Consider the Golden Rule
Consider the Golden Rule
Ah, the cell phone!
How did we ever manage without it?
Well, we did for hundreds of years and many lived to talk about it.
One of the many frustrations that I hear from clients is the “relationship” their team members have to their phones. My clients share: “They need them by their side all day long” or “The employees with children are always insisting that it is imperative for them to have access to their phones in the event of an emergency” or “I only use my phone during breaks and during lunch” is the promise of many.
But how many team members are truly disciplined enough to restrict their phone usage when there are no firm cell usage practice rules?
How did we ever exist without cell phones back in the 60’s or 70’s? How did we care for our families, check in with our spouses, learn that our mother needed an emergency appendectomy?
They called the office and asked to be connected to you either immediately or if it wasn’t necessarily a critical situation, then as soon as you, the employee, had an opportunity to call them back. This is how it was accomplished during the pre-cell phone era.
While some employers have successfully managed to develop these office protocols, there are still many that have lost control and subsequently the ability to restrict cell phone usage. The Morning Huddle Phone Protocol is one that I endorse and is observed in many practices. This requires relinquishing all cell phones into one common location, away from the business of the day including all patient interaction. And would you believe that the teams that follow these
guidelines manage very well. No children are neglected, no parents or husbands stress due to not being able to get a message to you at work, and yet no emergency calls go unanswered.
This is managed very simply. All it takes is a phone call to the office with the caller either leaving a detailed message for the recipient of the call, or perhaps the timing is such that the person who is meant to receive the call happens to answer it as it comes in. Nonetheless, this is a much more efficient way to manage calls as well as assuring that many more messages get to the right person immediately. After all it’s highly unlikely that one can carry a phone around in their pocket and continue to be an effective employee.
Let’s face it, even on vibrate the timing to take the call must be perfect. It’s difficult to answer a cell phone during a procedure, while checking out patients, answering the business line or simply when trying to stay on schedule.
I know we have all been on fast-track since technology has played a big role in our lives, but I do believe that there are some situations where we need to allow technology to take a back seat and instill old values and go back to simpler times.
A business practice that seems to be disappearing
“Transparency” is a word we are hearing more and more today, whether it be related to politics, everyday life or in business. Along with transparency, I like to include good old-fashioned healthy communication and valuable exchange of ideas. Technology has enabled us to communicate in several additional formats that were not available to us as recently as 20 years ago. Emails and texts are a lot more convenient and quicker than face-to-face communication and even voice-to-voice interaction is becoming an archaic form of interaction. I feel this has added an additional layer of stress to the current climate of dental team development/maintenance.
From my vantage point I have observed a considerable amount of non-transparency and in some cases, avoidance of sharing and addressing issues that were once approached via reasonable and considerate personal interaction. There appears to be some avoidance of sharing information to eliminate any form of possible confrontation. Texting a message from an employee to an employer that they will not be in today. Really? Or even worse, texting a message to an employer that they will not be back to work–ever! The convenience of non-confrontational interaction appears to be more and more widespread and this includes employers as well. Although I have never been comfortable supporting the dismissal of an employee in a very clandestine manner, I used to feel that in many cases there were no choices but to handle things on the QT. I’ll be totally transparent to admit that in the past I felt that in some instances there were not many options to manage the replacement of an employee unless it was handled secretly. Today I have come to realize that this difficult business decision can be approached differently.
There is nothing more stressful to an employee to learn that their employer is secretly looking to replace them. The release of this information can show up in numerous ways as many of us have been on either side of the process.
Quite frankly, over the years I’ve had a change of heart and no longer support nor understand why it must be done in this fashion. Before the proverbial rug is pulled out from under someone, initially I have always encouraged the need to share the performance concerns with the employee, along with giving them the tools and the opportunity to correct their shortcomings. If the necessity for dismissal stems from disciplinary reasons that although once addressed are not resolved, then this would be due cause to sever the business relationship as well. Nonetheless, secretive measures are almost never the way to go and I now feel strongly that there are better ways to address this.
My proposal is to apply some transparency, open healthy communication, and an approach of “honesty first” prior to cautiously getting the word out that you are seeking a replacement for a current employee. If the attempts of cross-correction doesn’t appear to resolve the issue at hand, then a one-on-one conversation regarding the need for both parties to move on in a healthy, respectful manner might be in order.
I will often hear a client voicing their concerns about sabotaging the practice, abusing other team members, or just downright leaving the practice. Truthfully, I have found that transparency and honesty does make a tremendous difference. There is suddenly a level of respect that flows from the employee in question, an appreciation for the openness and the fact that they were shown respect for an uncomfortable situation.
That’s not to say that they still might leave based on being disappointed or hurt, but the employer can’t ever feel as though they didn’t try their best to make a difficult situation as comfortable as possible. As
for the existing employees, it sends a message of “our employer tried his/her best and handled things as fairly as possible”.
We tend to forget the effect that this all has on the valuable employees that are excellent performers but that could possibly fear for their jobs.
Passing on the right employee for the wrong reasons
So here is the scenario:
I get a call from a dentist requesting my guidance and the conversation goes something like this:
“Deb, I interviewed an amazing clinical assistant whose talent and attitude just knocked my socks off, yet I just can’t bring myself to hire her.”
“What is the reason?” I ask.
“Well, she shared with me that she plans on applying to dental school within the next 3 years and I can’t justify hiring someone (though so well qualified) if I have to say goodbye to them in a couple of years.”
“Let me understand. So you were both aligned with the salary offering, hours, days of the week, job description, etc., and you are passing on offering the position since she can only give you 3 years?”
“That about sums it up”, said my client.
Here was my response:
First off, she was forthright enough to share this information with you as many would not. This speaks highly of her character.
The fact that she could only assure you of 3 years of employment (even if it were less) is not a viable reason to not consider her for hire, and these are a few reasons why.
* The response I make quite often is, “I’d rather my clients have 3 years with a valuable, talented and reliable employee than 13 years with a less than adequate one”.
* Training a well-rounded employee, one that is passionate and enthusiastic, is usually a smooth and easy process.
* Having someone like this on your team will help to maintain a strong practice and team, along with serving as an excellent example for the group.
* Infusing your team with this level of employee can enhance the value of your practice and the care your patients receive, as well as potentially garnering positive internet reviews from your current patients.
* Because you both have been open and honest with each other, sharing transparencies and open communication will mean that when the time comes for her to move on, you will find no one will be more helpful or knowledgeable when it comes to filling their position than this employee.
* Their position within your practice will set standards and protocols that can then be replicated, transferred and passed on to her successor. Chances are she will help in locating and evaluating her replacement–I see this all the time.
* Her contributions and demeanor will very possibly add to the positive work environment for the rest of your team.
* Employees that are interested in “bettering” themselves should be supported and commended and quite frankly, celebrated!
In times like this, when there are not enough employees to go around, please don’t miss out on what could be the best hiring decision you’ve ever made!
Preparing for appropriate compensation
One of the topics that I see recurring on a regular basis in many social media forums is that of dental team compensation. It’s a subject that seems to show up more often than any other.
Questions such as “what do you pay your dental assistant?” to “when do you give increases?” While these inquiries are important, I find that the one major addition to the hiring process is simply going back to an area that should be obvious–yet so many simply skip it. Few prepare for this, the most important facet of the hiring process.
How many are aware of their market?
The range of salaries for the various positions?
How many have even an idea as to how much the position they are wanting to fill is worth?
I have some concrete protocols in place for my clients, but before we can even move forward with the process, I ask that they not only check their budget, but also conduct some due diligence related to their specific market. I’m not sure how we all drifted off from these very basic standard guidelines, but somehow we often count on the job candidate to set the standards.
Compensation based on what the job candidate made in their past position, what they “want” to make or what they “need” to make is not only a completely illogical approach, but one that will typically result in major problems down the road.
In preparation for hire, consider some valuable diligence so that YOU set the stage.
What’s your budget?
What does the job entail?
Are they the only business office employee, clinical assistant or hygienist in the practice? Working alone can require more responsibilities and could affect salary.
Are there specific certifications required?
Are you asking this employee to participate out of the traditional 8-5 4 day/week schedule? Yes, this can warrant additional compensation in some cases.
I work with my clients on touching many points prior to making the final hire, but if you consider applying one of the above parameters, I can assure you that you will be ahead of the curve. Heck, you may even find that you are much more successful onboarding new employees and experience a lot less costly turnover.
Losing several team members in a short amount of time is probably NOT a coincidence
Losing employees is a part of doing business, but receiving resignation notices from several team members a few weeks apart is a “sign”.
Granted, things happen. Spouses/significant others are transferred, employees retire, team members want to work closer to home, and yes, there are those that know they are just not a fit or are simply not happy. But when 2 or 3 employees give their notice over the course of a few weeks or a month you need to know this is not coincidental and is something to look at and explore.
There is a catalyst that is causing this “chain” of events, and though it may be difficult to look at and uncover the reason this is happening, it’s important that the employer closely review why they appear to be dropping like flies. If this syndrome is not addressed I must sadly tell you that it will happen again.
There are several areas to investigate and some deep introspective thoughts that must occur in order to stop the bleeding. This is not an easy thing to do, but without properly addressing the problem and identifying the catalyst, it will unfortunately be but a matter of time before it happens again.
How are your leadership skills? How are your communication skills? Do you support an “open door” policy with your team members when it comes to voicing their opinions and concerns? Do you recognize their contributions to the practice (as well as watch for those that tend to take advantage and lean on others whenever they can)? Is the practice environment one that is democratic with mutual respect all around?
And what about your team? Do you feel that they work well and in harmony with each another or do you see where one team member is bullying the others even if it appears to be minimal from your vantage point? When you look at your team objectively can you see where one team member is more assertive than the rest? And let’s be totally honest and up-front—are YOU afraid of this person to some degree, thus letting a lot of the negative behavior slide?
There have been many times when I can see this occurring within a practice and the client/dentist–although very much aware of this–excuses poor behavior just so that they don’t have to replace this person and go through the hassle, or they fear that they will sabotage the business if they are dismissed so they simply turn the other cheek rather than to address the issue.
So, if you have ever experienced a mutiny in your practice, please don’t look at this as a minor problem and simply replace those that have chosen to walk and not look back. You might say, “I just located all the wrong people” and in some cases one or two bad apples can slip in, particularly if you are not managing the team properly.
However, the odds of multiple poor hires are very slim and cannot be attributed to poor interviewing protocols, although on the rare occasion it can happen. Check your practice climate, evaluate it honestly along with the culture you have created. Then self-examine your short-comings as you openly study your existing team members.
I’m a very positive thinker and tend to look at the bright side. Nonetheless, if you can relate to this scenario you need to be realistic and course correct accordingly.
Change for changing times
Have you noticed the gradual change that is occurring within the culture and the “flavor” of dental practices today?
For years a list of the basic duties for each of the major dental positions has always been more than adequate, and the basic skill sets were enough to get the job done. Today, with the influx of new technology and new clinical discoveries we are becoming more and more aware of the need to not only attract higher talent from our hiring pools, but once they are hired, onboarding and team maintenance is starting to looking a lot different.
Finding strong candidates can be difficult, but as I always say, “They are there. You just need to understand how to attract and find them”. And when you do, it’s the integration, training and ongoing support that will complete the circle. You see, simply bringing them into the fold is far from finding that perfect hire. It doesn’t stop here.
We need to “up our game” so that we meet the changes that are occurring within the style of the practice.
I’m looking at this as “Designer Job Descriptions”. What I mean by this is what has worked in the past is not necessarily going to be effective within our current climate. Practices are starting to make major shifts in the way they operate today. Creativity when it comes to building a list of responsibilities has become an even more important segment of the hiring process. The need for out-of-the-box thinking is something employers should be seriously considering and evaluating today. The old stand-by job descriptions that worked in the past will probably not make it now.
Some of the interpersonal traits that became much of the driving force when it came to locating the best hires should probably be revisited. Of course, the basics never change—honesty, integrity, loyalty, professionalism, etc. It’s just that now we need to strongly consider those that are willing to shift gears, roll with the punches and not roll with their eyes.
They must be willing to listen and “try” to incorporate new systems and protocols as they find their way into the practice culture. The advancements we are seeing within the dental practice is in fast-track mode and every area of the practice is beginning to feel the affects. We should no longer expect that the basic bullet point list of job descriptions and responsibilities will continue to suffice in this new world of dentistry.
It’s time to assemble and then align a team that is coming from the same place as the trajectory of the practice.
With the surge of sleep medicine, state-of-the-art technology on both the business and clinical side of the practice (along with internal and external marketing strategies), it is necessary to build a team that can stay committed and educated with each and every new addition—flexibility at its best!!
Look for more posts on this subject…