While helping dental businesses to thrive and grow over the past decade, I’ve found that there’s one challenge that plagues nearly all of my clients—staff turnover. Below are some actions you can take to recruit and retain top talent.
First, let’s look at the typical staffing scenario in a dental practice. The front office staff person gives two weeks’ notice. The practice scrambles to hire a new person. The applicant pool is limited, so they just go ahead and hire someone quickly. The new person—who often has limited education, skills and experience—starts work about two weeks after the previous staff person has left. But the existing staff are snowed under with work and don’t have much time to spend training the new person. So, her interactions with patients are far less than ideal and she’s muddling through scheduling, billing and insurance tasks. Sound familiar?
Up your recruiting game
If you’re like most dental practices, you can’t afford to pay high wages to your administrative staff. So, you may be thinking that you’ll just have to settle for sub-par staff. However, you can take steps that help you attract the best possible candidates.
Spend time on the job description and job ad. Update your job descriptions regularly to make sure they’re accurate. (This is also helpful in the event of any HR legal situations.) Remember that prospective candidates are evaluating you also. Make sure your job advertisement not only conveys what you need, but also includes information that attracts candidates, such as “warm, caring, positive work environment” and/or perks.
You also need to make sure your job ad is the right length and clearly written, with formatting that makes it easy to read.
Offer perks. Can you offer discounts on selected dental procedures? Do you provide training opportunities? Can you offer a slight pay increase after one year of excellent performance? Be sure to list any of these perks in the job ad.
On-board new staff effectively
When new employees are just thrown in at the deep end with little guidance, they typically feel stressed and unsuccessful. As a starting point, make sure that your employee handbook is current and useful. This can save you and your practice manager a lot of time and increase the new employee’s confidence. If you equip new staff with the skills they need to do their job and provide some coaching, they’re much more likely to stay.
Create a positive, healthy organizational culture
Nothing pushes employees out the door faster than a toxic work environment with poor management. Signs of an unhealthy work culture are a lot of gossip and back-biting, anxious, unsmiling employees, and high levels of mistrust. Here are some ways you can cultivate a more positive work environment.
Provide training for your practice manager. A little bit of management training can make a huge difference in the effectiveness of a supervisor.
Hold team meetings. Team meetings can provide a great opportunity to establish communication channels with team members. Most people like to feel like they’re a valued part of a team, and are eager to contribute. Use meetings as a way to keep employees in the loop and engage them in what’s happening in the organization.
Communicate regularly with employees. You and/or your practice manager need to take the time to talk to your staff and show them that you care about them as people. Make sure that you’re approachable, and that you regularly acknowledge good work. Recognition is a powerful motivator.
Learn how to deal with and resolve conflicts. A certain amount of disagreement and conflict is unavoidable in any group of humans. However, if they’re handled correctly, they don’t have to result in deep rifts or ongoing tension. Training in conflict management can be surprisingly helpful.
Intervene with employees who are big gossipers. A little bit of gossip is part of human nature. But a lot of gossip can be very demoralizing and create a poisonous, dysfunctional atmosphere filled with mistrust. Let employees know that it won’t be tolerated.
Provide opportunities for staff to learn and grow
According to the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), research has shown definitively that providing development opportunities for employees reduces staff turnover. This is especially true for your best employees, who want to feel like they’re progressing in some way. Giving staff access to training also helps to increase their motivation and level of engagement, as well as loyalty. All of these in turn make employees want to stay with you.
If you’d like to explore some of our courses related to these topics, please visit:
For Practice Managers:Read More
Are you and your dental clinic staff thoroughly steeped in HIPAA compliance? If so, that’s terrific. You can rest easy knowing you’re not at risk for HIPAA violations—the fines for which can be frighteningly high.
If you’re unsure whether you’re totally on top of HIPAA compliance, see if you can answer the following questions correctly. Your success, or lack of success, will be a good barometer of how conversant you are with HIPAA regulations.
|Answer This Questions To Test Your HIPAA Knowledge||TRUE||FALSE|
|1||It’s okay to put paper patient records in the recycle bin if they’re more than seven years old.|
|2||If you download some patient records on a USB drive so that you have home access, and it’s stolen, you’re not liable for any HIPAA breaches because you couldn’t anticipate a theft.|
|3||Your employees should only view patient records that they need to see to do their jobs. Looking at patient records with no “need-to-know” basis is a HIPAA violation.|
|4||It’s okay to freely share health information with parents of any patients under the age of 21|
|5||It’s okay to freely share health information with the daughter of an elderly person who is no longer capable of independent living if the daughter can prove that she is the executor of the parent’s will/estate.|
|6||Your clinic is required to have one person in charge of HIPAA compliance|
|7||All staff in a covered entity must receive HIPAA training.|
See how you did on our quiz
- This is not true. You should never recycle patient records, no matter how old they are.
- Sorry to say, you are still liable for any breaches that occur. So, think twice before storing dental patient information on a device that lacks password authorization.
- This is true. Viewing or sharing patient health information that is not needed to perform one’s job is a HIPAA violation.
- False. You need to obtain patient consent from any patients 18 years and older before sharing any health information. Even if the parents are footing the bill!
- False. The child of an elderly person can access health information only if they have power of attorney and/or medical power of attorney.
- True. Each covered entity organization must appoint one individual to manage HIPAA compliance.
- True. If you have dental clinic staff members that have not received HIPAA training, then you’re out of compliance.
Train and test your staff
Provide access to online training for new staff members. An easy way to ensure that all new dental office staff members receive HIPAA training is to give them access to online training materials that are available 24/7.
Include key provisions of HIPAA regulations in your employee handbook. Include a bulleted list of the HIPAA regulations you see as most relevant to your staff.
Include occasional pop quizzes during your regular team meetings. Using mini-scenarios such as those in this article, quiz your staff. If they do poorly on the quiz, ensure that they have some remedial training.
If you’re interested in online training for your staff, check out our short, practical, interactive HIPAA course, designed specifically for dental offices.Read More
If you’re a dental practice owner, the following real-world headlines might give you some heartburn.
- U.S. Department of Labor investigation results in Tennessee dental practice paying $50,000 in back wages and liquidated damages (US Department of Labor)
- Company to pay $584,000 for firing employees who demanded overtime (Washington Post)
- Court orders dentist to pay $85K to employee fired for safety complaint (OSHA)
- OSHA investigation finds two dental locations failed to protect employees from risks of blood-borne pathogens (OSHA)
- In 2015, the first dentist was fined for a HIPAA violation. The fine of $12,000 was for the alleged mishandling of the protected health information of 5,600 patients. (HIPAA Journal)
Do you or your practice manager have a solid grasp on areas typically handled by HR professionals? If not, you could be putting your organization at significant risk. Does your dental clinic have documented policies and procedures and an employee handbook? If not, this should be a top priority. Someone in your clinic also needs to know how to ensure employees are actually following established policies and procedures. How about regulations governing overtime and employee classification? Are you or your practice manager up to speed on those? Take our quick, 3-question quiz and see how you do– https://members.dentalofficecourses.com/quizzes/hr-skills-regulations-governing-exempt-employee-status/
So, here are the facts. Salaried employees are only exempt from overtime if they meet the federal requirements for classification as an exempt employee. They have to earn at least $913/week and “the employee’s primary duty must be…work directly related to the management or general business operations and… include the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance.” (U.S. Dept of Labor) And don’t get too comfortable after you have this information under your belt. These Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) rules are scheduled to be updated every 3 years. The next update will be in 2020.
A small investment in staff training can save you money in the long run by ensuring that your clinic is in compliance with regulations, protected from fines and prosecution. Having a practice manager with HR training is an asset not just in promoting compliance. Equipped with the right skills, she can also elevate the performance of your dental employees, starting with attracting top talent in the hiring process. Then, to retain your best employees, she can work to cultivate a positive organizational culture―another valuable HR skill. She can also implement training programs and an employee evaluation process, based on best practices, to bring out the best in your staff and build their skills.
Our HR Skills for Practice Managers series consists of an introduction followed by eight micro-courses on the most critical HR skills for dental practice managers.Read More