Eye Care and Optical Eyeployment

Managing people as part of clinical practice has never been easy. Staff management issues have always been near, or at the top of the list of challenges that both independent practice owners and optical retailers face.

“If it wasn’t for the people this job would be easy…”

Enter COVID.
To say that COVID  has created employment uncertainty is an understatement. From an array of employment attitudinal studies conducted across a wide swath of different industries, we have a good understanding of how attitudes have changed in the employer/employee relationship as a result of COVID induced employment pressures.

Many employers are bracing for the substantial challenges they currently face and those that will continue to roll over the employment markets as COVID variants oscillate to create waves of uncertainty.

Buoyed by COVID-induced savings buffers and increasing vaccination rates, the YOLO (You Only Live Once) phenomena, first penned by the New York Times this spring, has emerged.

The YOLO mindset, most often attributed to the Millennial generation, has given rise to a tsunami of resignations as individuals pursue long-deferred dreams of new independent ventures and freedom from the grip of their employers.

Resignation Waves, Dominos and New Rules
Tim Brennan, Chief Visionary Officer, FitFirst Technologies,  a company offering candidate assessment technologies using Artificial Intelligence (AI), said recent research indicates “40% of the workforce say they are looking to change jobs in the next year.  53% are prepared to change industries if training is provided. You have a wave of good reliable, productive people making personal decisions to change things up.”

Behind the millennials, a wave of younger workers are looking to step up into the vacancies potentially causing a second wave of resignations. “We can see the signs of this already with Help Wanted signs everywhere, some businesses are operating on reduced hours and all wondering where they are going to find the people they need”, opined Brennan.

The Globe & Mail cites Travis O’Rourke, president of recruiting firm Hays Canada, advising that the competition to hire and retain workers is leading to higher wages. “It’s absolutely a war for talent, and workers are winning,” he said.

Ah, but Our Industry is Different.
Of course it is …  isn’t it?

A new Canadian Eye Industry Survey is available. Your participation can help answer these questions.

Canada Eye Care Employment Survey


Admittedly, physical site dependent health care services like optometry and optical may be different. To some extent location dependency diminishes the impact. Few jobs in eye care were moved from the practice to the home, and thus workers desiring to continue their current job from home is largely a moot point.

The veterinary industry, however, has not been immune to the challenges of acquiring and retaining personnel.  Amid the COVID pet adoption surge, Veterinarians are reportedly having huge challenges with employee retention and filling increasing vacancies.

Employees are “Hunkering Down”
The uncertainty has also created a “sheltering in place” phenomena. “ 80% are concerned about their career growth , 72% say the pandemic has caused them to rethink their skill-sets and 59% have sought out skills training without the support of their employer. If even a portion of these people act on their concerns, they will add to the resignation tsunami and it will extend beyond millennials”, according to Brennan.

Quietly bearing the stress but ready to move: These may be the employees in your current workplace, waiting for opportunity.

Kareem Merali, co-owner of C2020, a Canadian recruiting and training firm focused exclusively on ECPs, is seeing the effects first-hand: “With an influx of jobs available, employees and job seekers have a lot more variety to choose from, not only from within the optical industry but outside of it as well.”

Merali further points out that retention of lower paying positions has become a greater challenge and that government COVID subsidy programs, like CERB, make it more difficult.

“I think owners will need to share a larger piece of the pie than they are used to in order to keep the right talent and stay profitable,” says Merali.

Impact in Corporate Optometry
Maria Sampalis, Founder of Corporate Optometry, a networking resource for Optometrists sub-leasing in corporate environments, is seeing a rise in OD salaries in the US.

Sampalis agrees, “Acquiring good talent in a shortage of available candidates is the number one challenge facing Corporations”.

She is seeing corporations respond to the issue in innovative ways, including forging partnerships with professional schools and even engaging in tuition reimbursement programs.

Training and Support: Keys to Retention
Brennan and Merali agree that keeping staff engaged and motivated is vital to retaining great staff and that training and team building are critical elements.

Practice owners should consider team-building events, mindfullness activities, out of the box training rather than simply throwing money at increased wages. Employers will have to be even more aware of the needs of their employees.

We Need Answers
There are no known studies  of the eyecare/optical industry employment trends. “Industry leaders, employers and individuals making career decisions about their future need to better understand the employment dynamics, options and opportunities”, says David Pietrobon, President of VuePoint IDS Inc, and publisher of Eye Care Business Canada. The Canada Eye Care Employment Survey, will help answer these most important questions.

Eye Care Business Canada will be hosting a digital event on November 8th  as part of its “Changing Landscape: Opportunities & Options for Canadian ECPs” series focusing on employment opportunities under the title, “Career Pathfinders: Making Informed Decisions”.

Eyeployment.com, a premier sponsor of this event has launched an online survey to measure the attitudes of both employers and employees regarding the current eye care employment situation. Tim Brennan will provide an overview of the employment situation and share the results of the survey with attendees.

Respondents to the survey will receive a  summary report of the research findings and a complimentary invitation to the November webinar where the results will be shared

The online survey is available now at:  CLICK HERE TO TAKE SURVEY  4-5 mins.



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If the candidate’s not engaged, the employee never will be.

The axiom seems self-evident, doesn’t it?

After all, we don’t value that which comes too easily. It’s a quirk of human nature. If we don’t have to work even a little bit for something, we take it for granted. This applies in all aspects of life, including when we are looking for work.

A certain amount of desire is critical to good matchmaking. It fuels the chase and builds commitment – not just to the consummation of the deal, but to making the relationship work in the long term.

In case you think I’ve forgotten about the looming talent shortage, rest assured I understand market dynamics, the laws of supply and demand. When the economy’s booming, it’s a seller’s market. Employers feel a sense of scarcity and respond by dropping their pants. That’s nothing new. And this is about keeping your clothes on, even in a tight market.

Engagement starts early, even when the practice is the suitor.

The principle of engagement is the same, regardless of the market – you’ll need fewer people if you hire those who’ve taken the time to do a little due diligence of their own, who are willing to invest a little time and effort in declaring their candidacy. If they have joined you for the right reasons, they are going to be less likely to leave for frivolous reasons.

If the axiom is so self-evident, then why have we made such a mess of things?

In the rush to build systems that supposedly make it easier both for employers to search through vast résumé databases, and for candidates to find the next, better opportunity… we have succeeded in commoditising both talent and work.

Recruiters and the systems they use are designed to check each candidate’s pedigree against a set checklist of criteria in the posting specs, each time asking themselves, “based on their education, credentials and experience, can this person likely do the job?” We’ve created enormous databases and elaborate search engines, the logic being ‘the more résumés I see, the more likely I am to find a candidate who can do the job’. Not the right candidate, necessarily, but one who will satisfy the specs on paper. We are admitting people into the talent pipeline and filtering them out on the basis of information that has no bearing whatsoever on retention, performance, or how engaged they are likely to be as an employee.

Candidates, for their part, have their own tactics for ‘marketing’ themselves in order to make it through the usual screens and filters. It’s also a numbers game for them; we have taught our employees through the school of hard knocks that survival requires the adoption of a ‘free agent’ mindset. Most have learned the hard way not to entrust their best interests to anyone else and, as we saw in the last boom, many very average performers had adopted a ‘mercenary mindset’, repeatedly selling and reselling their skills to the next higher bidder.

In both cases, the rules of the ‘game’ , if you will, are clearly established. The candidate’s objective is to always have their résumé ‘out there’ and to ‘win’ by receiving a range of offers from which to cherry pick; the recruiter’s is to screen and disqualify contenders, but ultimately to close the search and get the open requisition off their desk. All too often, neither side gives due reflection to whether or not it’s the right candidate or the right job.

In this transactional approach, much has suffered over time. For too many, work is nothing more than a means to an end, something one puts up with to meet another need. Both sides of the supply/demand equation lament the absence of loyalty. Relationships are shallow. Work is less rewarding. Stress and conflict are at an all-time high. Productivity, morale, esprit de corps, even organizational depth are at an all-time low.

Both sides are feeling ripped off, and as a result we face an epidemic of disengagement whose cost to lives – not to mention the economy – is staggering.

If you want an engaged employee, you need to engage the candidate.

Just stop it. Stop relying on traditional means to find people. Think about it – a job hunter can visit Monster or Workopolis and spam their résumés out to 25 employers over lunch, and still have time for a sandwich. Systems like CareerBuilder and others will actually send their CV to employers they have never even heard of! You’re getting a raft of names of people who may only marginally meet your specs, but who are totally uncommitted to you as a prospective employer.

Stop going out of your way to make it easy for candidates to get into your hopper. One-click resume attachment allows them to play the numbers game and get on with their day. It doesn’t help you.

Stop using education, work history and (God help me) keyword searches as the primary means of filtering people in. That methodology is busted.

Perhaps most important, stop lying to candidates. Stop telling them what a great place this is to work, amplifying the features and benefits without presenting a balanced picture. Candidates are adept at finding out the truth; in fact they probably know more about what your people are saying about you than you do.

What should you start doing? Start filtering candidates in on the basis of the four critical aspects of fit first, then on the basis of skills and experience. That will require you to do away with the résumé, or at least move it to the side and look at other factors first. Factors that are predictors of retention, performance and engagement. A Case for a New Approach: www.hiringsmart.com/articles/479/.

Start asking different questions. Ask candidates questions that will reveal their underlying attitudes and preferences in areas critical to their success, and use those as the admission tickets that determine whether the candidate should advance or not.

Our clients have learned that when they adopt a Fit First Philosophy, everything changes.

Allow the candidate to be the first to opt in. Or out.

We need to trust that, presented with the opportunity, candidates are a pretty good judge of what’s right for them, and what’s not. Very few will consciously invest time in pursuing job or a situation that presents a poor fit.

This is where current thinking around employment branding is so critical. The standard thinking has taken a dramatic turn in the last few years. Gone are the days when polished marketing materials and glowing claims had any appeal; in fact, the opposite is now true: those traditional approaches raise suspicion and doubt, and can actually be talent-repellent.

Truth, transparency, respect, openness and authenticity are the new hallmarks of successful employment branding.

The most successful organizations are those that lead with frank information about what it’s like to work there and to be successful. Many have a series of ‘man in the cubicle’ interviews of real employees, unscripted and unrehearsed, saying in their own words why they joined the company, what works well and not so well from their perspective and, more importantly, why they keep coming back every Monday. Others offer blogs, live chat with existing employees, and other features that allow candidates to obtain meaningful, live information about the employment experience. This approach ultimately conveys respect and gives candidates the opportunity to be the first to opt in or out on the basis of fit.

In this way, candidates become engaged early… setting the stage for a well informed, engaged and productive employee.


is Chief Visionary Officer with Fit First Technologies Inc, the creators of Eyeployment, TalentSorter and Jobtimize.


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