We need to look at two things this week. How should we approach change with any staff member in our office, and how can we increase our hygiene production, profit, and satisfaction in a few days? Today is the perfect time to improve your leadership and bottom line.
Change is uncomfortable for all of us, but especially to our staff when based on our past, we have been less than stellar in pulling it off. Always remember, that staff tends to listen to just one thing: WIIFM (What’s In It For Me). Regardless of the plan or the change you want, we have to take the time to spell out the benefit for that staff member it affects. Most of them want to know the “why” they should do this. So, just remember before asking anything from anybody, you need to spell out the benefit. In fact, it should be benefit, benefit, and then the request.
So, let’s take a look at moving our worn out, marginal hygiene departments into the Super General Dental Practice realm. Straight up, a little review from the last two weeks. We need our hygiene department producing at least three times what they are paid, one third of the total office production, and having at least two new patients a day per hygienist with twice the number of hygiene hours as doctor hours, and a recall percentage of over 70%. The reason for going to a commission-based pay system is that it will give your hygienist the possibility of having unlimited earning potential, while helping us control our overhead by only paying for the actual production they bring in. Like an associate, hygienists can control what they produce if they get paid for their effort. We need to move to a “eat what you kill and clean” culture. A hygienist actually can control both what they produce and earn by being more efficient and effective. If you think about it, most of the dental practices are paying hourly with the ripple effect of encouraging breaks, sick days, vacations, and one patient per hour, and a poor recall percentage resulting in an underperforming hygiene department. Why fall into the trap of creating a position and system that rewards mediocrity without pushing them to the earning potential and excellence they always really hoped they would have? From the hygienist’s perspective we are faced with overcoming their desire to focus on the “security” of knowing exactly what they will take home their next pay period. Most of us find the fear of change far greater than the potential reward. In this case, you need to be very transparent and clear as to what and why you need this for your office. I would approach your hygienist(s) with the idea that you have decided to pay her more (benefit), turn over more control of her area to her (benefit), and show her how she can partner with you to increase her production (benefit), recall, and job satisfaction (benefit). We usually will give the existing hygienist(s) a three to six-month period where we are willing to pay her the current pay schedule or a straight commission, whichever is greater. While a hybrid pay system is an option where they have a base pay and a commission, you run the risk of backing away from the one strategy that will encourage full participation and commitment to a watered-down strategy that still encourages mediocrity and high overhead. Ultimately, at the end of this transition period, the hygienist will be on straight commission. They have a period of several months to become comfortable with the results of controlling their schedule and while developing their work ethic to a whole different level of commitment and execution. Your job is to help them see the potential and upside while minimizing the perceived negatives. Stay the course, commit to sound business strategies, and help your staff to a future of unlimited pay while controlling your overhead. This is how you Summit.
Michael Abernathy, DDS
PS. For those of you who want to take it even further, contact Max and learn how you can get The Hygiene Factor which shows you how to increase your case acceptance, hygiene profitability, and eliminate hygiene staff turnover. I have never seen any other strategy that so infuses your hygiene department with renewed energy and an increased commitment to your office.