It takes time and effort to motivate your dental team, but it's worth it in the long-run!

Motivating your dental team

June 12, 2018
It takes a bit of time and effort to motivate dental team members, but it will be very worth when it comes to their happiness and production.

It’s not uncommon in dentistry for team members and practitioners to experience burnout. The day-after-day repetitive activities can impact morale, especially when there are tight time restrictions and goals to meet. Fortunately, it’s possible to lead a motivated and energetic team, but it doesn’t happen accidentally or overnight. Motivating your team requires precise actions and goals that involve everyone in the practice.

Here are some important tips to keep in mind when it comes to motivating your dental office team and creating a more positive work environment for everyone, even your patients!

Set goals

An ideal incentive is something that involves a realistic, measurable goal that can be achieved in a set time frame. Be specific. Maybe it’s something such as doing an add-on whitening tray impression to five recall appointments per week, or having 90% of patients schedule their next appointment before they check out.

Offer incentives

Now that you have goals, create incentives to reward your team when they meet the goals. Make it worthwhile; after all, your team will want to know what’s in it for them before they go out of their way to meet new business milestones. An incentive can be anything from a cash bonus or a paid lunch for the entire staff, to gift cards to restaurants and nail salons. It’s up to you, but it needs to be something that people will want to actually work toward. Money motivates, but it’s only a temporary solution.

Provide them with the right tools

Are your assistants constantly struggling with a touchy x-ray processing machine, or are your hygienists wrestling with a leaky cavitron and worn out scalers? Instead of asking them to work with what they have, give them what they need to work with. Not only will this make it easier for everyone to do their jobs and run on time, they’ll be happier while they’re at it. Even the most content team members will become discouraged when they have to deal with outdated equipment day after day.

Watch your work hours

Many dental offices get into the bad habit of people working through lunch, coming in early, or staying late. It’s OK to work late now and then, such as for an emergency, but this should not be a regular practice. If you’re not on time, you’re wearing down your team’s nerves and patience. It may be time to conduct a few time studies to make sure you’ve set realistic expectations for everyone. Make adjustments to the schedule as necessary.

Check in with each team member on a regular basis

Don’t save your one-on-one conversations for the annual job reviews. Make it a point to talk to your team members at least once a month. It doesn’t have to be long; a five-minute chat may be all it takes. Find out what’s going well for people and what’s bothering them. Unless you know what’s going on in the background, you won’t be able to help fix the counter-motivators that are working against you.

Train together

Professional development and continuing education courses are a great time to encourage and motivate the team. But to do this and keep new changes going, you need everyone to train together. Sure, you may have team members who are required to have a certain number of courses to keep their licenses current while others do not, but having everyone on the same page is key when it comes to evolving as a practice. When team members receive the same information and are provided similar resources within the same time frame, it’s a prime opportunity for office managers and dentists to jump start the team’s morale.

Recognition and recreation

Take some time to enjoy each other’s company outside of the office. Maybe close a half day per month for a team building day where everyone goes out for lunch and bowling, for a trip to the spa, or for an annual dinner and award ceremony. Reward team members for improvements they’ve made, and even consider giving out funny awards such as best hair or cleanest shoes for a great way to lighten the mood. Some professionals suggest that spending time as a team can have a significant impact on the motivation and productivity of team members.

Finally, remember to stay positive and keep an open mind. Being able to learn, adapt, and motivate is a two-way street that requires effort on everyone’s part. As a leader in the practice, you’re responsible for setting the tone for the rest of the office.

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Heather Colicchio is the founder and president of the American Association of Dental Office Management (AADOM). Heather leveraged her background in business management and her skills in professional networking to drive the success of AADOM. It’s now the largest professional association for dental business teams in the country, with 3,500+ members, and hosts the country’s largest dental office management conference.