Staff- The Secret Ingredient

You are here

“You put the heart and soul into a hotel in the form of its people.” – Cesar Ritz, Founder of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel

“You can design, create and build the most wonderful place in the world but it takes people to make the dream a reality.” – Walt Disney

These two business giants have built business strategies that have stood the test of time in creating amazing customer experiences. Their philosophies and lessons have been studied and taught to many generations of leaders in every industry, including ours.

What can we learn from giants in the hotel and amusement park industry? Plenty, but it boils down to two simple concepts:

The Difference is the Experience: For the most part, all eye care providers do the same things. Sure, some of us are medically oriented and others can fit scleral lenses. But in reality, we examine, then we diagnose, then we treat. What makes us different from one another – really different – is the experience we provide to our patients. How do my patients feel when they are in my practice, compared to yours? And what perception do they have of me after they leave, compared to your patients?

The Experience is the People: To an outsider, our offices all look about the same and they look a lot like most doctors’ offices. What patients notice and remember is the greeting when they walked in the door, the explanations of the tests and the conversation with the doctor. They remember the discussions about money and insurance and the phone call when scheduling the appointment.

Ritz Carlton and Disney invest more in people than any other company in their respective industries. To have a staff that people talk about, you have to do the same. I recommend that you commit 2% of your overall budget to staff development. This may include conferences, in-office training or whole office retreats. It doesn’t include bonuses or other monetary compensation.

You must also be strategic about who you select to be a member of your team. The Ritz uses talent profiles for every role in their organization and Disney uses an elaborate system called “Casting” to ensure that every “cast member” is in a role that allows them to shine for the team. You should define what makes a perfect member of your team when we aren’t hiring. If you wait until you’re shorthanded, you will just take the least bad applicant. How can you know who’s perfect if you don’t know what perfect means?

It’s essential to get staff off to a great start by implementing a great orientation program. The first day on a new job is one of the most stressful days in a person’s life. Make it a good day by preparing a day’s worth of activities to make the new person feel welcome and important. Assign someone the responsibility of making sure the new person is comfortable all day long.

When it comes to training, shadowing is a common method, but is woefully inadequate. Proper employee training has three basic steps. If any of these training steps are skipped, then under-training occurs. This forces the new person to figure things out on their own, which is ineffectual and often not in step with office policies.

Step 1: Begin the training program simply by explaining what you do. “This is the method we use to perform this task. This is how we discuss it with the patient, this is the button we push and this is how we explain it. Sometimes we need to make this small adjustment.”

Step 2: Watch the trainee perform the task. Don’t hide from the patient that the new person is learning. To the patient: “This is our new employee and she is learning to use this instrument, so I will be working with her.” To the trainee: “Perform the task just like we talked about and everything will work great. This is one of those times to make that adjustment. Great work.” Never say, “That was wrong” to the trainee in front of a patient.

Step 3: Direct supervision of someone being trained in a new technique needs to be tapered like a steroid. When they pretty much get it, let them do two or three by themselves then ask, “How did that go? Any trouble?” Make it clear that they are safe to ask any question they want. Then check two or three times per day, then once daily, etc.

Whether it is a worldwide organization or a small optometry practice, communication is the key component of any strong team. Your communication system must have the following components to effectively bind the team around one unified message.

Effectively communicate the vision of the organization to every member of the team. Make it clear what type of experiences you will strive to provide to your patients. Will it be focused on relationships and trust or more on products and technology? This must be incorporated in your orientation plan and made very clear to everyone currently in the organization. To be clear, a mass email will not do.

Set clear goals and measure with predefined benchmarks. Goals may be established by the entire team on the specific objectives to be accomplished, and by when. Goals are things that can be, and should be, measured and tracked routinely, such as capture rate, income per exam, number of exams, and wait time.

Reach out every, single day. I am a big advocate of short, daily meetings to discuss special situations and make tweaks to the plan. It is better to know if you are going to have a busy day or a slow day before it is actually happening. “That patient who we left in the exam room last year is coming back, please take good care of her,” are the types of things you can say at a daily meeting. If you can’t meet daily, send out an update message to the team. The secret is to be relentless.

Your staff is the secret ingredient to the success of your practice. To stand out, you must commit to constant improvement in your ability to attract and keep quality people.

Dr. Michael Rothschild practices in Carrollton, GA and is the founder of Leadership OD.