Extended wait times, a lack of customer support, abbreviated service hours and even business closures have become part of what is optimistically referred to as this decade’s “new normal.” The COVID-19 pandemic brought to light labor shortages in the United States that were already lurking in the shadows. A combination of declining numbers of working-age adults and a decades-long lull in wage growth existed even before the American workforce began dealing with pandemic-related employee absences and essential-worker fatigue.
Dental practices have been just as susceptible to staffing shortages as other businesses, if not more so. In a November 2021 poll from the ADA Health Policy Institute, results showed nine out of 10 hiring dentists believe it has been “extremely” or “very” challenging to recruit dental hygienists and dental assistants in the past year. Other results from the poll indicated that staffing shortages are the most common limiting factor for practices that want to see more patients.
CDA Practice Support can help dentists navigate what has become a complex and competitive hiring market. Dedicated Practice Support analysts continue to draw on their expertise to workable solutions dentists can use to solve — and prevent — staffing issues. If hiring and retaining qualified employees has been an issue for your practice, tap into the collective advice of the Practice Support team as you recruit, hire and retain desirable candidates.
When you needed an assistant yesterday, it can be difficult to think about anything beyond the job description you’re posting. But in a competitive hiring market, it’s imperative that you consider what will make the job you are posting stand out from the others job seekers are scrolling past — and not just those in the dental profession. One phenomenon of the current job market is that many employees are leveraging their skills to find jobs in other industries, particularly if those sectors offer better wages, benefits or schedules.
Before adding your help-wanted notice to the dozens of others out there, ask yourself, “Why would a candidate want to work for me?” If your answer relies on wages and benefits, make sure what you have to offer sets you apart from other practices in your area. If you really want to step up your hiring game, consider offering additional perks of employment that make your practice the one good candidates seek out.
Fornelli does offer a word of caution to practice owners regarding competitive competition, explaining, “This does not suggest you offer a wage that is beyond your profit margin.” She suggests setting a budget for staff compensation and ensuring that staff overhead costs remain below your collections margin.
Ashley Reich, CDA’s senior learning and development specialist, adds, “A differentiator for some dental practices is offering to pay licensing fees and costs for C.E. courses for their dental assistants and hygienists. These are pretty nominal expenses but are added value in retaining staff. “
In the bird world, male peafowl are masters of recruitment. Their showy tail feathers make an eye-catching display designed to attract many potential mates. When it comes to finding, attracting and retaining employees to fill open positions in your practice, you should recruit like a peacock to draw a wide range of possible candidates to your practice. “You want to expand the talent pool of viable candidates as much as possible by utilizing different sources,” explains CDA Practice Support Analyst Michelle Coker, PHR, PHRca. “Recruiting is not about hiring the first person you have interviewed for the position.”
While you may already have a go-to website for posting job openings, Practice Support analysts point out that one hiring tactic is not enough these days. They encourage practice owners to expand their talent pool by broadening their efforts to advertise for candidates.
“It gets you right in front of all the prospective employees and builds valuable relationships with the staff at the school,” Nelson explains. “Don’t be the dentist calling to ask the school if they have someone for you. Be the dentist that fosters the relationships with schools, so they want to send you their best students. Or better yet, build those relationships with the students directly so they all want to come work for you.”
Another place to connect with potential employees is the CDA Career Center, which offers practice owners and job seekers an easy way to connect through job alerts, customized profiles, a resume bank and much more. When it’s appropriate to do so, Practice Support analysts also suggest asking your patients if they know anyone who would be a good fit for your hiring needs.
CDA has been working to address the shortage of dental assistance through the Smile Crew CA program. Created to provide interested individuals the opportunity to learn more about a career in dental assisting, Smile Crew CA also lets participants submit their information for interest in a training program. Since its launch, CDA has piloted four Smile Crew CA training bootcamps in the Bay Area and San Diego with additional locations planned.
As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Employee turnover is costly, it affects the overall performance of your practice, and in the current job market it’s becoming increasingly difficult to attract and hire experienced candidates. Not all turnover is harmful ― a new employee may be more skilled or productive than their predecessor, but frequent staff changes can have a negative effect on your practice.
For this reason, employee retention is a good barometer for measuring the overall well-being of your practice as a business. If you find yourself seeking new employees with increasing regularity, it’s time to step back and evaluate what may be enticing them away from your practice. CDA Practice Support analysts can offer an unbiased perspective on your business practices and provide guidance to help address any issues that may be affecting employee satisfaction.
Along with the competitive wages, benefits and employment perks, good practice management is essential to retaining employees
The challenges of finding and hiring qualified candidates may be ongoing but are not insurmountable. By offering competitive wages and benefits, utilizing a variety of recruiting tactics and making retention a priority, you can position your practice as one that will draw a large pool of qualified candidates.
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