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This one’s a keeper: 10 tips to boost employee retention

Feb. 11, 2015
Your efforts to hire better team members will still be wasted if you don't think about employee retention. Consider these 10 tips from Paul Edwards.

Have you given any thought to improving your hiring success ratio during 2015? Making stronger hires in the first place is always a popular topic this time of year, but in the long run, any new hire you make is only as good as your ability to keep that great new employee once they learn the ropes. So what makes a dental employee want to stay?

ADDITIONAL READING | 10 steps to a great team in 2015

Here are 10 employee retention tips for making sure your best and brightest hires remain as fresh and enthusiastic as they were on the first day.

1. Clarify expectations. Within the first two months of employment, create a job description for every position and employee, including a clear picture of the job duties and expected performance standards. Revisit this description annually and revise it as needed. Great employees like to know what is expected, so they can not only meet those milestones, but also leave them in the dust.

2. Listen and learn. Pay attention in your interactions with employees, and find out what’s important to them. Don’t get involved in personal drama, but do keep their goals in mind during your management interactions. Knowing that they are listened to will positively impact employees’ performance. You may even learn of simple ways to make their working conditions and the office environment better for them and everyone.

3. Give regular feedback. Coaching and feedback are ongoing processes, and it’s never effective to save all of it for formal review sessions. Instead, spread it out. Be attentive, and give constructive coaching when it’s needed. Be quick with informal praise or gratitude for employees who are performing well or successfully self-correcting something you’ve previously discussed. Good employees should always feel like you appreciate their work and dedication.

4. Create a team culture. If you don’t have a mission statement, develop one. Next, make sure each team member knows how they contribute to the team’s shared goals. This applies to you, too! When discussing office issues, impart a belief that problems without solutions are not acceptable: Employees should bring you their suggestions, at least one of which does not require money. If you would like advice on developing a mission statement, CEDR Solutions is ready to help.

5. Terminate (carefully) when you need to. Keeping bad apple employees around too long has a side effect — and not just on your blood pressure. Too much tolerance for employees who consistently demonstrate unprofessional behavior, poor performance, and bad attitudes can make good employees feel that management doesn’t care about high standards or the work environment, that good behavior is unappreciated, and that employees who do more than the minimum are just being taken advantage of. Instead, terminate when you need to without putting it off. Your office will be a happier place. It is vital to first make sure you’ve properly documented all coaching attempts, checked with an expert about risk factors, and have up-to-date, legally compliant office policies!

6. Centralize leadership. A strong team needs a sense of unity and order. Make sure each team leader is well-trained in your policies, and that everyone uses the same coaching methods and standards. Back them up on their tough decisions.

A strong team needs a sense of unity and order. Back them up on their tough decisions.

7. Empower employees. On issues where it makes sense, let employees make decisions. This increases engagement, accountability, and responsibility. Make sure employees feel supported as you empower them: Mistakes are part of the learning process, and good employees must be allowed to fail so they can later succeed.

8. Lead by example. It sounds like a no-brainer, but good employees will respect you and the practice more if your own attitudes, behaviors, and actions demonstrate the professionalism, commitment, and integrity you expect from them.

9. Offer incentives. Even a small bonus can do a great deal to incentivize good employees and infectiously spread good attitudes and behaviors. It’s not the size of the bonus that matters, but its attainability. Give days off, free lunches, casual day passes, or bonuses for behavior that exceeds your minimum standards. The “game” of working towards incentives can strengthen your team and help create togetherness and accountability, making your employees feel both appreciated and engaged. Anytime you offer a bonus, put it in writing and make sure everyone understands.

10. Educate and train. Helping employees improve their level of knowledge and skill not only improves and strengthens your own team, but demonstrates to employees that you care about their futures. Employees who feel that their own professional goals are supported will care more about their contribution to your practice and see it as a valuable part of their career path.

That’s it — you’re ready to turn employee retention into the rule rather than the exception. You may have noticed while reading this article that great hiring, great leadership, great retention, and a great work environment are all interconnected. Better yet, strengthening one or more of those can cause a positive chain reaction that will make your whole practice a better place to work and manage.

I hope you’ve picked up some ideas about how to strengthen your practice’s team culture, support your great employees more, and retain them longer. Start applying these tips today — you won’t regret it!

Paul Edwards is the CEO and co-founder of CEDR Solutions. Since 2006, CEDR has been the nation’s leading provider of individually customized dental office policy manuals and HR solutions, helping dentists successfully handle employee issues and safely navigate the complex and ever-changing employment law landscape. For more information or a free employee handbook evaluation, visit