Educating and Certifying Staff, Optical Retailers Explain the Procedures and Benefits

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An educated and certified staff can ultimately improve your bottom line. To follow up on last month's dba article about investing in paraoptometric certification, this month the following optical retailers explain their reasons for choosing how they educate staff and how they handle paying to certify them: Mark Johnson, director of optical services, Virginia Eye Institute; Alan Ulsifer, OD, CEO and president, FYidoctors; Jonathan Rosin, MD, co-president, Rosin Eyecare and Comprehensive Eyecare Physicians, P.C.; and David H. Hettler, OD, Drs. May & Hettler.

 

Mark Johnson, director of optical services, Virginia Eye Institute, Richmond, Va.

What systems and procedures does your company follow to educate its employees? At Virginia Eye Institute, every associate has continuing education funding per year. That funding increases for associates at their five-year anniversary and their ten-year anniversary. Along with funding, Virginia Eye Institute provides the opportunity for opticians to get continuing education credits on premises a few times per year. These opportunities are not just for our associates but are open to anyone in our industry who could benefit from the education.

How does your company handle employee certifications? Virginia Eye Institute will pay for the associate to take the certification exam and help or pay for the expense of studying materials. We allow time off and/or pay for the time the associate takes the test.

What on-site and off-site education do you provide for your employees? We bring education a few times per year for opticians, and we encourage our associates to be involved with their associations. We will pay for association membership when it is combined with having the Virginia Eye Institute associate attend an educational event.

 

Alan Ulsifer, OD, CEO and president, FYidoctors, Alberta, Canada

What systems and procedures does your company follow to educate its employees? FYidoctors and our associated clinics support the Canadian Association of Optometrists' Optometric Assistant Program. This program has been long established and creates an effective base platform. Further to that, we have our own online technical site complete with video and online testing as well as a comprehensive customer service training platform, again with associated modules and testing, in which everyone in the company is required to become certified. Further to these platforms are webinars and local education sessions. In specific circumstances, FYidoctors also sponsors employee completion of the opticians program.

How does your company handle employee certifications? All internal programs have associated testing and certifications. This is obviously true for the external programs as well. Employees are paid, within reason, for all expenses and time with respect to the completion of these programs.

What on-site and off-site education do you provide for your employees? Online technical as well as customer service training are critical to FYidoctors. These programs create a consistent foundation both technically and from a brand delivery perspective. Webinars and local training get-togethers are also a part of the platform.

 

Jonathan Rosin, M.D., co-president, Rosin Eyecare and Comprehensive Eyecare Physicians, P.C., Chicago

What systems and procedures does your company follow to educate its employees? We operate our company in a state that does not require opticians to be board certified. Having said that, we have found that you can teach a great salesperson to become a great optician, but you can't always teach a great optician (even if board certified) the art of selling. In fact, some of our best sales associates have come from outside of the optical industry.

We also believe in incentivizing our opticians monetarily based on the quality of each sale and giving them the tools needed to do so. In that spirit, we developed an online, vendor-neutral training program that we call "Learn Eye Care." It is a 38-unit program covering everything from ocular anatomy to the most advanced topics an optician needs to master. At the end of each module the associate is required to pass a post test. We have built-in software that allows us to monitor the amount of time each optician spends both reading through the material and then taking the post-test. This ensures that ample time was spent studying and honest assessment was measured during testing.

We have found the quality of our sales and patient satisfaction has increased significantly since we developed and initiated the program. We have shared the program with several other companies and are happy to share with others who are interested.

 

David H. Hettler, OD, Drs. May & Hettler, Alexandria, Va.

What systems and procedures does your company follow to educate its employees? We have a very strong learn and "grow in your job" culture. We are reviewing at each six-month employee evaluation the new tasks mastered and the goals for the next period. We don't believe in paying for study time, but we do like everyone to watch, learn and do new procedures. Employees are motivated because raises are based on new skills mastered and performed.