Solving the Mystery of Dental Team Turnover


A true story

We always talk about the tremendous turnover in our business and wonder why it is so challenging for us to maintain a talented dental team with significant tenure.  There are numerous reasons that contribute to the consistent change in personnel in our industry. Granted, there are some things that can’t be avoided but many things that can.  I hope over time to touch on each of them, but for now I’d like to share a true story that occurred just today.  There are many instances just like it that I have experienced over my career as a placement specialist and dental team development expert and I’m sure many of you have too.

A Business Office professional transferred with her family from a part of the country with a high cost of living. She presented with a stellar background and history and successfully worked in the same high end practice for 10 years.  There was no question that she came with some substantial experience although we ALL know that there is always a learning curve when moving from one practice to another, whether they are in the same state, same town, or same building. No two offices function and operate exactly the same; there are always new things to learn.

This particular candidate responded to my ad, knowing it was in the area she was relocating to with her family; and based on the comprehensive job description I offered, she felt as though she was a solid applicant for the position.  After going through the vetting process we agreed that in fact she could be perfect to fill the position.  Everything seemed to move along well until we came to the usual roadblock which is challenging for everyone—that of compensation.

The area she was moving from was quite a bit different from the new locale that she and her family were moving to. Keep in mind also that with the tenure she had accrued with her 10 year position back home, she also received nice increases along the way (and rightfully so).  The trouble is that she wanted to make a lateral move with no changes to her compensation whatsoever. No matter how we tried to explain the rationale, she insisted that she was determined to shift from one job to another without missing a beat or dropping her salary even one penny.  I conveyed my feelings to my doctor, and of course he agreed.  There was no effective way for him to bring her on based on the wage she was fixed on, which was a good $10.00 an hour higher than this particular market (I check and go over these details closely when I work with my clients across the country).

Well, according to what she told my client doctor, she landed a position in this very town and was offered “just what she asked for”.  Now from years of similar experiences, I can tell you how this story will likely end. The new employer may accept this arrangement for a few days, weeks, or maybe months  until it is either brought to his attention that he is compensating way beyond market, or he realizes his compensation is much more than it should be and the thought of paying out so much begins to disturb him.  Here are some of the things that begin to give him “buyer’s remorse”:

  • She should be a Superstar and prove herself immediately. Why must I wait for her to become totally proficient when I’m paying her so much? Why am I not seeing my numbers rise so that I can justify paying her so much?
  • The high dollars she commanded would mean she is the one who should carry extra weight. She should be the one to take on most of the responsibilities. After all, look at what I’m paying her!
  • Sometimes the price the employer is paying them gnaws at them to a point where they have trouble even encountering the employee under their roof. They can’t help but envision dollar signs every time she passes.

The final outcome with the employer is most often  “Sorry I can’t afford you any longer” or “Sorry, I don’t see that you are worth what I am paying you.”  The outcome is of course that they part ways.  The fallout from this can be:

  • Doctor and team are right back where they started, placing ads and interviewing once again.
  • The team member may have a blemish on what used to be a stellar resume (hence the turnover).
  • The team member just wasted days weeks or months learning the ropes only to find out they are on the market again.
  • The team members will often say “I knew it was too good to be true, but I was hoping………”.

This is one example as to why we have turnover in our business and once again I strongly believe that employers really need to change the way they hire and help everyone to eliminate some of the unnecessary hires as well as dismissals in our industry.

Now here is one disclaimer:  In some very few isolated cases the dentist hangs on long enough to realize their return of investment.  They are also employers who support the new hire with extra coaching and training to integrate them rapidly, as well as to allow them to understand the responsibilities and prove themselves rapidly. The problem is that paying out a large salary will often result in “I’m not investing another dime here. She is being paid so well I expect her to handle everything without any additional layout of funds for me.”  Hence, the lack of salary increase over a long period will naturally de-motivate the employee.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s