, which could trigger questions if others receive less or more."  

Also consider simply giving a gift, such as a personal item or gift card.  

Dr. Gailmard adds, "Be aware that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires you to treat gifts to employees as ordinary income, and taxes must be paid. If you are giving a gift check of $100 to each person, you may want to increase the gross amount so the check nets out to $100 after withholdings. As you decide what to do, consider what you have done in the past. Your history sets current employee expectations."  

2. Set goals and stick to them.

Think of the office as a team—everyone is important and everyone should benefit from office growth, says Steven T. Reed, O.D., AOA trustee and president of Family Vision Clinic in Magee, Mississippi.  

That's why he and office manager Beverly Roberts, CPOT, work monthly to set goals that promote growth and quality care. Last year the team came up with a new idea: What would it take for the office to go to Hawaii?   

"My first thought was: that's a whole lot of money," Dr. Reed says.

But the two sat down and projected expenses, including lost production from a week-long closure.  

"We divided the sum into weekly goals to determine the feasibility and presented it to the team," Dr. Reed says. "That was in January and to date, we're on track to make the trip. I have never seen a group work so well together and be so focused on a goal. It's exciting to watch as they reach new markers and post displays in our back office area."   Dr. Reed adds, "Seeing them learn the value of setting a goal and working to achieve it, that's a life lesson that will continue to serve them even after the trip."  

3. Leverage FSAs.

Reportedly, 62% of companies with 50 to 499 employees—and 85% with 500 to 4,999—offer flexible spending accounts (FSAs), according to a 2015 Mercer survey. FSAs must be used before the calendar year draws to a close, otherwise that money can be forfeited, except for a small portion that rolls over. The AOA fought hard in 2012-13 to uphold this "use-it-or-lose-it provision" after the IRS tried doing away with it altogether; AOA stressed elimination of the rule might lead to less primary and preventive eye and vision care.  

Dr. Gailmard suggests sending an email blast to patients, reminding them that eye care and optical purchases qualify for reimbursement under most plans. And how about coupling this timing with a patient appreciation event?  

"The holidays are a festive time of year, which makes it a great time to throw a party. Plan a holiday sales event in your optical—include a frame style show or trunk show and offer special discounts—and host a special day with holiday refreshments and decorations," Dr. Gailmard says.  

4. Give back.

Now is the perfect opportunity to make a charitable donation to optometry's premier philanthropic and charitable organization, Optometry Cares®—The AOA Foundation. A tax-deductible donation supports programs such as InfantSEE® and other initiatives to expand eye health and vision care access to everyone in the U.S.  

Please condsider a donating to Optometry Cares.

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