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HomemifeatureHolding On to Valued Staff in Times of High Job Mobility

Holding On to Valued Staff in Times of High Job Mobility

If you work hard to hire the right eye care professionals, induct them into your workplace, and have them flourishing as valued members of your team, the next most important factor is to make sure they stay.

Offering the bare minimum isn’t enough to ensure their satisfaction and prevent them from moving on to something else. Increasingly, practices are providing greater incentives to gain and retain loyal staff. mivision spoke to leading optometry groups to find out about their strategies for staff retention.

Earlier this year, The Australian Financial Review published that around one in ten Australians changed jobs in 2021, as the nation’s tight labour market gave way to the ‘great reshuffle’.1 According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, this equates to approximately 1.3 million workers, with a job mobility rate of 9.5% – the highest it’s been since 2012.

Looking at occupations specifically, professionals are taking the lead, with the job mobility rate rising from 6.5% in year ending February 2021, to 8.8% in year ending February 2022. While healthcare was the industry with the second most new entrants in the last 12 months, with 230,000 people joining the sector, it was also the industry with the highest number of employees changing jobs, with 190,715 people making a move.

For optometry, there has always been a shortage of optometrists to meet the demand for eye care services across the country.

Leeza Williams, Recruitment Consultant and Business Development Manager at Eyecare Recruitment, is concerned that this is the quietest the industry has been, in terms of candidate numbers, for optometry jobs in the last 12 months, with many practices in great need of committed and loyal staff to join their team.

“We have over 100 jobs listed with Eyecare Recruitment – many more jobs than there are applicants,” Ms Williams told mivision.

Not only that, Ms Williams says the industry is “screaming out for qualified optical dispensers”.

April Petrusma, Optical Dispensers Australia (ODA) Chief Executive Officer, echoes this concern, saying an accumulation of factors have led to nation-wide shortage of staff, across all industries. For optometry, and optical dispensing in particular, COVID implications, including a shrinking hiring pool, has made the hunt for employees extremely difficult.

“The ideal situation is for practices to a recruit career seekers and not someone who is looking for a stopgap job, so when they do get someone on board, they know that they’re there for the long-haul. The tough part, however, is finding these candidates, particularly in the current climate,” said Ms Petrusma.

She says that offering attractive remuneration, that appropriately reflects what is expected of the role, is important, but so too is advertising the opportunity for long-term development.

“If you are hiring someone who is untrained or hasn’t come from the industry, offering, as part of their employment package, enrolment in the Certificate IV in Optical Dispensing Course is an absolute given. A lot of employers are doing this already which is fantastic.

“If you have got someone who is already qualified and has dispensing skills, offering other forms of development, like a membership to ODA, gives employees the option to further their expertise through our CPD program, so they’re able to keep their knowledge current and upskill within the industry. This is a great incentive for the employee and also a benefit to the practice.”

Beyond this, Ms Petrusma also says that incentives could be as simple as offering leadership training to potential practice managers.

“It’s about selling a job as a career with an opportunity to evolve.”

From staff development, to harnessing individual strengths, the following industry members share their tried and tested methods to prevent staff – optometrists and optical dispensers alike – from becoming pawns in the ‘great reshuffle’.

CREATING A TRUSTED ENVIRONMENT

WRITER Lily Wegrzynowski 

EyeQ Optometrists General Manager Eyecare & Professional Services 

When asking our employees what makes them stay with us, these four key points are consistently mentioned: reward for effort; ability to do what they do best; job security; and flexibility.

As we come out of the pandemic (and we’re not quite there yet), it is timely to consider what is happening in our industry and profession in regard to staff retention. For the 12 years that I have been with EyeQ Optometrists, we have been fortunate to have a very low staff attrition rate. Even when our people leave the group, it has often been to fulfill their desire to own their own practice or to relocate to areas where, to date, we have not had a practice within the network. Within the independent practices that now form the National Optical Care company (NOC), a similar pattern is evident. Staff are generally long-term. But what about now, after two plus years of upheaval and given the tight labour market?

Throughout the pandemic, staff looked for certainty and job security, which we worked hard to provide. Now the mood has changed, and employees have a heightened desire to be in the right place, and in a trusted environment. Being well remunerated and doing a job that plays to your strengths are key. The EyeQ and NOC practices foster a real sense of working and running the practice as if it was your own. This leads to a more satisfying and financially rewarding career for practice managers, optometrists, optical dispensers and assistants. Remuneration is fair and reasonable, and bonus programs are designed to reward for effort. No complicated programs, just a straightforward approach that makes sense and can deliver great rewards on a regular basis.

Career development is also vitally important. Throughout the last three years, we have supported a record number of staff through the Australasian College of Optical Dispensing’s (ACOD) Certificate IV in Optical Dispensing course, and they come out the other end with a recognised and well remunerated career.

One casualty of the last two years is that we have had to postpone our annual National Conference, which is a great opportunity for our teams to undertake training and networking. Our teams have definitely missed this face-to-face interaction and we look forward to organising the next event very soon. In the meantime, we have instigated internal webinars such as dedicated CPD for our optometrists and sessions for all team members.

Flexibility is linked to work/life balance and, for a number of our employees, this has resulted in a desire to change their working patterns with the opportunity to become part-time or seek extended leave breaks. Being in a network that can accommodate this is a great incentive for staff. Our careers are hopefully long and should flex for those stages of life and changes that we desire.

ENSURING A VALUES-DRIVEN BUSINESS

WRITER Heather Campbell 

George & Matilda Human Resources

George & Matilda Eyecare (G&M) is a values-driven business, where we believe retention is a by-product of recruiting the right people who connect to our characteristics and purpose. It is also then critical that we ‘walk the talk’ and honour our characteristics in everything we do. When your team is aligned to your purpose and values, they want to stay and continue to support their patients and be part of your exciting growth plan.

We currently have a bonus program in place for our team, based on practice performance and shared goals within the practice, rewarding our top performers. In addition to this, we also have recognition programs, such as Unsung Heroes, that allows the team to recognise each other for the everyday things they do that are above and beyond the norms of customer service. This reflects G&M’s ‘Patient First’ ethos.

Consider this old adage – when the CFO asks the CEO, “What happens if we invest in developing our people and they leave us?”, the CEO replies, “What if we don’t and they stay?”.

It’s important to heavily invest in your team’s development and this is something G&M has been doing over the last two years. We have had more of our team than ever enrolled in ACOD’s Certificate IV in Optical Dispensing course and we continue to support our optometrists through their CPD activities and connecting with them through specialised networking sessions. Our supply partners have also been very generous with their time, supporting the development of our team as new products and technologies hit the market.

With more exciting news on the horizon about G&M’s growth, this gives rise to opportunities for progression of our current team into new roles, making them more inclined to stay. We have some great people in our support office who took the leap from practices into a new and exciting career path.

Gratefully, we have not seen a significant change in our retention rates and are glad to say that those who align with our purpose and characteristics are keen to be here for the long haul.

ESTABLISHING A CULTURE OF GROWTH IN PRACTICE

WRITER Bernie Zacharia

Zacharia Naumann Practice Manager, ProVision 

Zacharia Naumann Optometry has a growth culture where the team are encouraged to develop both personally and professionally. Zac Zacharia and Kathryn Naumann have invested significantly in building a team that complement and support one another.

Kathryn with Lucy at Zacharia Naumann.

Four years ago, I became an accredited Clifton Strengths Coach and now manage the team using these principles. Quite simply, we all have different strengths. When we work within our strength’s domain, we are more productive, more energised, and generally a happier team. It’s been exciting to see the growth in self-awareness across the team as they understand their impact upon other team members. Perhaps the best outcome is a new-found appreciation for someone who approaches their workday in a different manner.

Most importantly, Clifton Strengths provides a positive framework for our six-month employee reviews. We workshop challenges and reframe them as an opportunity for growth. We all look forward to these sessions as they are always development focussed. There is always a bit of a buzz around the practice during this time.

Clifton Strengths has really made a difference to the way I manage the team. I had to re-examine my approach and tone down my own need for change as I became more aware of that impact on others. Who knew people didn’t like change? Not me – but thankfully I do now. Our workplace is less frenetic as I set a more reasonable pace, and our staff retention rate is healthy, often having people return after trying something else. We also offer a gap year role and it’s a privilege to witness students grow as an employee before they head off to full time study.

Zacharia Naumann has a very energised and positive atmosphere where everyone understands the importance of their role and values the work of others. It’s hard to make a positive, lasting impression on patients if you aren’t feeling good about yourself or your workplace.

Zacharia Naumann also operates a team incentive scheme. When we reach our targets, the social club gets a ‘top up’ and the team uses this for social outings. They have funded a range of great activities in the past.

Our optometrists are supported with regular mentorship sessions, wonderful technology and an opportunity and funding to pursue any area of interest. Revisiting and redistributing responsibilities among our dispensing team keeps work interesting as they extend their skills and develop expertise.

We encourage our team to share anything that is worrying them – we only pay them for an eight-hour day, so we don’t want them taking that stress home. At Zacharia Naumann, we invest in our team, their lives, their accomplishments, and we value them immensely.

DEDICATION TO PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

WRITER Amie Ryalls 

Head of Professional Communications, Specsavers Australia & New Zealand 

Specsavers has an ambition of being one team where people love to be and where team members feel good, smart and cared for. As a part of this, we are dedicated to the professional development of all team members, including optometrists, dispensers and store staff, as well as at support office, in the lab and warehouse. It is one of several reasons why we have been certified as an official ‘Great Place to Work’.

As our stores and teams grow, and new technologies and treatments arrive, there are more opportunities than ever for our team members to develop unique and rewarding careers. It is no secret that an employee who sees opportunities to develop, and is encouraged and supported to pursue those opportunities, is more likely to be engaged at work.

For optometrists, we recently launched a large internal program that is focussed on developing careers past the testing room. By looking at options in fields, such as mentorship, clinical excellence and public health, each optometrist is provided opportunity pathways, support and resources to assist with their personal development plans.

A Specsavers staff meeting.

In stores, team members are actively supported to develop according to their interests and ambitions. One example of this is the team at Specsavers Mt Barker and Specsavers Murray Bridge in South Australia, as explained by co-owner Teneale Rybalka.

“When I became a store partner, I saw a real hunger in the team. A lot of them wanted to progress in their careers but there were no roles available, and many were lacking a sense of direction. I worked with each team member to discuss their professional development aspirations and to find out how I could motivate and support them to build their capabilities. There were a lot of opportunities, depending on each team member’s interests and drive. I sent fi ve people to go through a Specsavers course called MAP which is all about empowering store managers with new skills. We’re also supporting fi ve staff members to achieve ACOD’s Certificate IV in Optical Dispensing course. They all knew the commitment and the challenge of their courses, yet they were ready to learn and grow – it has been inspiring to watch,” said Ms Rybalka.

As testament to the focus on store team development, ACOD Director and Senior Trainer, James Gibbins, says enrolments for Cert IV in Optical Dispensing had been in decline for at least 20 years throughout Australia, from both independent and corporate employers, until Specsavers entered the market ten years ago. Since then, enrolments have been increasing year on year.

“Today Specsavers has over 500 employees currently enrolled in the Certificate IV in Optical Dispensing (HLT47815) and this is going to prove a game changer to the employees’ workplaces, customers and own professional practice and long term employability,” said Mr Gibbins.

“ACOD is acutely aware that the structured induction internal training programs the Specsavers-employed students complete before entering the Certificate IV qualification prepares them superbly for the course, and the instore encouragement, supervision and the volume of dispensing opportunities explains why so many Specsavers students excel, and indeed have featured as award winners on many occasions.”
From a Support Office perspective, learning and development is also a key focus. Team members consult regularly with their managers to determine career and development needs and then every team member has access to a dedicated Learning and Development Business Partner who provides additional support with tools, resources, training, coaching and advice on solutions to meet these needs.

MORE THAN JUST A JOB

No practice can operate effectively without a team of dedicated staff. What’s more, creating an environment where employees are proud and excited to turn up to work, build on their skills, and can count on their colleagues and industry network for support, can turn what is perceived as ‘just a job’ into a valuable role.

As professionals, optometrists are well aware of their value, and a workplace environment that recognises their worth, and nurtures it, is key to ensuring they hang around for the long haul.

Hero image: From left: Sarah, Amelia and Poppy at Zacharia Naumann.

References 

  1. Mizen, R. 2022. ‘Worker moves hit decade high as labour pool shrinks’, The Australian Financial Review, May 24, 2022, https://www.afr.com/policy/economy/ worker-moves-hit-decade-high-as-labour-pool-shrinks- 20220524-p5anxu 
  1. The Australian Bureau of Statistics, Job mobility, reference period February 2022, https://www.abs. gov.au/statistics/labour/jobs/job-mobility/latestrelease#:~: text=1.3%20million%20people%20 changed%20jobs,changing%20jobs%20during%20the%20year.