STAFF – Hiring and Retention
Q: Our general practice has been trying to recruit business personnel for the past few months but have not been able to attract or retain the best candidates. In fact, we have hired and lost four reception team members in the past six months. I would appreciate any advice you may be able to offer about this issue.
Dale Tucci explains
A: The scenario you describe is unfortunately not uncommon and the impact on the patients, practice, team members and owner is stressful and unsettling. I wish I could offer one piece of advice that would help you resolve this practice management challenge but it simply is not that easy.
Place ads describing the primary duties, hours, benefits, compensation and training being offered. Clinical team members who wish to make a change to the business area will be more likely to reply if training is available. Of course networking, as well as posting ads online is necessary. Posting ads in the business and healthcare segments is suggested, especially if you are prepared to provide training to candidates who have the required personal and professional attributes for the position. Experience shows that with the right attitude and aptitude new hires can learn to be stellar dental business team members.
I can offer the following advice about the process; start with the end in mind. By that I mean resist the temptation of hiring to fill a void, instead slow the process down by examining the duties and responsibilities truly needed in the practice. In the short term and while understaffed the answer to hiring is too often focused on “replacement” of existing duties rather than taking a fresh look at the practice staffing needs. This is a wonderful time to assess the job descriptions for the business personnel and reorganize or redistribute duties. You can start by asking members of your business personnel to write a list of tasks they have insufficient time to manage effectively. For example, in a general practice you may have enough staff to file pre-determinations but lack dedicated staff time to follow-up on outstanding treatment plans. After a thorough evaluation of the business staff roles and responsibilities a detailed job description will be created to address the actual practice requirements.
One of the best tools to use when hiring a new team member is having a detailed job description with well-defined performance targets. The job description will provide a guideline for the interview portion of the recruiting process. For example, if one of the primary areas of responsibilities for the business person is scheduling then ensure you use specific questions, such as:
Record the responses to questions then ask how many people were accountable for each or all of the schedule.
Often the environment is a key factor in the new hire being content in the new office. Thus, the interview should include a discussion about the “ideal” dental environment such as: number of team members, patient volume daily, phone and email volume and hours. If the candidate states they are not willing to work two evenings per week but the job offer requires it, the interviewee may say, “I guess I could make those hours work.” This is not a resounding endorsement of the hours being offered so you might expect this person to ask for a change in hours or the candidate may accept the position and continue to look for another position.
A tip I can offer is to alter the people who interview. If your current approach is not resulting in good candidate selection then perhaps adapting the interview itself is prudent. Different people sitting in or helping to facilitate interviews will likely broaden the pool of candidates to offer an in-office observation prior to any job offer.
To help ensure the integration is aimed at retaining the employee and supporting the new hire through those first critical months develop training plans. At the very least a four week training plan should be developed for each position in the practice. These training plans would be reviewed on a weekly basis with the new hire to open communication about areas where the employee has acquired skills or needs further training.
The environment for the new hire should be examined if you have are experiencing new hires leaving shortly after agreeing to join the practice. To learn about the acceptance of a new team ask each person who is resigning for a confidential exit interview. In this interview ask the team member the following:
1. On a scale from 0 to 10 with 10 being the highest how welcome did you feel being a new team member?
2. Did you find the training plan a useful tool?
3. How could we improve the integration process for a new hire?
4. Were you able to get questions answered in a timely manner?
5. Did you find the weekly feedback beneficial? If not, please describe how this could be improved?
6. Would you refer a friend to work here?
7. Was the software training sufficient?
You may find by completing these exit interviews common problematic facets of the integration process. Since this feedback is valuable it falls to the employer and management personnel to use this information to improve the process.
I certainly could write pages and pages on this topic as it is a significant challenge depending upon where your practice is located. At the end of the day dentistry is a “people” focused industry and in the business area of the practice these team members are frequently the first line of communication with the public. A shortage of personnel in the business area is not good for the patients, practice, team members or the owner.
All efforts should be explored to improve recruiting which may include hiring a firm that specializes in this service. The cost of these services is truly a non-issue if the right person is hired.
Whether you continue the process you have in place now, adapt it or retain the services of a professional recruiting firm hiring the right people is not only important to yourself, your team and patients but to the bottom line.