Discussions about staff continue to be an ongoing part of practically every monthly meeting or telephone call with my clients. This is not something new, but it seems to be on the rise. Staff performance, staff incentives, bonus plans, job descriptions, complaints, HR issues–the list is endless. Our conversations are happening because of the critical nature of these issues. Building and maintaining a quality, customer-service oriented, loyal, and talented team continues to be the biggest challenge–and a key ingredient–for the establishment and growth of the superb dental practice.
In preparation for this blog post, I re-read an article about staffing that I published in the Spring of 1997 in the Journal of the Massachusetts Dental Society. I had just started my consulting business, and my thoughts for that article were solely based on my 29 years of experience running my own dental practice. To my surprise, there was not much of anything that I would change. But 18 years later–and over 650 dental client relationships later–I realize how much more difficult it is today to mold that perfect staff.
1. Our society has become extremely mobile and transient. In the world of today, both spouses working is the norm and not the exception. If one spouse gets a promotion, it may involve relocation of the entire family unit. So you can lose a great staff member through no fault of your own and you are suddenly back to square one.
2. A competitive benefits package has become quite costly. Healthcare costs have skyrocketed and bear no relationship to inflation. So offering employees a good medical insurance plan is absolutely essential if you hope to attract quality people. Combine that with the costs of pension, vacation pay, holiday pay and sick time/personal days (now often mandated by State employment laws), and you realize that the dollars start to add up.
3. Terminating an under performing employee has become much more complicated. Over the past five to ten years, there has been an exponential increase in the number of lawsuits accusing dentists of harassment, discrimination, and improper firing. This fear of litigation may paralyze the doctor and prevent decisive and necessary actions. There has never been more of a need for an exquisite and well-written office policy manual. There also needs to be a sophisticated understanding of HR issues, especially the necessity for meticulous documentation.
Fortunately, there are some positive to offset these negatives.
1. The power of the Internet is amazing! Google, Facebook and Twitter have made it infinitely easier and quicker to find qualified staff. Our world has become incredibly connected.
2. Doctors can now purchase EPLI insurance and greatly reduce or eliminate the fear of financial ramifications from frivolous employee lawsuits.
Over the years, my favorite ad for finding great employees is what I call an “in your face” ad. It used to be placed in the Classified Ads section of your local newspaper. Now it gets posted to craigslist and you get replies instantly. It is designed to attract the very best people. These people are most likely working in another dental practice in your general area where they no longer feel challenged or appreciated.
” Busy general practice seeking the absolute best dental assistant in the Metrowest area. If your clinical skills, team building skills, and communication skills are not excellent, please do not respond to this ad. This is a full-time position with benefits. Money is no object. Compensation will be commensurate with ability and experience. All resumes will be kept in strictest confidence. E-mail your resume to______________.”
In spite of how difficult team building may seem, please don’t settle for average. Strive to build an exceptional workplace culture in order to attract, motivate, and retain top talent. Culture attracts, culture retains, and culture drives performance.