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Mutually Beneficial: Setting Employee Objectives

By Ian Davies, OD February 23, 2021

I’ve written before about the “Dreaded Review”. The review is an assessment of your staff’s performance. If you are going to review someone, then you need a set of standards to review them against. In the 1st article, we discussed the need for a job description. A job description outlines the tasks that are required to be done (the “What) and the quality standards that are expected from an individual (the “How”). The second element that is required for an effective review is a set of objectives, aligned to the job description and time sensitive. Setting clear objectives is a critical element of people management.

So, where to begin? Every management training book talks about the need for SMART goals. They need to be:

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Before you set individual goals, you and your staff need to understand the objectives for your business as a whole. What is it that you want your practice to achieve over the next year? What are your key performance indicators? You need to have a well-defined, balanced set of metrics that you are striving to achieve. By balanced, I mean not only the hard, financial outcome measures (sales, profit, cashflow etc), but also the softer, driver measures, the ones which will result in business success (customer satisfaction, recommendations, loyalty etc).

Ideally you will have shared these objectives with your team, and they will have bought into what the business is looking to achieve. The next step is to set your own objectives. What are you going to (Specifically, Measurably, Achievably…) do in the pursuit of the business objectives? Running your own business, it’s often easy to forget this step but it is critical. It is critical for 2 reasons: The first is that it gives structure to your work. Running a business is difficult, having a set of objectives that you can keep referring to and monitoring your progress against helps you to recognize all the good stuff that you do. Secondly, by having well defined objectives for yourself, you are leading by example. Best practice is that you then share your objectives with your team, after all yours, most probably, will only be achievable with their support.

What Can a Manager Do When Employees Won't Get Along?Now that you have your own SMART goals, you can develop goals for your employees. As with reviews, it is important that enough time is set aside and that there are no interruptions. Ideally this conversation happens outside of regular work hours. It’s hard to focus on your meeting when you’ve got patients in the waiting room or prescriptions to fill.  Ask your associate to come to the meeting with their thoughts on what they would like to achieve over the next 12 months. If they can send this to you ahead of the meeting, then you can be better prepared.

If you are managing an established business with experienced staff, they may challenge the value of the objective setting session. “After all,” they will tell you, “I’ve been doing the job for years and I know what’s needed!” One way of addressing this is to develop a simple bonus system where, as long as the business achieves its annual objectives (collective responsibility), each employee will get a pre-defined bonus based on either meeting or exceeding their goals.

The objectives should cover 2 areas. The first is what is required for the business and the second for the individual, what skills and experience do the employee wish to develop.  The differentiation between these two is important, if you want to retain your staff, you need them to feel that you are invested in their development, so setting personal development goals is a key element to this.

What should the objectives look like? Keeping the SMART mnemonic in mind is a good check as you set goals. Using this as an example, for your receptionist a poorly written goal would be: “Manage all patients coming into the office.” Assessing whether someone has done this goes into the domain of opinion and the definition of “managing” could be open to interpretation.

A better goal might read: “Provide a friendly and efficient greeting to all patients coming into the office (Specific) as assessed by our customer satisfaction survey (Measurable) with a goal of 80% positive patient satisfaction (Achievable) to support the overall friendly reputation of the office (Relevant) as assessed every 2 months (Timely).

The timely element of objective setting is critical. Just as reviews should be carried out at regular intervals throughout the year, goals need to be broken down to manageable time periods so that they can be monitored and adjusted on a regular basis. Setting an optometrist goal of 100 new contact lens patients over a year is less manageable than a goal of 2 new contact lens patients a week. The latter can be assessed on a regular basis and, when aligned with the rest of the staff’s goals, drive useful discussions on progress at regular reviews.

 Practice Pearls

-Your staff’s objectives need to be derived from your overall office business goals and be a subset of your own objectives, which should be shared with all associates. Your team needs to understand the value of having and being assessed against written objectives.

-Objectives must be SMART and should include personal development goals as well as those that will drive the business.

-Measures need breaking down into manageable time horizons to make regular assessment, and any “course correction” easier.



Ian Davies, OD

Ian is an independent optical business consultant, motivational speaker and coach with over 30 years’ experience working in the global vision care business. He has a unique perspective on eye care having worked in all major markets around the world. He is able to combine his clinical knowledge and experience with insights into business gained through executive positions in one of the world’s biggest health care businesses. Ian has published extensively on many aspects of contact lens practice and has co-authored 2 textbooks on the subject. He is a sought-after speaker, having lectured around the world and given key note speeches to audiences of up to 25,000 people. Ian supports innovative start-up companies in the development of commercial propositions and is a regular consultant to investment analysts on the global optical business. An optometry graduate, Ian worked in hospital, private practice, academic research and teaching roles before going into the contact lens industry.

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