One of the most prevalent characteristics of a “Donor” practice is high staff turnover. If you are not keeping staff for 5 or more years, you are a donor practice. High staff turnover also indicates poor systems, management, leadership, and culture in your practice. I have yet to find any demographic justification for not having long-term staff. The simple fact is that high staff turnover has huge negative effects on your practice and can impact every aspect of your practice being able to operate efficiently. So here are some key steps for reversing this trend in your office.
- Hire the right people. We like the mantra “hire slowly and fire quickly”. Never hire from desperation. You will likely gravitate to hiring employees who have strong skills that match your open position. The “but” here is: How well do your new employees fit in with your practice’s culture and the existing team? This starts with consistent customized interview questions for every position in the office. In addition, you need the interpretation of these questions. A tour of the office and partnering with your existing team to interview, converse, and get to know the candidate is key. My staff always had the last say on all staff positions and even the doctors that we hired. Doing it this way insures that not only will the candidate understand what is expected, the staff will have a vested interest in helping them succeed if they are the ones that made the final decision on the hire.
- Offer competitive pay and benefits. Underpaying and having over the top expectations are as common as flies on manure. If you pay peanuts you get monkeys. Step up, pay the price for the right candidate and create realistic expectations and firm consequences for their job descriptions. When determining compensation for your staff, it’s good to do market research on wages. I find that dentalworkers.com and www.indeed.com are great for this. In addition to competitive wages, great employees will want good benefits, too.
- Give praise freely and often. Everyone in your office needs encouragement and recognition. When they do something right, show your appreciation. Every position in the office should have some type of measurement so that you and the employee have an objective and fair way of measuring actual performance against what is expected.
- Always look to improve the team. This eliminates hiring from desperation (having people quit when you have no pool of qualified candidates to choose from). The second benefit is that when you are constantly looking to improve your team, you create a culture of excellence where all staff understand that they will need to constantly raise the bar on their own performance. Any employee should be a little concerned about having their future freed up, for the right reasons. If you don’t onboard new employees correctly, continue to measure their performance based on the job descriptions you have agreed upon, while creating some form of consequence for falling short, how can you ever expect to create a committed team that is self-managed while having an ownership mentality?
- Always, always do an exit interview. Here is a tough but a necessary step in growing your management and leadership skills. Always sit down and do an exit interview with staff that are leaving your employ for any reason. They will most likely be truthful (because they have nothing to lose) and you will end up educating yourself about how others see your culture, practice, and leadership skills. In every situation where a patient leaves your practice or a staff member leaves, I always assume that I was at least 50% responsible for the situation. I either underperformed, over-promised, or just failed to deliver even a mediocre boss-employee relationship.
- Don’t shy away from flexibility. In this sense I am referring to the way you communicate with staff and train them. Most of us are faced with the daunting task of saying the right things, making sure the other person heard what you thought you said, and modeling the actions you want from your employees. This huge responsibility is just the price of admission to begin a culture of having a practice full of long-term employees. Be flexible in the way you train and speak to every employee. Everyone learns differently. The biggest mistake you could ever make is to assume that what you said to the employee actually got translated into what you wanted. This is a learnable and necessary skill for any leader.
Success as a leader hinges on your ability to have others follow you. These same employees will actually guarantee your success in dentistry when you take the time to cultivate a committed culture of staff ownership in a caring environment. This is how you Summit.
Michael Abernathy, DDS
PS. See this previous post for more great leadership info on this topic: A GUIDE TO DEMOTIVATING