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Improve staff retention with thoughtful gestures of appreciation

February 23, 2022 3353

As the competition for talent escalates, the need for practice owners to show that they value their current employees has become more important than ever.

There’s been a lot of chatter ― if not shouts ― about staffing shortages. While it may seem intuitive to assume that hiring new employees is harder than retaining the ones you already have, 63% of small business owners report that employee retention is the greater struggle.

As the competition for talent escalates, the need for practice owners to show that they value their current employees has become more important than ever. In a 2021 study by Achievers Workforce Institute, the top two reasons employees gave for staying in their current role were work-life balance (23%) and recognition (21%).

To boost employee retention rates, ensure the office is a place where people enjoy spending their workday and feel their efforts are noticed and appreciated.

Investing time and money into regularly acknowledging your employees’ good work pays off in dividends. One recent report on employee recognition found that 92% of workers are more likely to repeat a specific action after being recognized for it, and that business productivity increases by 31% when employees are happy. Other benefits of a satisfied office team include improved patient care, reduced absenteeism and reduced workplace stress.

Ready to draw new employees to you with positivity and reap the benefits of a workplace that retains satisfied employees? Here are six ideas for offering meaningful recognition in the workplace.

Be specific

When recognizing an employee, help the employee tie the accolade to a specific behavior. Explaining why you’re recognizing the employee is important to ensuring that their positive behavior continues. Saying a casual “Thanks for all you do” is kind. Stating that an employee’s care for a particularly anxious patient was helpful is not only kind, but it also demonstrates that you noticed the employee’s efforts.

Be timely

Praise that arrives days or months after the fact isn’t nearly as impactful as recognition that is offered promptly. In fact, it may have the opposite effect from what you intend — many employees view belated thanks or praise as inauthentic. Put formal recognition systems in place so that you (and other employees) can call out good efforts right away. This could be as simple as an office achievement board, an office-wide email or handwritten thank you notes.

Offer one-on-one time

Research shows that most employees don’t feel they get enough one-on-one attention form their managers and leaders. Make sure that these interactions with your staff aren’t taking place only when you have corrective feedback. It’s equally important to make time for praise and recognition in a solo setting, too.

Encourage peer-to-peer recognition

While employees value the recognition of their leaders, receiving praise from their peers is also an important factor in creating a supportive workspace. Consider implementing a system so that employees can nominate one another for special recognition on a regular basis or are involved in providing positive feedback for annual reviews.

Variety is key

In his book “The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace,” Paul White notes, “Every person is unique in the way that they feel love or express love in personal relationships, but it’s the same in how they feel appreciated and valued in work relationships.” Engage in a variety of methods to offer gratitude and praise beyond verbal affirmations. These might include acts of service (paying for lunch or sponsoring an office party), giving gifts (gift cards or performance bonuses), providing quality time (one-on-one interactions) and appropriate physical touch (high-fives, fist bumps, or even a thumbs-up when practicing social distancing).

Make appreciation an event

Along with offering specific individual praise and recognition, set aside time to acknowledge the efforts of the office team as a group. Andrew Challenger, vice president of Challenger, Gray and Christmas Inc., notes that office parties are beneficial to improving office morale, especially in light of additional challenges due to the ongoing pandemic. “Many [employees] may be experiencing survivor syndrome or are dealing with other energy- and morale-sapping issues at home. It is imperative that companies look for ways to celebrate their employees,” said Challenger.

The Dentists Insurance Company advises practice owners to take a few cautionary measures when planning office parties or gifts of appreciation. Observe labor laws by adhering to applicable overtime rules and rest periods. If held after hours and attendance is mandatory, overtime rules apply. Promote a safe environment for celebration by holding the party during the workday and not serving alcohol. When giving gifts, avoid any perceptions of favoritism by keeping gifts appropriate in nature and consistent in value.

In the coming weeks, several important holidays for dental office staff should be highlighted on your calendar as opportunities to go out of your way to show appreciation.

  • Dental Assistant Appreciation Week (March 6–12)
  • National Dentist Day (March 6)
  • Dental Hygienist Appreciation Week (April 3–9)
  • Administrative Assistant Day (April 27)

If the hiring crises of today’s economy has you scrambling to improve recruitment strategies and evaluate employee compensation packages, don’t lose sight of the best resource you have to deal with a staff shortage: your current employees. Make certain that they feel like valuable members of your team by offering your thanks and recognition regularly.