In the most recent Eyecare Business reader survey, ECPs told us that—hands down—staff training is one of their biggest challenges in the optical.
To help, we’ve tapped both training-centric expert eyecare professionals and smart-as-a-whip outside training resources to get the 411 on the best way to train new employees to excel at your eyecare business.
Read on to learn exactly:
WHO should train the neophytes.
WHEN + WHERE they should train them.
HOW they should do it.
WHAT is essential to cover.
FUN + GAMES
Take the lead of New Look Eyewear and make ongoing training fun. The 80-store Canadian chain created Transitions-related versions of “Jeopardy,” “Family Feud,” and “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire,” and store managers play the games with staff during their weekly meetings.
- Robin Elliott, senior consultant, and Bess Ogden, implementation specialist, at Williams Group, a practice management consulting firm in Lincoln, NE
- Terri Gossard, O.D., executive director of the ECP Network, a division of ABB OPTICAL GROUP’s Primary Eyecare Network
- Gary Kaschak, a Sterling Optical franchisee for almost 30 years in suburban Philadelphia
- Jennifer Lenhart, ABOC, director of training and development at OnSight Optical, an optical management and dispensary company in Clearwater, FL
Which staff member(s) should have responsibility for training? Our experts agree it should be the senior-most person possible.
Tap the Top Dog. “I count on my top person,” says Gary Kaschak, a Sterling Optical franchisee for almost 30 years in suburban Philadelphia, “as well as myself.”
Terri Gossard, O.D., executive director of the ECP Network, a division of ABB OPTICAL GROUP’s Primary Eyecare Network, adds, “Seasoned office managers are well-positioned to oversee training, but you may choose to delegate this based on any unique needs and practice characteristics.”
Consider Experience Level. Jennifer Lenhart, ABOC, director of training and development for OnSight Optical, agrees.
“It all depends on whether you hire seasoned opticians [we do] or inexperienced ones,” she notes.
Bring on the Feedback. “I always recommend that team leads for each department be responsible for training and reporting progress to the doctor and/or practice administrator,” says Robin Elliott, senior consultant at Williams Group, a practice management consulting firm in Lincoln, NE.
Putting a formal program in place is imperative, but so is built-in flexibility.
Prep for Orientation. Elliott suggests preparing a new employee packet that includes “expectations, a job description (very important!), user names and passwords, a training timeline, and who will be leading it.”
Share Your Manual. Next step, share (and go over) the company operations manual. “Ours includes everything from how to use our computer ordering system to managed care and plan info, policies and procedures, and forms we use, plus pricing information and more,” says Lenhart.
Start Training. Use your business’s outlined training program—or our one-month Employee Training Map outlined on page 61—to kick off the process.
Use Shadowing + Cross-Training. Once training is underway, shadowing can be critical. “Cross-training is valuable because it allows everyone to be fully versed and ready to help when needed,” explains Dr. Gossard.
Start Assessing Training Success. Behavior observation is a great way to access even more data about new hires and how they’re performing. “A formal training program allows me to review on paper what we have discussed and then to chart progress,” adds Kaschak.
Experts suggest that, during the first few days of onboarding, training focuses only on critical topics and information. Here’s what to dive into:
Deliver the Essentials. “Use an onboarding checklist, formal training program, and procedures manual that has easy, step-by-step instructions to follow for each area (i.e., front desk, clinic, optical, billing, etc.),” says Elliott. “That’s essential to instill confidence and ensure a smooth transition.”
Employ the Basics. No matter what the position, she adds everyone must know how to do three things: “Answer the phones, skillfully schedule, and understand the importance of retaining patients. The schedule is our No. 1 priority because without patients, nothing else matters.”
Use Unexpected Resources. “Along with traditional shadowing and hands-on training, utilize online training such as sponsored webinars, self-study courses, and YouTube training videos, among others,” says Williams Group’s implementation specialist Bess Ogden. “Check with your software companies, labs, buying group, or professional networks to see what's available and current.”
Some specific examples:
- The product-centric, consumer-friendly videos used in the waiting room are perfect training tools for new hires, says Kaschak.
- “We assign eight product-specific courses that the new hire must complete,” says Lenhart. “Then we award them a certificate of completion.”
- “I just implemented a new training platform, ‘Eye Sell’ from Essilor,” says Lenhart. “It’s a phone app that each optician can download to watch courses on a variety of topics.”
Customize It. Lastly, understand that everyone learns differently and tailoring training will help ensure a proficient employee. ”Our approach is to provide a variety of formats—from immersive workshops and full-day classes to training webinars,” says Dr. Gossard.
THE WHEN + WHERE
When the formal training period starts and ends varies by practice. All agree it also depends on the experience of the new hire—or the lack thereof.
Kaschak stresses that training may take up to a full year at his location. “I need to see and listen to what is going on, and try looking ahead to the potential this person may have.”
The Bottom Line is this: Training—and learning—should never stop.
“Our industry is constantly changing, and we want to be ahead of the curve so our patients will say, ‘Oh, my doctor already does that,’” says Elliott.
GENERATIONS + LEARNING STYLES
PEN’s Dr. Gossard points out, “When training staff members, it’s important to keep in mind that everyone learns differently. For example, online learning might be more effective for a millennial than for a baby boomer, who might prefer live classes.”
Here are some more tips:
MILLENNIALS: Talk challenges, not job responsibilities. Stress open communications and peer feedback.
GEN X: Be straightforward, offer additional resources, don’t hover, and be ready to answer the “why” question often.
BOOMERS: Talk teamwork, be optimistic, and consider giving rewards after they complete various stages of training.
THE BIG STAFF TRAINING GUIDE
The (Quick+Easy) One-Month Training Calendar
Starting a new hire?
Here’s an expert-curated express guide on how to get them started in the first four weeks on the job.
INEXPERIENCED: Review dress code, do new-hire paperwork, get familiar with the store, review the appointment book and how to schedule.
EXPERIENCED: Introductions, tours of the practice, shadowing, plus explanation of office procedures, patient flow, and general information.
CHECKLIST: Follow your onboarding checklist, beginning with practice software online tutorials.
THE 4 Cs: Review the company Culture, employee Compliance (procedures, staff dress code, etc.), Clarification (job requirements), and Connection (internal networking).
GO SOCIAL: Don't let the first day go by without a social touch point. Schedule lunch with a mentor. When introducing the new hire to the staff, give a little background about the person.
REVIEW + TECHNOLOGY: Review what you went over on Day One, answer questions, lay out the rest of the week’s training plan. Cover phones, computer systems, computer logins, and employee passwords.
EXPERIENCED: Computer practice (using sample orders as well as real orders), planogram instruction, shadow patient interaction.
DAYS #3 & 4
INEXPERIENCED: After shadowing mentor for first three days, mentor should shadow new employee for three days.
EXPERIENCED: Sales training, actual patient interaction, order entry procedures, additional product training.
INEXPERIENCED: By end of Week One, cover sales tickets, the “numbers” of the optical, eyeglass Rx/contact Lens Rx, HIPAA, insurances, price lists, discounts, frames, materials, lenses.
PATIENT EXPERIENCE: Sit in on doctor exams and shadow the complete patient experience.
INEXPERIENCED: Intro to optical terms, review products (frames, lenses, and contact lenses), go over basic optics, and cover ordering procedures.
RETENTION: Address scheduling, patient retention, insurance, filing, and ordering (musts!).
TOOLS: End the month with proper frame adjusting and tools. Review what they've learned so far.
REVIEW: Review performance, based on probationary period (30-90 days).
PLANNING: “Assessing the hire’s strengths and weaknesses should continue. Ideally, it should never stop,” says Terri Gossard, O.D.
FIND YOUR ZEN
“I HIGHLY RECOMMEND ENCOURAGING PROFESSIONAL CERTIFICATIONS. NOT ONLY WILL THIS HELP YOUR EMPLOYEE’S GROWTH, BUT THE PROCESS HELPS ENSURE YOUR STAFF MEETS PROFESSIONAL, STANDARDIZED COMPETENCY REQUIREMENTS.”
—TERRI GOSSARD, O.D., executive director of the ECP Network, a division of ABB OPTICAL GROUP’s Primary Eyecare Network
Why is new-hire training so critical?
Finding and training a replacement employee can cost upward of twice the employee’s salary.
The cost of losing that employee in their first year is even higher—at least three times their salary.
69% of employees are more likely to stay with a company for three years if they have had a great onboarding experience.