Looking back on the past six months of this year, there is nothing more important than the lessons we should have learned from the forced closures, the restart, and challenges coming back to finish strong with just three months to go. At the top of the list of things I should have learned but seem to be destined to repeat, is the “warm body syndrome”. It seems that getting the right people on the bus in the right seat has devolved into getting anybody on the bus just to fill the seats. Hiring people to be a member of your team just because they want a job and can fog a mirror (they are a warm body) is a classic case for unintended results waiting to happen. If fact, it almost guarantees another mediocre year with less profit and fewer referrals as we slide down the slippery slope of high turnover and poor results.
Be honest and reflect over the time you were closed and the challenges you faced re-ramping your practices during The Great COVID Reset.
- Were you producing about $20,000 per employee per month? If not, you are over staffed or under producing with the result of high overhead.
- Did your staff jump at the opportunity to restart the practice or were they still basking in the “socialized” Band-Aid of an unemployment pay and $600/week bonus?
- Did your team members feel the pain when you couldn’t pay your bills, or were they just concerned that the layoff would not affect their benefits and rehire when they decided to come back?
- Did your hygiene department step up and help restart the recall and reactivation protocols or were they bitching about not having the right PPE, not enough pay, too many hours, and the drudgery of hand scaling while demanding an extra 20 minutes to see a recall patient?
- Do you list staffing as one of the most stressful reoccurring challenges you face? (This is the number one symptom of marginal leadership.)
- Are you still struggling to have the right number of staff to work a productive day?
If you answered yes to more than one of these questions, you suffer from “warm body syndrome”. In life and especially in your practice, you get what you deserve, not what you want. Your results are the glaring grade you get from operating the way you have always operated. It’s a mirror reflecting what you deserve based on the actions you are currently taking. Everything in your practice is precisely designed to give you the results you are getting.
When it comes to staff, we need to have a matrix for looking for the right person. We need to always be looking for someone that is better than person we have. We need to model the behavior, culture, and actions we want to see in our team. Here is a short list of the matrix I judge all my hiring against.
- The number one trait for being hired is an incredible level of people skills.
- Always hire for people that are internally motivated.
NOTE: The first two on our list cannot be trained or learned. They have it or they don’t. The folks with warm body syndrome hire people for their work history, and will always be challenged to assemble a great team. Never seriously consider a hire if they do not possess the first two traits.
- I never hire just for experience. Experience can be good and bad. Regardless of their resume, we always train from the ground up.
- Hire for their ability to solve problems. They are curious and will refine their job position by holding themselves accountable for better results than you expect.
- Find someone that has attributes of learning. They are a lifetime student.
Your side of the equation is that you must develop the type of culture that your team can commit to. You have to pay them better than any other office. You get what you pay for, but pay alone will not hold anyone. It takes the complete success formula. You need to figure out a way to share the profits. Do this and your overhead will drop, longevity of the team will increase, stress will diminish, and you will move from where you are to the practice you always thought you would have.
Strong leader + great culture (Passionate, ethical, competitive, effective and fun) + optimized team = SUCCESS
This is how you Summit.
Michael Abernathy, DDS
PS. “Start with good people, lay out the rules, communicate with your employees, motivate them and reward them. If you do all those things effectively, you can’t miss.”