“Optics lends itself to flexible working”
Frances Rus, managing director at Duncan and Todd, and Julie Mosgrove, retail director, on why flexibility is key at the Scottish independent optometry group
12 May 2023
If someone wanted to work for Duncan and Todd, what is the first piece of advice that you would give them?Frances Rus (FR): We’ve got fairly stable teams. We often get people saying that the first thing they notice is that the staff know all the patients by their names as soon as they walk through the door. It makes them feel that they have to up their game, to have that much knowledge about their patients. We give them the time to get to know their patients. The biggest piece of advice is to take your time in the test, to understand your patients’ needs.
If you are shortlisting candidates for role in the practice, what is the first thing that you look for?FR: Definitely someone who wants to work in an independent practice, and understands that difference. Also, longevity: that they are looking to stay somewhere for a while. And someone who is personable.
How important is work experience?FR: We’ve got a lot of people who are doing their Highers who work for us, and afterwards they tend to come back for the university summer holidays and work for us again. They are dispensing, then they qualify as optometrists. They are homegrown, almost.
Julie Mosgrove (JM): We take on a lot of school pupils for work experience, and do inductions with them. All our practices offer the chance to come in and see what it is like to be in a practice.
We even had a netball player who went to the Commonwealth Games
If someone is applying for a role in practice, how important is their cover letter?JM: Cover letters give a bit of personality, rather than a CV, which is just a list of experience. It allows you to find out about the person.
What is the biggest mistake that someone can make in an interview for Duncan and Todd?FR: Someone who is totally focused on what the benefits are. I would expect people to focus more on the kind of environment they’ll be working in: testing times and the size of the team, for example. I think if I was interviewing somebody who didn’t show any interest in the business, that would be a problem.
How do you go about ensuring fairness and equality in your hiring processes?JM: Follow-ups are important at that initial stage. It is important to give feedback, even if we’re not taking the person on.
If you had a new employee preparing for their first week with Duncan and Todd, what would you say to them?
FR: If they haven’t already, visit the shop, and meet the team and the manager they will be working with.
JM: We have regular check-ins when someone is getting ready to start. Some people have a three months’ notice period, so it can be a long time. We have touch points over that journey, so they feel engaged and ready to begin their role. We share information about what will happen on their induction day. We try to give them as much information as possible, and advise them on what to bring on their first day as well.
How important is employee wellbeing at Duncan and Todd?FR: Really important. I joined during my pre-reg year, as did Julie. Now that it is my business, I try really hard to hold onto what I loved about it. It’s a caring profession. We really need to look after our patients.
As a management team, we all know each other really well. It’s a very approachable business, I would say. Whenever we have had external companies in, they tell me they have never had such honest and open feedback. We do exit interviews, and we’ll all sit down and discuss if there is anything there.
How do you approach flexible working and has that changed post-COVID 19?
FR: Duncan and Todd has always supported flexible working. The profession is predominantly female, so we are used to managing maternity leave and potentially people wanting something different afterwards. We’re lucky, because optics lends itself to flexible working. It just makes sense. If your people are happy, that’s part of work-life balance. Our percentage of part-timers must be 40%. It’s nearly half the workforce.
JM: We’ve always done things: for example, some lunches might be half an hour instead of an hour. Some colleagues work longer hours, but do fewer days. It is very variable across practices. Some people do shifts: two weeks on, two weeks off. We have never insisted that people work Saturdays; everyone gets a weekend off. It works really well.
FR: We try to accommodate everybody. We have had people take a month or two off to go travelling. We even had a netball player who went to the Commonwealth Games.