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It's time for your dental practice to develop a solid HR to-do list for 2016

Feb. 9, 2016
Author Paul Edwards says he has overheard Department of Labor experts proclaim that dental practices are among some of the worst offenders when it comes to upholding human resources policies. It's not too late to get solid HR guidelines in place for your dental practice for 2016.

Human resources issues can cause many headaches in dental practices. The new year may be well underway, but it's not too late to get some good HR policies in place for your dental practice for 2016. A lot changed in 2015. Solid guidelines will make everything run more smoothly. Here's what you need to do.

When you think about the top goals for your dental practice in 2016, are any of them human resource related? They should be! These six points on the CEDR Solutions HR to-do list will help you make your practice safer and stronger during 2016. It’s not too late to get started.

1. Revisit job descriptions
Job descriptions are often the last item on dentists’ and managers’ to-do lists. However, they’re an essential tool in managing your employees and reducing your liability. What makes them so powerful? Job descriptions are written summaries of the job duties and physical requirements for each position in your office. When worded properly, they help employees understand their role and responsibilities while helping protect you as an employer.

Probably the most important part of the job description is the list of physical and mental requirements that are essential functions of the position. This becomes extremely relevant when an employee is disabled due to illness or injury and needs to request an accommodation to do his or her job. Check that each employee’s job description properly addresses that position’s requirements, including physical requirements, pay classification, at-will status, and the “soft” skills we call success factors. Here’s a properly-written Hygienist Job Description.

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2. Ask your five-year question about every employee
Look at your team and ask, “When I think about where I want my practice to be five years from now, would I hire everyone again in order to get there?” In an ideal situation, the answer would be a resounding yes. But you might find yourself hesitating or even answering no for some of your current employees. In that case, identify who’s not the best fit.

More training, resets, and all kinds of options are available to today’s owner or manager. You have to decide what’s right for the practice and for you as the leader. Just make sure that you have documentation to support your management decisions before you take any adverse actions.

3. Audit your pay practices
Dental practices are notorious for several common employee pay errors, and even experienced dentists don’t always account for the intricacies of employment laws. We advise that you self-audit for the following:

More than 90% of practices make mistakes in at least one of these areas. Believe me, correcting your own errors today is cheaper and easier than facing fines or going to court later.

4. Focus inward
Great HR isn’t just about your policies—it’s also how you manage. Turning some attention inward will make you a stronger, savvier manager.

  • Join a professional association, business coaching program, or online forum. Running your own practice is now as scary when you have a support system where you can talk to others in the same boat. The new HR strategies and tools you’ll learn will make your life infinitely easier.
  • Schedule at least 1 CE or training course about HR. There are tons of learning opportunities out there, and you don’t yet know how much you don’t know. Stay informed!
  • Become a cheerleader. I don’t mean the annoyingly perky kind, but the kind who keeps energy and positivity high and helps everyone focus on the game you’re playing. Focused teams get along better and play the game better. Positive people are better at seeing opportunities that others miss.
5. Read a book As Henry Ford said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” I would add “and successful” to the end of that. As things change, the difference between those who succeed and those who fail is that those who succeed keep learning and improving.

So this year, read at least one book that might make your job easier or make you a better leader. One of my favorites is Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarterby Liz Wiseman. It says that the way we manage can drive engagement and bring out problem-solving abilities in every employee.

Better yet, after you read the book, become a multiplier.

6. Update your employee policies
Your employee handbook can be your best friend or your worst enemy. It all depends on how current it is and the policies you include. If your handbook hasn’t been updated in the last year (or the last six months for California employers), it needs to be thoroughly checked for old or out-of-compliance policies. Over 150 federal and state employment laws changed in 2015, and not knowing them isn’t an excuse if the Department of Labor comes knocking on your door.

Areas where your policies likely need updates include compensation, confidentiality, anti-discrimination, pregnancy and maternity leave of absence (MLOA), drug policies, health care benefits PTO and sick leave, social media usage, and security and technology. There may be more.

Making sure your employee policies are up-to-date and legally compliant is the most important HR step you can take this year. I recommend that you do it right away by contacting an HR expert you can trust. Cheers to a successful 2016!

Paul Edwards is the CEO and cofounder of CEDR Solutions. Since 2006, CEDR has been the nation’s leading provider of individually customized dental employee handbooks 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