Cross Train Your Team To Manage Around The Challenges of Absenteeism
In a well-known quote, William Cowper once said, ‘variety is the spice of life, that gives it all its flavor,’ a common saying that applies to all aspects of life, both personal and professional. Yet, if we think about it, in a dental practice, most of our staff are hired to perform a specific set of tasks every day, within a specified framework or process, within, by and large, the same daily eight-hour schedule. We have designed the workplace for horizontal specialization, believing that those who do the same tasks day in and day out become experts at them and can execute more efficiently than someone who has to cover all tasks in a much more vertically structured organization. Such thinking went way back to Henry Ford in 1908, the pioneer of modern manufacturing, churning his black Model T Fords off the production line.
A successful practice needs well-trained experts in their traditional, assigned roles.
At your practice, your front desk staff should spend most of the day greeting patients and following up on re-care and pending treatment, making sure patients keep their appointments and keep coming back as quickly and often as possible. Your insurance coordinator should be focusing on verifying eligibility and claiming from insurance companies and following up with patients who have outstanding accounts, ensuring your practice has a healthy cash flow. These are all critical roles, which need to be learned and then executed effectively to make for a successful dental operation. We all know that patients with a positive and smooth experience are more inclined to keep their appointments and refer you to their friends and families.
But there are days when you need more than just experts.
Now where this organizational best practice can go awry is when one of your specialist team is absent. As the practice owner, you manage a team that, as well as their careers, are juggling responsibilities as parents, as spouses, and even caregivers for other family members, and of course, the occasional personal illness. Adding COVID-19, homeschooling, that’s a lot for your team to deal with that can, on some days, impact your practice. Due to these and other life circumstances, you have quite likely experienced days when one of your essential roles cannot be staffed due to absenteeism. The rest of your team will have managed as best they could, but stress and lack of cross-training made the day hectic and not as productive as you would have liked. Sound familiar?
Broaden your team’s expertise to manage around the most challenging times
Successful practices manage what we call “crisis situations” with patients’ negligible impact and ensure your operational needs are still met. This is where cross-training comes in. While a specialist in their role, each team member knows enough of other key practice positions to help with day-to-day needs when required. This will keep your practice running effectively and save you time and cost. If an absent role can operate at around 80% effectiveness with help from the rest of the team, your patients won’t notice the difference, but if you are only 30% effective, they will.
Cross-training is an inexpensive investment that can save the day, maintaining
The excellent news is cross-training is not difficult and does not need to be expensive. Of course, as a practice owner, you don’t want to send your team away for a day to learn skills they will occasionally need. That would be ironic, wouldn’t it? You solve for the challenges of absenteeism by creating more absenteeism! With eLearning, you can avoid that, with short courses that can be taken in the office, around their existing workload, or they can take from home; whenever suits them best!. Even better still, eLearning is usually only 30% of the cost of conventional in-person training. By doing this, you prepare your practice to manage around absenteeism with no noticeable decline in practice productivity, and your team will thank you for it. From their perspective, you have invested in them, letting them know they are important and valued. You have broadened their capabilities, adding some variety to their job – and we know ‘variety is the spice of life.’
Here are some great course suggestions to cross-train your team
You can check out our portfolio of online courses here, which cover some of the most useful cross-training skills.
- Front Desk Bundle
- Practice Management Bundle
- Or, you can have you staff accessing our complete library of courses at an affordable yearly fee. Contact us for more information