Strategies for Reducing Staff Turnover
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.
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