Director's Message: Dentally disengaged? Follow the think/feel/act method

Kristine Hodsdon, RDH, compares statistics from Towers Perrin Global Workforce survey to dental office management systems.

Employee engagement is valuable. That is the key finding of the Towers Perrin Global Workforce survey.

“Engagement,” as the survey defined it, is the desire of an employee to go the extra mile to help his or her company succeed.

The survey of 90,000 workers in 18 countries found that companies with the highest level of employee involvement achieve superior financial results and are more successful in retaining their most valued employees than companies with lower levels of engagement.

Those companies with the highest percentage of engaged workers increased operating income 19% and earnings per share 28% year to year. The dental translation is that engaged doctors and staff/team members find increased productivity and case acceptance, funded incentive programs, and happy, healthy patients. The companies with the lowest engagement showed declines of 33% in operating income and 11% in earnings per share.

The 2007-2008 study also found that less than 5% of engaged workers were actively looking for another job, while more than a quarter of disengaged employees were looking.

Staff is disengaged

The good news is that employee engagement reaps immense rewards. The unfortunate news is that less than a quarter of employees actually are engaged with their work and that more than a third of the workforce is partly to fully disengaged.

To total employees’ level of engagement, the large survey measured how emotionally connected employees were to their companies and jobs, what they thought about their work and the companies for whom they worked, and how they performed.

This think/feel/act methodology revealed:

  • Engaged: only 21% of staff are fully engaged in their work. These employees scored exceptionally high in all three measures of engagement.
  • Enrolled: 41% are partly engaged. Their scores were high in the think and action categories, but were significantly lower in their emotional connection with work. The survey concludes that these enrolled employees tend to get their work done, but they are not connected emotionally to it and thus are not going the “extra mile.”
  • Disenchanted: 30% of employees scored significantly lower on all three components of engagement, but dramatically drop on their emotional attachment to their work.
  • Disengaged: 8% are totally disconnected from their work.

Closing the gap

The survey found that, contrary to the myths, that engagement is an inherent trait. Senior leadership has a significant impact on employee engagement. The top driver of that engagement for staffs was their belief that senior management had their best interests at heart. Unfortunately, only 10% of employees believed that was true. More than half of the respondents felt that managers treated them as if they did not matter at all.

This translates into the dental practice because “senior leadership” equals “dentist.” So, I suggest that the next time you find yourself verbalizing and complaining about your team members, face the mirror and ensure you are doing all you can to improve their participation. Plus “managers” equal “office managers,” so balancing their behavior can go a long way in the road to increased engagement.

To close the engagement gap, dentists might try:

  1. Communicating the benefits of engagement. Employees are committed to invest more of themselves to improve the dental practice succeed, but they want to know how their efforts will benefit them.
  2. Showing that they care and value the employees. Dentists and “dental management” need to understand their employees as well as they do their patients, and then develop a work environment that reflects that understanding.
  3. Emotionally connecting with, and inspiring, their teams. Recognize the employees’ untapped energy and enthusiasm, and then channel it in ways that yield tangible results.

While the survey revealed that the above behaviors are relatively rare among management around the world — and I’ll go out on the skinning branch to include the profession of dentistry — adopting them could make a significant difference to a practice’s bottom line.

Kristine A. Hodsdon, RDH, BS
Director, RDH eVillage

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