Three things dentists should have for new employees

Setting expectations for employees at any business is important for overall operations. The same applies to a dental practice. Sometimes dentists have in mind what they would like out of their employees, but don't communicate it.

Confusion and frustration can arise when dentists don't provide an updated employee manual and proper job descriptions and establish a system for accountability.

"If a dentist is unhappy with an employee's performance but never sets the standard in terms of expectations, it becomes a difficult situation," said Shalena Desmond, TDSC manager, human resources advising.

Below are the three things dentists should make sure they present to every employee to avoid this situation.

Employee Manuals

An employee manual is one of the most important reference and communication tools between an employer and employees. It clearly describes expectations and office policies. Sound employment policies provide the principles by which dentists govern their employee relations in a fair and consistent manner. Having an employee manual helps employees be aware of what is expected and can prevent misunderstanding about employer policies. Written policies also help employers document compliance with employment laws and regulations.

Employee manuals should be easy to read, easy to locate, updated as needed and reviewed no less than once annually. New employees should be formally introduced to the employee handbook upon hire and existing employees should be required to sign an acknowledgement of receipt each time they are presented with a new version.

Desmond reminds dentists that they not only need to make sure they have an employee manual but that they are following it. 

"Follow the policies in the employee manual because by not following it the ways that the practice operates on its own becomes the policy," Desmond said. "It needs to be something you make a priority during the annual planning process, just like your budget."

Job Descriptions

Similar to employee handbooks and office manuals, job descriptions spell out the responsibilities of the role the employee is to fulfill. Job descriptions not only provide the employee the understanding they must have in order to be effective in their role, but they also become the basis by which the employee's performance will be evaluated.

Every current employee should have an updated, accurate job description for his or her duties in the practice so that if and when the time comes to replace that person, the job description can be targeted for a proper replacement. Develop a job description, which should describe the job, not the person, for every position that outlines the required qualifications and essential functions of the job. This will benefit both the employer and employee.

Without a job description, the requirements of a job can be ambiguous and open to debate by employer, employee, attorneys, doctors and government regulators. Just as a good description can be a dentist's best defense, a poor description can be a dentist's worst enemy. A well-written job description details the fundamental physical and mental requirements of a job, providing the necessary guidance to both the employer and employee on what is expected.


If dentists are not following their employee manual policies and providing accurate job descriptions as part of a review process for performance, then accountability lacks and they may have employees "going rogue," Desmond said.

"It's the idea that they work for you, so use them properly," Desmond said.
"Don't set expectations in your own mind and tell no one what those expectations are. If that is the case, you can't get upset when people don't follow the rules."

Having a policy in place and following it takes the dentist out of the "bad guy seat," Desmond said. Instead, when an employee isn't performing as well as they should, the focus can be about the policy and not about anything personal between the dentist and the employee.

Find related resources at cda.org/resources, including a Sample Employee Manual and Job Description: A Valuable Tool.

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