How to improve your Optical Recruitment efforts

August 31st, 2019 Business | General Optometry No Comments

Getting the right candidate for a vacancy can be hard for any business. But as a specialist business, like optometry, optical recruitment comes with additional obstacles.

What are the challenges facing optical employers?

The 2018 survey “Optometrists’ Futures” by the Association of Optometrists revealed the attitudes and issues facing recruitment and retention within the optometric workforce:

  • Overall, recruitment is harder than the retention of staff.
  • Attracting newly qualified optometrists can be difficult, especially for practices that don’t offer pre-reg training.
  • Rural areas, including many locations in Wales, struggle to attract candidates.
  • Areas with higher demand because of demographics (such as more people aged 65+) are often areas with other challenges such as worse public transport or more rural populations.

But the study also gave positive insight into the current workforce that could be used to improve optical recruitment efforts:

  • Like other aspects of healthcare, increasing numbers of optical professionals are female or Asian (or both).
  • Flexibility and work/life balance are big factors for optometrists.
  • A business’ values and work ethics are just as important as salary when it comes to enticing prospective employees.

Here are some ideas and tips from MLC to help you attract the staff your business deserves:

How to improve your Optical Recruitment efforts

Move away from boring job adverts

Job adverts cost money and your investment may not generate enough inquiries to justify the expense. So what can be done instead?

One idea is to avoid the traditional “Job Description” of a soulless list of responsibilities.

Instead, describe the benefits that the role offers. Answer the “What’s in it for me?” question that potential candidates will be asking. Talk about:

  • Your business values
  • What you are like as an employer
  • The flexibility you offer and how you promote a work/life balance
  • The equipment and facilities at your practice
  • Benefits of the location (parking, close to shops, schools, affordable housing etc) 
  • Salary, pension, bonus and other benefits schemes you may belong to).

Be honest with your job spec

What demographic do you serve? How much time do you allow per appointment? Is there a retail quota to meet? How many appointments per day? 

If you aren’t being truthful when recruiting, what are your chances of retaining staff beyond a six-month period?

Optometry can be a stressful job: balancing customer care with business demands sometimes feels like you achieve neither. Some people like fast-paced workplaces however others don’t.

So, be honest about the workload and work environment. You’ll have a better chance of recruiting – and retaining – the right candidate if you do.

Culture and values are as important as salary

Reputation, values and work culture are big factors in how people choose the jobs to apply for. So, make sure you openly promote what makes you different as an employer. Everything you do online and in-store should reflect this brand. This will also help give consistency in the messages you’re sending out to both customers and employees.

Remember, good employers will attract good workers. You can’t fake a positive working environment in a job ad and not expect to be found out.

Promote your vacancy through as many channels as you can

Traditional job ads may not perform like they used to. So, don’t restrict yourself to them. Think about where you can post your job advert:

  • Local newspapers
  • Specialist magazines
  • Recruitment on LinkedIn
  • Forums on optometry websites
  • Facebook and LinkedIn groups (ever used Reddit?)
  • Your business social media channels
  • Explore niche job board websites

Other ideas to get your vacancy filled include:

  • Do you have a vacancies section on your website?
  • Networking events
  • Introducing an employee referral incentive scheme

Other ways to optical recruitment for your business

Use optical locum recruitment agencies

Whilst attracting the right locum candidate has similar recruitment issues, locums can be easier to source because of optical recruitment agencies

The number of optometrists choosing to work as locums is increasing. The College of Optometrist’s “Optical Workforce Survey” in 2015 found 17.5% of respondents were working as locums, compared to 10.5% in 2010. For the Optometrist’s Futures 2018 study, 27% of respondents were locums. 

More optical professionals choose to work as locums. As a result, the locum market is becoming a bigger pool of talented optometrists and dispensing opticians.

Consider pre-reg training

One of the best methods for recruiting junior members of the team is through pre-registration training.

Pre-reg optometrists who responded to the Optometrists’ Futures survey expressed a preference to stay with their pre-reg employer after their training had finished. Some also had contractual obligations to do so.

Only 78% of businesses don’t offer pre-reg training, however. The most common reason for not training is being too busy or not having the capacity.

The survey reports that 71% of JVPs/franchises offer pre-reg places compared to just 13% of independents.

Is it time to reconsider pre-registration training? It could boost your brand and reputation as well as help fill your vacancies.

Can you offer relocation assistance?

If you are located in a rural or semi-rural area, you may find it more difficult to recruit. Especially if you’re recruiting for newly qualified staff.

Whilst upping the salary offered is one way to attract people to your practice, a relocation package is another incentive.

Moving home is a stressful event – even more so if you are relocating your family and changing your kid’s schools too. So, think about what assistance you could offer to make this transition easier.

Offering a one-off relocation financial package may prove cheaper in the long run than increasing the salary offered.

Flexibility is a big driver for optometrists

Flexibility is often expressed as a reason to become a locum optometrist. So, it makes sense that it’s likely to be important for salaried optometrists too.

Try analysing exactly what you need from a new employee in terms of skills and hours worked. This will help you identify more flexible working opportunities:

  • Is the role you are recruiting for suitable as a job share?
  • Could the role be worked part-time? 
  • Do you offer flexitime or compressed hours?
  • Does your annual leave offer flexibility i.e. can employees buy more days?

There is no magic bullet that will fix recruitment problems and any employer will agree.

Above all, promote what makes your business a great place to work and be open with your candidates.

And once you’ve found that dream employee – make sure you treat them well!

If you are struggling to fill your optical vacancies, My Locum Choice can help reduce the optical recruitment workload burden.

Our easy-to-use locum recruitment platform will put you in touch with relevant candidates within the blink of an eye.

This article was written on behalf of My Locum Choice by Nicola Hasted from Pharmacy Mentor.

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