doubt you have heard the contemp-orary business adage, “Our employees
are our most important asset.” Without
question, it is especially true in the eyecare business and in
your professional practice.
Managing ‘human assets,’ however, requires considerable knowledge and know-how that is not often part of one’s
undergraduate or graduate school education. It certainly is not
a part of the core curriculum for students of optometry or
ophthalmology or for students studying to become opticians.
You will note in this
edition of Business Essentials articles
on human asset management, including HR policies, incentive plans,
employee pay, turnover management, and federal benefit compliance.
We hope that you will find in each article practical and useful
insight into better managing your ‘human assets,’ and consider Business
your educational and informational source for running your practice
effectively and competitively.
It will continue to be our goal to provide you with current and relevant information on targeted topics essential to the success of your practice and to those of you who are business owners. Your feedback is important (
Here), so do take a moment and let us know your ideas on articles and subjects of interest to you and your colleagues.
Hedley Lawson, Jr. is the managing partner of Aligned Growth Partners, LLC, a strategic, operational and organizational consulting and executive search firm (
www.alignedgrowth.com). Lawson also serves as consulting editor for Jobson's Business Essentials monthly e-newsletter. To read current and past issues of the newsletter go to
Principles of Effective Incentive Plans
want to establish an incentive plan for my practice, but don’t
know what things I should consider. Do you have any suggestions that
I can use in developing an incentive plan for my employees?
a short, but helpful checklist for you to use in developing a new incentive
plan for your practice.
1. The plan and its goals must be simple and straightforward:
- Easy to understand
2. Goals must be fair and meaningful:
- “Fair” means
that they relate to past performance and a realistic assessment of what
can be attained
- Goal achievement must
result in something everyone can relate to – and in something that is important to each one’s
sense of accomplishment
3. Goals must be clearly measurable:
- The measures should be, as much as possible, quantifiable
- If hard numbers (sales, revenues, profits, etc.) are not appropriate, then clear definitions of quality or performance need to be included
4. Rewards should be appropriate to the achievement and the level of accountability:
- The bigger the result, the bigger the reward
- The more direct the impact on the results, the greater the reward
5. Line of sight:
- At a management level,
clearly the unit or department managed
- At lower levels, there
needs to be a clear understanding of how one’s actions impact the
overall end result (everyone should feel a relationship to the goals of
- Be responsive to performance highs and lows as soon as they occur
- Payouts should occur as soon as possible after an event or a predetermined time period (action = result)
you have a question you’d like answered by one of our experts
--Hedley Lawson, Jr.
to web resources about human resource policies and rules
The Health Benefits Advisor
U.S. Department of Labor
Department of Health
and Human Services
Bills in Congress
on Business Goals
major challenge facing today’s business managers
is keeping employees focused on the business goals
at hand. As a manager or owner of a practice, big or
small, it’s always a stretch to find new ways
to help your employees keep their eye on the ball.
If this is a problem in your practice, you might want
to consider establishing the Parking Lot process to
help your employees focus on your business’ organizational
of the Parking Lot as a staging area for projects
that are not purposefully being addressed in your practice.
These projects can run the gamut from upgrading computer
technology to improving customer service needs or launching
new products. Hopefully, the Parking Lot process will
help employees stay focused on current projects while
gently reminding them that other projects are not to
be actively worked on at this time.
how project Parking Lot can work for your practice.
The Parking Lot needs to be visible so people can
refer to it easily. A bulletin board is a good tool
to illustrate your Parking Lot and remember to position
it somewhere prominently so all your employees have
easy access to it.
can start out by listing the percent of time and
effort that your practice is allocating to the basic,
day-to-day business at hand. For arguments sake,
say this comprises about 75 percent of your business
activity. Next, list the projects that the practice
has prioritized to be actively worked on and enumerate
the percent of time and effort planned for these initiatives.
If 75 percent represents your base business activity,
then that leaves 25 percent of the practice’s
resources planned for your Parking Lot projects.
to the approved goals, start the Parking Lot for
projects and ideas that do not have a “driver” (project
leader) to lead the effort which will begin once the
current projects are completed. This way, people can
see that their project is in the Parking Lot and will
be considered when resources (people, time and money)
those resources come online, review the Parking Lot
to determine exactly which projects your practice
should focus on next. This exercise helps reduce the
number of personal pet projects associates like to
work on and often do not align with the overall goals
and objectives of the practice.
used correctly, the Parking Lot process can help
improve your practice’s ability to execute by
being purposeful and keeping everyone focused on the
base business and the most important projects at hand.
So if you’d like to get your practice in gear,
consider this management tool. Here’s an example
of how you can set up your Parking Lot.
Example Parking Lot
- Base Business 75%
- Current Projects 25%
- Test new systems upgrade
- Implement new OSHA requirements
- Review current leases for cost savings
- Develop customer recall program
- Purge old patient files
- Parking Lot
- Develop training materials for new software rollout
- Test direct mail campaign
- Review commission and bonus structure
- Reduce costs for supplies, phone and shipping
- Benchmark best practices for health benefits
- Training for new product launch
Sandy Likes is president of GreenTree
Capital, LTD.—a business advisory firm
focused on helping companies increase productivity
and improve retention.
She can be reached at
10 Strategies to Limit Turnover
If employee turnover rates in your practice are high, it's probably time to focus on what you can do to increase employee retention.
Excessive turnover can have negative consequences for your practice, including
lost productivity, costs associated with hiring a new employee, the cost
of temporary employees or overtime to cover the workload of the person
who left the practice, and new employee orientation and training. As well,
high turnover can mean the loss of valuable skills, experience and patient
what can you do to increase your employee retention?
Here are a few tips.
- Describe the job accurately to applicants and make sure you hire job candidates who can best meet the job's requirements.
- Challenge employees in their jobs.
- Provide appropriate training and mentoring so workers are not over-matched for the work they have been hired to perform.
- Recognize exceptional employee performance.
- If you have a larger office or practice, have career paths, an important key to retaining talented and ambitious workers.
- Promote from within.
- Provide good mentoring and coaching.
- Make sure the lines of communication are open between you and your employees.
- Offer a range of traditional benefits and innovative benefits.
your employees competitively.
--Hedley Lawson, Jr.
HR Policy Management
we might prefer to eliminate the need for bureaucracy
and excessive policies to govern what one may
call using good judgment and common sense in
the workplace, written policies and procedures
are necessary to keep businesses consistent,
fair, and legal. And should an employee elect
to file a complaint with a regulatory agency
or a in civil court, one of the first items
you're likely to be asked is whether you had
a policy on the matter. Being able to say "yes" is
the foundation of a strong defense.
that may be true, we can also understand why policies
may never be written in a small optical practice.
each word may be critical in a legal situation, just
drafting policies is a challenge.
policies are available through a variety of sources.
On the other hand, you may choose to develop and
revise your policies “in-house.” In
either case, look to these two key points before you select a path that best
suits your practice:
you choose to use an outside service or consultant,
make sure your policies are periodically reviewed
and updated. With the continuous
changes in law, you should consider staying current
with federal and state statutory changes, or
developments that emerge from courts, to periodically
update your policies. Information is readily
available through federal and state web sites
as well as through your local chamber of commerce
or trade association.
you elect to develop and revise your policies “in-house,” make
sure your policies are time-tested, current and
complete. Ensure your policies are written for and comply with current legal circumstances. An outdated policy manual is as bad as not having one at all.
--Hedley Lawson, Jr.
Launches Web Site for Benefits Compliance
The U.S. Department of Labor's Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) has unveiled a new interactive Web site to assist employers operating group health plans with their compliance responsibilities under the various federal health benefits laws. The new
Health Benefits Advisor provides information on these laws:
- Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA)
- Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
- Newborns' and Mothers' Health Protection Act
- Mental Health Parity Act
- Women's Health and Cancer Rights Act
The Health Benefits Advisor is available at
|In this edition...
It's Your Business
From the Top
Focused on Business Goals
Ask the Experts
Principles of Effective
10 Strategies to Limit Turnover
HR Policy Managemen
Rules & Regulations
Web Site for Benefits Compliance
Links to Important Resources
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Are You Overpaying Your Employees
You are hiring an office manager or dispensing
optician ... or even an optometrist. You wonder, “How much should
I pay to be competitive and manage my overhead costs?
If you make that decision
on the basis of the broad national averages put out by the federal
government or even your local chamber of commerce, you could be
making a mistake. It is the kind of mistake that, if you're paying
less than you should, can cost you your best employees, lost to competitors.
If, on the other hand, you are paying more than you should, it
could affect the operating margins and profitability of your practice.
Ideally, you should base compensation planning
decisions on compensation analysis of your local competitive market
and your competitors. You
should consider these three key factors in your compensation analysis:
Just as in real estate, money decisions need to be based on location,
location, location. A dispensing optician in New York has a far different
cost of living and compensation plan than one in Kansas. Compare
compensation with the competitive compensation practices of others
in your city or state, not in the nation.
Your Practice Size:
If you have 10 employees, don't compare your compensation with corporate
giants who have 1,000 or more. Make comparisons on like businesses
and like position responsibilities.
Your Business Sector: Supermarkets operate on a
1 percent gross margin, some high-tech firms make 30 percent or 40
percent. You should compare compensation and benefits for any given
job with a comparable job in the optical industry with similar business
and economic profiles.