The Return on Investment for Continuing Education

I was recently asked about paying for Continuing Education for staff in an optometrist’s practice.  This practitioner is already investing in staff education by attending association and buying group events.  His question actually was; did it make sense to invest in staff education that was outside of the typical offerings within the optical industry.

My answer was yes.

Some of my own favourite learning has come from outside of the optical industry.  We recently hosted a Former Executive from Disney.  He provided us with some interesting perspective on staff engagement and the idea of having the hard conversations that lead to the results that every business is striving for.  It has become part of the dialogue that I have with my clients as we discuss when to add staff and when to let staff go.

One of my Christmas gifts this year was a gift certificate to attend a Cooking School at a local restaurant.  It is sort of fascinating to reflect on how this experience influenced my consulting efforts following that.  One of the most important pieces of the evening was the experience.  “Deconstructing” the Chef role and allowing the patrons to become part of the process gave us all new respect for the meals that are created each and every night.  Besides the intuitive way the chef was able to compensate and change ingredients to “fix” mistakes, I was also reminded of how important the quality of equipment is.  A walk in fridge meant we could cool down sauces quickly to move on to next steps (without the risk of thawing everything else in the freezer!).  The industrial induction ovens held more heat and cooked items more evenly.  He pointed this out to us as we went.

So while this learning wasn’t specifically optical related, I walked away with some great transferrable learning.  It reminded me to speak to my clients about the experience they are creating for each of their patients and where they could add some extra value and make the experience a little bit more unique.

In an industry where there is significant employee turnover, it can feel discouraging for employers who are continually investing in employees who will likely not be with them in a year or so.  My advice is to change the perspective.  Supporting new learning has two major benefits:  employees will bring their new learning to benefit the clinic even if only for a short time and employees who feel supported in their personal development are less likely to leave their current employment.

Finally, I recommend creating a budget that is equally available to each member of your team.  Create the CE budget by treating it like a Staff Bonus.  Take .5% of your Gross Revenue and divide by the number of team members.  This is amount the team member can be reimbursed by the clinic for.  Ideally, the team member would pay for the course up front and then submit an expense for reimbursement upon its successful completion.


is the co-founder and managing partner of Simple Innovative Management Ideas (SIMI) Inc. and expert Practice Management contributor for Optik magazine. She can be reached at


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