Retaining Top Talent

A great article in The American Optician, by Maggie Sayers and Dibby Bartlett.

As a manager, it’s easy not to realize the cost of employee turnover. That’s usually because the costs associated with losing and searching for an employee are spread between a number of budget or line items on the office’s balance sheet. According to The Center for American Progress, “employee turnover costs businesses about one-fifth of a worker’s salary to replace that worker. For businesses that experience high levels of turnover, this can add up to represent significant costs.” Read more about the cost of losing employees here:

The expense of recruiting, hiring and retraining, as well as the loss of business during the process, adds up to a cost most small optical businesses cannot afford. With many states experiencing a lack of optician candidates, this process may be longer than for other businesses, increasing the burden. Well-trained workers who move to nearby competitors can take business with them when they leave, adding to your loss. A high turnover rate may also make your customers skeptical about your business, jeopardizing a close customer/optician relationship.

Keeping your team together has a lot to do with your people skills. Your leadership style will be reflected in your employees’ performance. For example, The Betari Box is a model that illustrates the impact your attitudes and behaviors have on the attitudes and behaviors of the people around you. (See box below.)

Start with the mindset of a coach, believing in your employees’ potential and helping them succeed. Then:

1. Share your vision It is important for your team members to understand where you want to go. What is your vision for the future of the business? How do you want to accomplish the desired outcomes? What are the principles that guide your operation? Employee engagement is the key to long-term business success. When your team members understand why you are doing what you are doing and buy into it, your vision becomes their mission.

2. Provide a clear job description It is vital for every team member to understand what their responsibilities are and how they are expected to fulfill their tasks. A clear job description is the foundation for a great working relationship. It will allow employees to understand how they ft into the plan and what is expected of them. It will enhance employee productivity, strengthen morale and boost retention. In some cases, lack of a job description causes employees to emphasize the wrong aspects of their jobs. Employees who work without clear direction can become confused, frustrated and demoralized. A written job description also serves as the basis for an employee’s annual review. 3. Offer a fair compensation package. Naturally, you should be offering a wage that meets and possibly exceeds the standards for your area. If you are not sure what the going rate is, contact your professional association. They will be able to help. Keep in mind there is more to compensation than a paycheck. Be realistic about benefits and help as much as you can. In addition, value your team members for their contributions and let them know you care. An office lunch, pizza party, company picnic, etc., will go a long to make employees feel special. Be generous with paid time off (PTO). Employees need a break once in a while. It will make them more effective when they return to work and help to avoid burnout. PTO comes in the form of vacation days, holidays, personal leave, and sick leave.

4. Invest in training Staff training is essential in our industry to keep up with new products and technology. In addition, research indicates that 40% of employees who receive poor job training leave their positions within the first year. Training helps your business to be more productive and it promotes job satisfaction. Training is a retention tool, instilling loyalty and commitment from good workers. It adds flexibility and efficiency. You can cross-train employees to be capable in more than one aspect of the business. Training is essential for knowledge transfer. After all, you really want all of your staff members to be knowledgeable.

5. Give feedback. In the past, many managers considered the annual review to be sufficient to evaluate an employee’s performance. Today, we operate at a much faster pace. We are constantly connected and information is received instantaneously. Employees need and want to know how they are doing in real time. Giving feedback on a regular basis has proven to be a very effective tool. Try these seven tips for a productive feedback conversation.

• Make it a positive process and experience

• Make it routine (monthly conversations are more effective, but if that’s not doable, aim for at least once every quarter)

• Prepare your comments, being as specific as possible

• Be prepared to listen and learn

• Criticize in private

• Encourage in public

• Schedule and keep follow-ups

6. Do unto others. Remember, your team members are people with lives, too! Practice empathy. Be curious about the other person’s point of view, walk in their shoes, ask questions, stay out of judgment, tell the other person, “I am listening and I hear you.” Keeping good employees is an essential aspect of any good opticianry business. With a little effort, you can build and retain a top performing and congenial team.

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