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September 2010

Last month I discussed my revised interviewing process for new staff positions. Experiences in the early days of my practice helped reshape many of my procedures, and I will build on that idea this month. Having grown from a staff of one to six people in various full and part-time roles has created some new challenges I would like to discuss.

What's my job again?
When my office first opened, the one-and-only staff member who worked every day knew she was expected to be a sort of "renaissance" employee; a jack-of-all trades. In her job offer I described her expected duties as thoroughly as I could, but this was intentionally loosely defined. I knew there would be tasks I wanted her to complete that weren't exactly outlined in her job description.

As we added more staff members, I found that I needed to be more specific in what I expected of each person…even if I had tried to delineate those differences in the job description. Personalities played a role in the need for specifics. Some employees seemed efficient with loosely outlined tasks. Others were confused. The original staff member was the source of authority, but was not in an authoritative position. You can see how new and old staff could become somewhat perplexed.

Growing Pains
The good thing about a new practice is that it grows. You acquire more patients, you are busier, and more staff is needed. However, as more staff is added, I learned that defining expectations for job positions is very necessary. Be specific, but not so specific you won't have leeway to change or add responsibilities.

The one expectation I did outline and make clear was my desire for



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cross-training. This turned out to be important when an employee I hired to train for optical work ended up more capable as a patient administrator. However, because she had training in optical, she could jump in and help when we were busy. She was happier, I had found a better role for her, and our office was still efficient. In a small office, cross-training is very necessary, in my opinion, to give your office the best flexibility no matter who is working.

See How You Want it to Work and Make it Happen!
I've continued to challenge my staff by requiring them to do recall tasks, pretesting, marketing projects and various other duties they've never had to do in another office. I stick by my vision of how I want my practice to run. My staff tells me they find it refreshing to have new work, and as we add more staff members, I will continue to expect cross-training in the name of efficiency. I would just advise any new practice owner to make sure you define, redefine, and continue to clarify your expectations. Your staff should embrace any work you ask them to do. You are the person of authority; make your staff expert representatives of that authority.

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