There’s a better way to find and keep employees for the long-run
If you’re struggling with high turnover in your entry-level positions, you’re not the only one. The good news is there may be a way to slow that down.
Most of us ODs were not trained to hire well. You probably approach hiring intuitively. You create a job description based on skills necessary for the job, post the job, do the interviews, and hire the most promising candidate. And my guess is that you don’t have a lot of candidates to choose from. Entry-level positions are notoriously difficult to fill.
Soon you might discover the applicant wasn’t a good fit, and they’ve quit before they were even fully trained. So you go back to the beginning and follow the same process. And just like Groundhog Day, the new employee quits, and that same entry-level position is open again.
I was in that exact position, and it was costing my practice. My time was overly devoted to hiring and not patient care. Office morale was sinking because team members were forced to carry more of the workload. To survive, I had to think about hiring differently. There had to be a better way to fill entry-level positions and keep them filled. Figuring it out first required looking at all the ways I had approached hiring incorrectly in the past and finding a new path. Below are three strategies I have used successfully for hiring and keeping positions filled for the long-term.
Speed Up Your Process
It’s a common scenario. A practice has an entry-level position open. The team posts the job description to a couple of job boards, and soon the applicants pop up. Likely these applicants are rapidly applying to other similar jobs. Your position is one of many that looks like it might be a good fit. The applicants aren’t particularly selective. They’re just looking for a call-back, or someone to show some interest in them. If you are slow to respond, or just acknowledge that you are reviewing their resume, the applicant will have moved on. In a hard-to-employ environment, you have to move fast. Or at least faster than you have moved before.
Unfortunately, moving fast goes against the very nature of being a doctor. We are trained to analyze all the data. To be certain of our diagnosis. We tend to be methodical. If we have ten boxes that need to be checked off to ensure the success of a job applicant, we will skip the person who checks off nine boxes, and wait for the perfect ten-boxes-checked candidate. The problem is, you’ll likely never find a perfect ten.
But do you really need a perfect ten for an entry-level position? For most entry-level jobs, a new hire can be trained within two to four weeks, regardless of experience (which I will dig into next). The key thing to remember is that if you want to fill your positions, you need to move with speed with the candidates that seem promising. Often the best candidates have the most opportunities, so if you are slow to respond in any way, the ones you want are already hired elsewhere. And you’ll be back at the initial stages of screening applicants…again.
Think about the lost time, and the lost productivity. Statistics indicate that doctors, when tasked with the job, spend roughly ten hours on hiring. An optometrist of a million-dollar practice averages about $521/hour. That means that the practice loses about $5,000 by having the doctor devote his/her time to hiring.
Look Beyond the Resume
This might be an unpopular statement, but resumes lie. They’re smoke and mirrors.
Many doctors believe that the ideal candidates for front desk positions will have experience in the medical field, know how to maneuver within a PMS, understand coding and billing, and can help patients with contact lens and optical sales. A canny applicant will take the job description posted by the practice and weave a story of experience that matches the requirements. But can this person really do the job?
Can they handle the stress of working in a busy practice? Are they friendly, even with people who are difficult? Do they have integrity? Do they work well in a team? Do they manage details?
You simply can’t measure those necessary strengths and characteristics in a resume. After years of wasted time hiring poorly, I finally identified some performance factors that can largely predict success. Honestly, experience in optometry isn’t one of those factors. A strong candidate can be trained to do an entry-level job within two to four weeks.
That being the case, the key is to look at the data that indicates how likely the candidate is to succeed at your specific practice. Each practice is different, of course. Maybe your practice only sees ten patients a day, and the front desk person doesn’t necessarily need to be able to operate in a high-stress environment. But if you’re seeing 30 or 40 patients a day? That front-desk employee must have a high threshold for stress.
I might have convinced you that resumes lie; maybe you still believe that the interview will determine the truth. But many candidates can charm their way through an interview.
It’s like “American Idol;” they give the performance of a lifetime. They give off a good vibe. You feel some chemistry. They say they are eager to learn the job, and will learn the job quickly. They work well under pressure. They’re a team player. They’re a people person.
But are they really? It seems there’s really no way to know until you let them try the job, which is a risky move. If they can’t do the job, or if they don’t work well with the team in place, then your practice will suffer. I know the defeat.
A better way to find the best candidates is strength-based assessments. These reveal what a good interview can hide. That’s not to say that interviews are irrelevant. In fact, once I narrow down the candidates, I interview them then invite them to the practice to mingle with the team, and experience the office setting. I do the interview at the very end of the process.
I encourage practices to make it less of an interview and more of a conversation. Get to know the person by talking about things non-job related. You’ll learn if the candidate is a good fit for the practice. In fact, the best indicator often is when you leave the candidate to talk with staff members and when you come back, they are chummy. In that moment you have confirmation that this person likely will gel with the team.
As a practice owner, I know that hiring is an ever-present demand. But if you begin to rethink hiring, you might just find the best candidate for your practice.