Practice Management: Finding And Retaining The Right Talent

Matt Geller, OD talks about how to find and retain the right talent for your optometric practice.

Cara Moore: Hi everybody and welcome to Optometry TV. I’m Cara Moore and I’m joined now by Dr. Matt Geller. Thanks so much for being here.

Dr. Matt Geller: Thanks for having me.

Cara Moore: He is the CEO of Covalent careers, so thanks again for being here with us today. Let’s talk about innovative ways of finding and retaining the right talent and start us off with talking about the challenge or the problem facing the industry right now.

Dr. Matt Geller: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for having me. First off, Cara, wonderful being here. So I think, first we need to understand the problem as you stated and right now, although the most recent workforce study from the AOA shows that supply of optometrist is adequate to the patient demand. What a lot of individuals, both practice and practice owners and industry individuals are finding, is that there’s roughly a 9,000 full time equivalent shortage of ODs. So like any supply and demand curve when you have a shortage of optometrists, a few things happen, right? The first thing being, it’s obviously hard to find them. It’s difficult to bring those folks into your practice. And this is much more pronounced in rural areas rather than Metro cities. Right? But even still Metro cities like where I’m at San Diego, it can be pretty hard to find the right person for your practice. And you know, I think that this is the main driver of the problem. There’s really not that much you can do to really solve for that other than increasing the supply of optometrists. Now that’s happening for a few different reasons, private equity and corporations are growing their volume of practices. So, that is also competing for talent. Patient demand is rising obviously, right? If you didn’t, if you had patient demand decreasing, then you wouldn’t need as many ODs, so you have that component as well. And so those are the two main forces driving it is the, you know, the number of locations, opening patient demand, and things like that. Now in this climate, where it is competitive, you need to do a few things, practices can still do a few things to try to grab the talent that is available. Now, what are those things? Right? Well, once again, let’s look at the problem first. We know that employers, right, rate their difficulty, finding an optometrist is pretty difficult. But what we’re finding is that they’re spending roughly about, we surveyed our users found about $826 per year on marketing their employer brand, right? Recruitment marketing, the dollar spent to help, find, and attract talent. Very low amounts. Interestingly, they ranked the importance of their employer brand at a six out of 10, you know, six out of tens, not very high, you know, finding a coffee this morning was higher than that number. Now additionally, so they’re investing low and they’re ranking the value of their, the importance their employer brand low, but yet their number one staffing, their number one headache is staffing, right? So they’re investing and they’re finding that staffing is a big problem. Let’s go to the flip side of the job seeker. We’re finding that they ranked one of the most important things to them as culture, right? They’re looking for culture and practices, not just compensation. They want to know that the practice they’re joining has a great brand. And we’re finding that they also, 95% of them will research an employer’s band prior to joining the organization. So they’re finding job seekers who care a lot about an employers brand and employers who don’t spend a lot and don’t really care about it, and don’t find it very important, but their number one headache is staffing. So there’s a mismatch here. And I guess what I’m trying to highlight is that employers need to focus more on their brand and selling their open positions because that’s what job-seekers care about. What we’re finding is they’re thinking that they can just put a job ad up or not even do that, and ultimately find the talent that they need. So there’s a mismatch overall in what employers are doing to find talent and they need to be investing and working harder. The demand curve that’s in their favor, my demand is in the favor of the OD right now. ODs salaries are rising. Student loan forgiveness is rising. It’s easier to find a job. Average optometrist finds, 50% of them will find a job before they graduate school. The other 50% will find a job within three and a half weeks. And we found that they rated their difficulty of finding a job at about a three out of 10. That’s really easy. So, ultimately, you know, there’s this kind of perfect storm, bad for the employer, good for the job seeker. And that’s the state of affairs.

Cara Moore: So what do you say to practitioners once they’re able to bring the talent through their doors? Right? You’ve hired someone, how do you keep them there?

Dr. Matt Geller: Yeah, great question. So when it comes to retaining talent, the key point is going to be I think really come down to culture and a degree of transparency and conversation between the employer and the job seeker about what’s important. Right? So let’s say that you’re the job seeker on the employer. If I just, if I don’t understand what your goals are or where you’re trying to go with your career or what makes you happier, what makes you tick or what makes you smile? I could never properly retain you. I could do what I want to do, what I think is great, what I want to do for the practice, what makes me happy. So the first thing it comes down to is having an honest conversation with that individual where they want to go in their career, what they want to learn, what they want to earn, right? All of those pieces. And then I think it’s, if you have a match and the employer goes, I can fulfill those needs that you have, those wants. Then it’s just creating a path to get there and keeping your employees, you know, core focuses in mind. I think a lot of practices really just say they’re here to see patients not really worried about, what their long term goals are or what they care about. And so it comes down first, I think to that honest conversation. You know, if that individual wants to grow to be a part owner in the practice, they want to learn a new clinical skill, and they want to really have a more flexible PTO schedule because they have a three year old that’s, you know, new in the family. So understanding those pieces will enable the work relationship to be a lot happier. And I know that sounds really simple, but very few people are having those in depth conversations.

Cara Moore: Cause sometimes I think it’s probably difficult to have some of those pretty forthright conversations between employer and employee, but you have to do it.

Dr. Matt Geller: Yeah, like Ray Dalia, one of the most successful hedge fund investors creators of all time, talks about in his book principles is having this open and honest radical transparency and truthfulness in the workplace to create great cultures. That’s a great book for any practice wanting to really understand kind of like a textbook guide to how to create that type of workplace. Now another piece is going to be culture, right? If it’s just a mill and you’re just seeing patients and you show up, and that’s all it is. Just how do we generate revenue? How do we see the maximum amount of patients? And you lack any cultural sentiment, that’s going to be a problem. Some offices have a culture of winning. That’s a cultural piece. Some practices have a culture of having the downtime to share and spend time together, whether in the office or outside of the office. Practices need to focus on those kinds of extracurricular type of things to ensure that people feel included and are having a good time with their friends and colleagues, while in your practice.

Cara Moore: Some good takeaways for practitioners. So we really appreciate being here, Matt.

Dr. Matt Geller: Thank you.

Cara Moore: Thank you so much. Thank you all for watching Optometry TV.

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