01/18/2017

Setting staff up for success in three steps


Skilled employees are an important component of a successful staff in every dental practice. Skilled employees lead to improved efficiency, which in turn results in more productive workdays for everyone — and better outcomes for patients. Still, most practice owners probably understand that success depends on more than the skills and abilities employees bring with them.

“For staff to succeed, they must know what is expected of them. Without expectations that are understood, there is no accountability. Without accountability, even getting average performance out of an employee is unlikely,” said CDA Practice Advisor Lee Bentz.
Setting staff up for success essentially requires following these three steps or practices:

  1. Effective hiring and onboarding
  2. Proper training and resources
  3. Ongoing, open communication

Conduct effective hiring and onboarding

Even before the hiring process begins, the practice owner should have a clear, documented vision in place. The vision statement — or “picture” of the practice in its future — will act as a compass for the practice, giving the dental team a clear understanding of the practice’s goals and leadership. The vision statement also provides employees with a sense of purpose within their individual roles — beyond their daily or weekly responsibilities. With purpose comes the movitivation to achieve stated goals. The staff, as a whole, unites around this shared sense of purpose.

In short, effective utilization of a vision statement can increase efficiency and production.

The vision statement will also assist practice owners and hiring staff in getting the right employees in the door at the right time. Vision statements can be incorporated into hiring interviews to gauge an employee’s fit. Will the candidate support the practice’s vision? Questions can be designed to determine if the candidate is growth-oriented, for example, and capable of rising to certain challenges to meet the practice’s long-term goals.

A clear objective should come with every job being hired for. If the practice owner and hiring staff don’t know what they want their employee(s) to do, the employees most likely won’t know, either. Plus, proper onboarding sets a path for easier communication when the employer seeks to either reward or reprimand an employee in the future.

Provide proper training and resources

A vision statement alone, or when combined with a skilled staff, does not guarantee success. Once staff is on board, they should be furnished with proper training and the necessary resources to perform their roles, achieve goals and understand the individual roles of the rest of the team.

A first resource toward that effort is the employee manual. Having an employee manual, with its established, reasonable employment policies, can make the difference between a practice that runs smoothly and one that invites and lets fester employee dissatisfaction. The manual provides clearly defined rules of employment for the employee, but also helps employers govern their employees in a fair and consistent manner. The employee manual should be provided to employees on day one and be a tool they can rely on. Therefore, the manual should be reviewed and updated regularly with changes efficiently communicated to employees.

Beyond the employee manual, employees should receive the right tools and training and have sufficient time to progress in their roles and accomplish their tasks. Not having the appropriate resources for the job can make employees feel frustrated and unappreciated.

Employers should be prepared for a new employee’s training with a tentative plan or, even better, a hard outline indicating what the employee is to accomplish and when. When possible, the most trusted employee should administer the training. If the new hire is soon able to duplicate the veteran employee’s success, this is an indicator of the training’s success.

Practice ongoing, open communication

Ongoing, open communication will help ensure a staff’s continued success — and satisfaction. Holding regular meetings at consistently scheduled times to provide staff with important practice updates will go a long way toward building and maintaining a cohesive team.

Practice owners may wish to schedule daily huddles to address general office concerns, dental trends, scheduling issues and daily goals with the full team, as well as monthly, quarterly and annual one-on-one meetings with employees to discuss performance. Employees should receive performance feedback in a consistent and timely manner, and should not be surprised by the results of an annual review. Relatedly, positive feedback should be given as earned and employees’ personal goals should be heard and acknowledged, with efforts made to help employees reach them. Employees will recognize when their employer is investing in them.  

“A member client once asked me, ‘Why don’t employees do what they’re supposed too?’ Well, sometimes they don’t know what that is,” Bentz said. “If you have clear communication and expectations from day one, all future interactions with your employees are simplified.”

For employment-related resources, visit cda.org/practicesupport.



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For practice owners, hiring competent, qualified and properly licensed staff is a key responsibility. Should it be discovered that an employee is practicing without a license, there are serious repercussions for both the unlicensed employee and the practice owner, for example. However, sometimes the requirements as an employer are murky, and tasks associated with hiring can get pushed to the back burner.

Let’s say a dentist needs to hire a new employee. The practice has already conducted an analysis of the position and created the job description, so what’s next? It is time to begin recruiting.

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