Dental Office Staff Quits Often

Thursday Troubleshooter: Why do employees leave this dental practice so often?

June 12, 2014
This dental team member is truly mystyfied why there is so much turnover in the practice.

QUESTION: I work in a small dental practice with one doctor and five full- and part-time staff members. Since I’ve been in this office just over two years, we’ve had multiple staff members come and go, some staying for just a few weeks, and some for a few months. Sometimes it’s our decision, but more often than not it’s their decision. This is very disruptive and stressful to the doctor and us, as we are constantly training new people just to see them walk out of what feels like a revolving door. It’s also embarrassing to have to explain to patients why someone isn’t with us anymore. What are we doing wrong? We have a nice office, and our doctor is a nice person who pays us well.

ANSWER FROM JAN KELLER, Jan Keller and Associates: Staff retention is a major concern for many small businesses, and it sounds like yours is no exception. As you did not say anything about your hiring procedure (assuming you have one), here is what I recommend to my clients. Use what I refer to as a “forensic hiring” technique next time you’re looking for a new staff member. This is a simple four-step “CSSI” procedure ­– C: clarifying the position, S: screening and selecting the candidate, and I: integrating that candidate into your practice.

By clarify, I mean define your core values. What matters most to you? Skills? Experience? Communication style? What type of person will be a good fit for your practice? This helps you avoid the mistake of hiring the first semi-suitable person who applies because you’re desperate and need a warm body.

By screen I mean get to know applicants through their resume and a telephone interview that helps you weed out those who are clearly not right for the position. Assign the responsibility for telephone interviews to a staff member who will represent your practice well, and make up a telephone screening form before contacting applicants. Include questions that complement your core values. Schedule a skills assessment with your chosen applicants, and a get-to-know-you lunch with the staff. Their input and feedback is valuable and should always be part of the hiring process.

The selection process covers three very important elements – the reference check, the background check, and the offer letter. Do not skip any of these, even though the temptation to get the position filled may feel urgent. Finally, follow these simple integration steps to ensure your new employee gets off to a strong start. Allow several hours for orientation during which you provide the new employee with information on practice philosophy, personnel manual and file, and training plan, including OSHA and HIPAA, employment forms, and performance reviews. Be sure to block time out of the doctor’s schedule so he or she can be involved.

Commit to atraining plan that is shared with the staff and allows the new employee to excel at a rapid pace. Schedule training sessions, and determine with whom, when, and where. Acknowledge and celebrate as each phase of the training plan is completed. You can find out more about Forensic Hiring on my website, or you can contact me and I’ll be happy to discuss this with you in more detail. Unfortunately, you will not stop the revolving door until you take the time and make the effort to hire the best person the first time.

One of the common reasons people leave a job is because they don’t feel their services are appreciated or valued. We all need to feel appreciated in order to enjoy our job, do our best work, develop positive work relationships, and stay with an organization long-term. I don’t know for sure what’s happening in your office, but it seems very likely to me that people are coming and going at such a fast pace because they don’t feel it makes a difference whether they are there or not. One of the consulting services I offer my clients has to do with the “Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace.” Doctors and their teams learn how to show appreciation for coworkers – even difficult ones – using one or more of the languages best suited to them and their personality.

You say your doctor is a nice person and pays you well, and that’s certainly a good place to start. But keep in mind that study after study has shown that money is far less important in measuring job satisfaction than other non-money related factors, such as feeling like you’re respected and that your voice is being heard.

Please contact me at [email protected] if you would like more information on the “Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace.” This simple philosophy has helped many practices just like yours find and retain good employees, and close that annoying and stressful revolving door for good.

Can this dental office upcharge on a PPO fee for Invisalign?
What retirement plans are best for dentists?
The dentist should not give in to the team so easily

Send your questions for the experts to answer. Responses will come from various consultants associated with Speaking Consulting Network, Academy of Dental Management Consultants, or Dental Consultant Connection. Their members will take turns fielding your questions on DentistryIQ, because they are very familiar with addressing the tough issues. Hey, it's their job.

Send your questions to [email protected]. All inquiries will be answered anonymously every Thursday here on DIQ.