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Surviving the new dental economy: Staffing to retain employees and patients

March 27, 2017
Practice owners know that the right team members can make or break the success of a dental practice. If you aren't using the latest methods to find those team members, chances are you won't find the best ones.

Practice owners know that the right team members can make or break the success of a dental practice. If you aren't using the latest methods to find those team members, chances are you won't find the best ones.

While many aspects of the economy are recovering from the great recession of the late 2000s, the way Americans budget and spend their money has been forever altered. The uncertain future of US health care adds to the unpredictability of dental spending.

In a data analysis for the American Dental Association’s Health Policy Institute Research Brief, Bradley Munson and Marko Vujicic state, “There is significant uncertainty in the general health-care environment as well as the economic conditions within the dental sector.” They also speculate that if current trends continue, “Dental spending in the US will not return to the historically high pre-great recession growth levels.”

Today’s businesses must adapt to fluctuating demand and brace for instability by getting creative. This means finding ways to meet demand, avoiding overstaffing, and filling gaps as efficiently as possible to maximize profits. Above all, it means making sure the right people are hired to help a practice attract new patients and keep current patients happy.

Staffing for practice performance
Evaluating the way your employees use their time is a great first step toward improving your practice’s overall performance. If your staff is stretched too thin, consider hiring more people on a full-time, part-time, or hourly basis. The key here is to avoid overstaffing (which eats into profits), so taking note of your busy times could pay off here. If your employees have a lot of downtime, consider adjusting work schedules or assigning alternative tasks that will benefit your business, such as cross training, completing expanded duties, following up with patients, or engaging in continuing education activities.

Staffing for happy clients
Clients often leave a practice due to unpleasant interactions with the staff, long wait times in the office, or the inability to get a timely appointment. Positive patient interaction starts with making sure you hire the right people. We often hear business experts telling us to hire for personality first because skills can be taught. While you obviously need to pay attention to qualifications, it benefits your practice when you take a long look at each applicant’s personality and people skills.

Staffing for employee retention
A recent Gallup report states that 60% of millennials are open to changing jobs, and that half would consider changing jobs if it meant a pay increase of 20% or less. The report concludes that “engaged millennials demonstrate greater loyalty to their employers.” With millennials making up a third of today’s workforce, it makes sense to pay attention to their satisfaction. Creating a positive, engaging work environment will help you retain employees of every generation.

In addition to hiring the right people, establishing a shared vision for the practice can help employees feel more engaged. When workers understand their value to the success of the practice and have a clear picture of their future with the practice, they’re more likely to stay. Once they’re hired, make sure your employees feel heard, have a clear path for advancement and know how their work contributes to the practice as a whole.

It all comes back to hiring
The value of retaining the right number of staff and hiring people who will positively influence your practice is clear. There are a number of tools available to help you stay up-to-date with your staffing. For decades dental practices have been filling their staffing needs through temp agencies and job boards. While these methods are still popular, they don’t take full advantage of modern technology or cater to today’s dental practices and job seekers.

Posting to job boards: Job boards can be a waste of time. You post your job, wait for responses, and spend a lot of time sorting through applicants. You want to narrow your list before inviting applicants to interview, but communication through email or phone can be slow, especially if you want to talk to several people. Another problem is that when you place your ad on a job board, you may not be targeting the best dental professionals.

Using a placement agency: Seeking help from an employment agency can hold you back in terms of time and money. Many are still using old methods. You call an agency and wait for a response. Some provide you with a list of qualified dental professionals, others just send someone. You can’t communicate directly with the professionals so you don’t always know what you’re getting. In an era of lightning-speed communication, 24/7 business. and high-tech tools, this system is outdated.

Finding the right tools
Today’s technology makes it possible to find dental professionals, communicate directly with them, and book them to work in your office in real time. The newest hiring platforms allow the entire process to take place without a middleman, which means lower fees for dental practices. One such platform is Cloud Dentistry. Dr. Ali Khan, who has used staffing firms and Cloud Dentistry, said that the latter cost about one-tenth of what he would have paid using a traditional staffing agency.

Bringing hiring practices up to speed makes a big difference
Keeping up with the new economy is all about adaptation, and to adapt you need today’s high-tech tools. As you work to keep your practice profitable, don’t overlook your hiring practices. After all, the people in your office are the foundation of your business. You can’t afford to be stuck in the past.

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Dr. Reza Sanjar is a cofounder of Cloud Dentistry LLC, and co-owner of Dental Art in Katy, Texas. His years of experience as a dentist and dental practice owner give him unique insights that inform the practices of Cloud Dentistry. A graduate of Boston University and Washington University in St. Louis, Dr. Sanjar has been practicing dentistry since 2009. He knows the industry well and is pleased to bring the benefits of Cloud Dentistry to other dental practices and dental professionals.