Over the past three weeks, I have had lots of calls about hygiene on commission and how practices are losing money in the hygiene department. Hopefully, you are seeing a new possibility and how to build a new reality for a profitable dental practice. Hygiene is one of the key points in every successful practice I have ever seen. Great practices have great hygiene departments! Great hygiene departments in any practice are created by first finding and then properly onboarding great hygienists.
If I want to catch big fish or hunt for a trophy buck, I have to look in the right places. I have to fish with the right bait. I have to hunt at the right time of day in the best location I can find. Good hygienists are pretty easy to find. Great hygienists are very difficult to find. Committed hygienists are your ultimate goal. Keep in mind that you are looking for someone that has great people skills, is self-motivated, and has a lifetime commitment of wanting to learn more and solve problems. I know we started off trying to convince you that hygiene on commission was the only way to pay “producers” but we also have to find the right type of hygienist to fill that position.
Far too many times we simply “wait and see” what happens. This is not a sound management style. Lots of times we are surprised when one of our hygienists decides to quit for $2.00 more an hour pay, at the office down the street. Maybe you’re just caught off guard when someone decides to move. Regardless of the reasons, we should never hire anyone when we are desperate. Desperation spawns “settling” for staff that are not a good match in order to get our offices back to some semblance of normality, only to find months later that a poor hire has sabotaged all of the other positions in the office. It is being caught unaware that fuels this repeated scenario in most offices. You, as the leader and owner, need to always be looking for employees to improve your team. I am not saying that you should not have tenure in the form of long time high performing hygienists, but you should (through interviews and constant training) try to improve the quality of your staff. Doing this ensures that everyone who makes up your team will strive to work at the highest level of excellence in their performance.
Secondly, I see too many offices, when faced with replacing a hygienist, looking in all the wrong places. Certainly Craigslist, Indeed, and professional “head hunters” are base level search options. But most of the time they will fall far short of you being able to get across the desk from a great hygienist. So, if you want the best, you need to look in the best places. I have always found that going online to the State Board site for your area will give you a great option if the state is an open records state. If they are, you should be able to view a list of every assistant, every hygienist, and every doctor licensed in your state. It normally will have the persons name, address where the license is renewed (hygienists almost always use their home address for their license renewals), any state board problems, and when their license was issued. The lists are normally presented in a spreadsheet format that allows you to hone in on any particular area that you feel is important.
Finding the right person may include locating someone that will not have to drive a long way to work with you. Because you can see where their licenses are renewed, you can also see the zip code and be able to determine the approximate drive time that person might have. I would limit it to about a 20-30 minute drive. Perhaps you are looking specifically for someone younger or older. That might be reflected in the year the license was issued. Perhaps you want a male over a female, so most of the time their names would help you. Keep in mind that you want the best candidate that meets or exceeds your vision and job description.
If you can find a list of hygienists to purchase, your next step would be to craft a letter with the details of your job opening. This takes time and effort to tell your story in such a way as to attract those who would come closest to meeting your needs. I always sent the letters in a non-business envelope (plain white), hand addressed, with only my return address on the outside of the envelope (no doctor or practice name). I did not want the recipient to know it was from a dental office. The envelope should look personal and pique their curiosity to open it. Your first line will make or break your letter as well as the format and what you say. Keep in mind that the letter is designed to give them enough information to “pre-qualify” themselves, but not answer every question about the job. It is written in such a way as to solicit a phone call or visit to your office. Also remember that they will absolutely visit your website as their first step. Be sure it mentions something nice about your hygienist(s) and how highly you value them.
Keep in mind that you are not just looking for someone that is down on their luck and out of work. I want someone that is blowing and going but looking for a better opportunity. This type of person is not scanning the want ads or Craigslist every day. I need to impress them with the offer and make them feel like we are a good fit for their future. NOTE: One of the things I always did was to make sure that the letter was just one page, had a “PS” at the bottom, and on the reverse side of the single sheet of paper we scanned photos of the office and team. We need appear “remarkable” – different from every other dental office – to attract the best candidate(s) for the job.
I can’t emphasize enough that you need to “craft” the letter and form a systematic protocol for attracting qualified hygienists with the desire to have control of their future in an office with unlimited earning potential (hygiene on commission). This is how you Summit.
Michael Abernathy, DDS
PS. Next week we will assume that you have attracted several candidates and now you need to learn how to narrow the field by asking the right questions. I hope you also are seeing how this type of commitment in finding the right person, onboarding them well, giving them a pay structure that encourages growth and ownership, and looking at the time you spend doing this as an investment with huge returns over the lifetime of their employment in every position.