How to Field a Raise Request Within an Optometry Practice
By Practice Growth May 12, 2021
Oftentimes, employers become uncomfortable when staff members broach the subject of salary increases within an optometry practice. The truth of the matter is that the employee likely experiences similar discomfort and has given the matter a great deal of thought. As such, it is best practice to give raise requests serious consideration rather than jumping into a denial, talk of budget, or otherwise putting the conversation to rest.
Salary increases are part of performance management. They recognize staff accomplishments and incentivize them to stay with a practice. As such, every raise request should acknowledge the value of the employee through respectful handling and transparency.
Employers do not have to respond to a raise request right away, but a response should be provided in a timely manner, usually within a week. Employers may also find it useful to ask why the staff member believes the raise is merited and how much of an increase is desired. This establishes some context for discussion and a starting point to begin any subsequent pay negotiations.
Once a time has been set to revisit the request in a timely manner, the optometry practice manager should brush up on industry trends, internal operations, and some managerial skills. These skill sets and knowledge will help in handling the raise request in the best manner for both the practice and the employee.
Know the Market Rate
It is difficult to make pay decisions without knowing what an optometry practice role is worth. There are several easy ways to discover the market pay rate for optometrists or staff members. Glassdoor’s Salary Index is one of several sites that provide salary data for various industries and roles. Eyes on Eyecare provides optometry-specific salary data, including average pay rates for optometrists, ophthalmologists, and technicians.
With knowledge of the market rate, an optometry practice manager can better judge if the pay rates currently offered are fair for the services rendered. If current salaries within your practice are competitive, that puts the employee’s request under greater scrutiny. Conversely, if current salaries are not in line with the market rate, it may be time to reevaluate all pay offerings within the practice to best retain key staff.
Explore the Contributions the Employee Makes
Refer to the requesting employee’s original offer letter to refresh your memory on what essential duties are associated with the role. The basic expectations for that individual’s performance and production should be outlined there. This can serve as a reference point to judge how well the employee meets or perhaps exceeds expectations.
If the employee seeking a pay increase is not adequately performing essential duties outlined in the offer letter, this constitutes a viable basis for denying the raise request. It would also outline a clear pathway for remediation and future success for the employee. On the other hand, if the essential duties are being well-met and perhaps additional duties performed at a high caliber, the high value of that employee comes into view and supports the employee’s case for a raise.
Use the Art of Negotiation
With a better understanding of the market rate and the employee’s contributions to the practice, you are better informed on what the staff member brings to the table and what they might earn elsewhere. You also have a better idea of how much you want to retain that individual in your practice. If a salary increase is merited, look to your budget and determine how much you can reasonably offer in terms of an increase.
Some raise requests include a specific amount while others leave the amount of the increase up to the employer. Bear in mind that negotiation may occur. Many employers mitigate the potential for negotiation by making a lower offer than could be afforded to the employee seeking a raise. That leaves some wiggle room and prevents exceeding any budgeted amount. If offering a lower amount than requested, be transparent about the reasons why. This is the time to discuss budget or performance issue concerns. This shows the employee they are valued and also provides a path to gaining the amount that is ultimately desired without making any concrete promises.
In the event a raise is warranted yet is truly not in the practice’s budget, look to other ways to add value to the position. Offering more paid time off or more flexibility in hours may be attractive alternatives to retain that employee until the budget loosens. It is also a good idea to set a date to revisit the budget and raise request to demonstrate that employee’s pay needs are not put on the back burner.
While fielding raise requests within an optometry practice can be tricky, they can also be an opportunity to strengthen the relationship with employees. Treat the request fairly, respectfully, and with transparency. This shows the employee they are, indeed, valued and gives the practice manager a chance to better understand internal and external factors regarding performance management and pay.