Employee Growth: Creating a Culture of Continuous Improvement
By Keli O'Connor, COMT, ABOC April 19, 2021
It's a question that is asked at virtually every job interview: "Where do you see yourself in the next five years?" Nobody dreams of remaining stagnant in one position; rather, more people hope to climb up the rungs of the inner office ladder, landing promotions and gaining various accolades. So much can change in five year's time, but employees have to be proactive to be sure that significant changes are being made within that span.
Whether a technician, optician, front desk worker, or even an office manager who's looking to move up within a larger eye care chain, the first step needed to take when looking at a potential future career path is setting a goal. Along the way, there are benchmarks to set to help reach the primary goal, be it in the form of other positions within the practice or other skills to learn while still in their current role. As a practice manager, focusing on these benchmarks, goals, and upskilling in periodic reviews can help turn a typically negative experience into a positive one.
Although it is important to keep the big goal at the finish line, it's critical to remember that the benchmarks may become more than milestones and can change a career path's trajectory. And that's okay. As employees grow from the different experiences in their careers, their goals might shift or change completely. For example, an optometric assistant may want to cross-train to better help in optical and find they are a top-earning sales associate who would instead like to work on the sales floor all day; the office may lose a technician but may gain an extraordinary optician with the proper training.
Being ready and available when the opportunities present themselves will give staff the best chance for advancement in the office, but it can be challenging for employees to navigate all of the ins and outs of professional growth alone.
Once your staff members have an idea of what direction they want to move forward in, have a more senior member of the team along the same career path take them under their wing as a mentor. If the office has the opportunity to attend specialty networking events in the eyecare field, staff can seek outside mentorship through master opticians and certified ophthalmic personnel, as well as other human resource and management professionals who can work together with mentees to deepen skillsets and attributes.
Gaining the skills to learn and grow may seem like it comes natural for some, but it actually takes effort and dedication. Studying for certifications, reading up on interpersonal communication, and other modes of self-improvement are excellent ways to help staff help others that can eventually pay off with dividends when looking to move up the corporate ladder. Creating an environment where professional improvement is encouraged can help motivate staff to want to grow while providing materials and opportunities to learn can help get staff on the right track.
Going the Extra Mile
Doing the expected work is essential to all of our jobs, but sometimes we have to put forth a little more to get the job done. This doesn't mean being the first person in every day or working overtime every week. However, striving to do what's best and consistently going beyond expectations or helping others fulfill their tasks when they are falling behind, and other selfless acts can be as beneficial for the staff member doing them as they can be for the rest of the office. When the entire team is succeeding, the practice can grow, and management will take note of who is helping create these positive changes when it comes time to promote in the future.
Improving Patient Care
No matter what goals the staff is attempting to reach for their personal or professional lives, when employees enter through the office doors, everyone does so to serve and treat patients. Every advancement made to improve the career of any team member, be it in the form of communication, certification, or other interoffice skill, directly affects the quality of care that patients receive. Any step forward is a step in the right direction, and as long as patients are being treated with the best care possible, any opportunity development should be encouraged.
Even when the office's corporate ladder looks more like a stepstool, there is plenty of reason to support employee growth and improvement. For the staff member, this can be increased knowledge, better soft skills, and heightened pride in their work. As an employer, this can lead to longer retention rates, smoother exams with fewer hiccups, and more patient referrals, all of which make for a happier practice and a more successful bottom line.