Transparency

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.

Don’t Say No to Excellence

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!

What Do You Want?

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.

Could it be Time to Redesign and Rebuild Job Descriptions?

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…

One Man’s Treasure

What might not be the best employee for one dentist, might be perfect for another

It’s time to seek a new employee. You go through the necessary “drill” to help you locate as many viable, appropriate candidates as you can. You narrow the field down to 3, the two then the one remaining that appears to be a good fit for your practice. You see a name on her resume that is very familiar to you, and upon further research you remember where you heard the name. He was a fellow dental school student and although you haven’t seen or spoken to him in years, you take the time to track him down.

Without first asking permission of the potential employee (which should never be done) you call to speak with him about the candidate you are considering. “Oh no”, says your old friend, “stay clear of her.” Wow, you think to yourself–this is a pretty strong statement. You’ve actually completed much of your hiring process and find this hard to believe.

Every instruction has been followed perfectly. She is well spoken and professional, had a long history in the two other practices where she worked during her career and was legitimately interested in working in your practice and oh—the team loved her! No doubt the once statement from the past contemporary caused you to stop dead in your tracks. You couldn’t help but wonder that maybe she isn’t all that you thought she was.

In light of the fact that you believed she could be the perfect employee for your practice and you were excited and prepared to continue the process, you still choose to move on and continue to interview others. Unfortunately, no one even came close to this particular candidate, and what was also quite interesting is that as she continued to interview, she too found that no practice or employer compared to this one.

With all the due diligence conducted successfully (the background check and drug testing came back clean as a whistle) the hiring dentist chose to pass on this person and continue to seek additional candidates. Days went by and then it became weeks. Neither one (the employer or the job candidate) were able to find another situation that felt quite as “right”. The frustration level was rising for both of them not being able to find a better option.

I am then approached by the employer/dentist who asked me for help and advice. My advice was this: there are so many reasons why one sees an employee as a great asset when someone else may not.

It could be as innocent as the employee being quiet by nature when the last employer preferred a gregarious and outgoing behavioral style.

What if another employee was threatened by the advanced skill sets of the employee in question?

Another common problem is the jealousy issue—not to generalize, but women can often be this way.

Nonetheless, are these reasons for you to move on? Whether they are or are not, I always advise my clients to continue to conduct “your” screening in “your” way and make a decision based on “your” specific situation. Take it slowly, hire gradually, make certain this candidate is a good fit for you in spite of what someone else is feeling more on a “personal level” than a “professional level”.

Granted, if the concerns have to do with performance or ethical issues, then there would be no reason to conduct additional due diligence. It’s these rare occasions that would be more legitimate cause to warrant some reservations on your part.

How Did Things Get This Bad?

A referee isn’t the answer

I jumped in on a conversation that was streaming on one of the dental social media sites on which I participate. From what I could gather after showing up a little late, the question posed to the group was one in which there was an on-going feud occurring in one of the members’ practices. It was between a “strong” personality hygienist and a “want-to-take-charge” Office Manager. The doctor expressed his interest in wanting to keep them both, but really didn’t know how to resolve this problem. Based on what the latest “riff” was about, it appeared to me to be clearly a power struggle between them.

The way I look at these challenges is that the catalyst (or what perpetuated the challenges between them) is not always critical information to have in order to resolve their differences. It’s more about why they had been arguing and not necessarily what they had been arguing about.

From the little I had to go by, I felt as though they were having a power struggle. Their ultimate goals were the same–getting the patients to stay committed to keeping their appointments. The openings that were occurring at the last minute made the pressure and the stress of the moment take its toll on both of them. I did observe things that could have helped them both to be more successful, but I wanted to stay in my area of expertise so I really didn’t go into too much detail as to how they might remedy the issue causing their conflicts.

My suggestion was to have them work out their differences on their own, given a time frame in which they either come together and make amends without any future repercussions. Or if they are unable to work things out–remember that everyone is replaceable.

I feel strongly that unless the two of them come together without anyone else facilitating their truce, they and the rest of the team will never learn or understand that, as adults, childhood behavior is not acceptable. Behaving poorly sends a terrible message to the other team members, as well as the patients and there is no reason why adults in a professional working relationship should not be able to work in harmony.

I was shocked when the doctor who posted this thread responded with, “Well, I can’t leave them alone to cuss and scream at each other. I need a facilitator or “mediator.” Coincidentally I happen to be trained in Mediation and Arbitration and so I know that the purpose of a mediator is not to solve the problems, but to

guide the subjects in conflict to come to a decision on how to settle their differences on their own.

And how did this problem reach such proportions? Cursing and screaming at each other? Truly? How could an employer let their differences escalate to such a level? What about the team members that DO get along? How do they turn their heads the other way when they have to witness some of this aberrant behavior? Then there are the patients, many of them have had to observe these encounters.

My question is: How long as an employer, should you allow employees to not get along? If they can’t mend their fences and resolve their differences, then it’s time to move on. You are running a business, doctor. Who has time for this type of behavior in a professional environment? Why is it that you have so much difficultly abruptly ending this drama before things get so out of hand that it may require a referee?

Deb Roberge has been coaching and writing about dental team development and related areas for the past 25 years. During her onsite visits to numerous periodontal practices, she quickly recognized the very specific challenges that were prevalent in this particular specialty. She felt it was important to step up and support not only these clinicians, but the team members that work alongside of them, as well as the referring generalists and their teams. OurPerioTeam cloud-based software was created with Deb’s input along with perio practices and teams across the country. OPT is changing the way both periodontists and their referring generalists interact, as well as how they measure their mutual successes.

THIS is What Raises are Made of!

No team member should have to ask for an increase when they have clearly earned it

I talk about the value of team members all the time. I can’t stress enough how important it is to be able to clearly identify the employees that pull their weight “and then some.” I’m referring to those employees that get as much or possibly more satisfaction than you do when they can see their efforts paying off.

I recently worked with my wonderful “work sister”, Cyndee Johnson of scaler2schedule fame, and assisted one of her clients with a couple of team dilemmas. In this case the client believed that one of his business office personnel was not managing her post very well and with that, he asked that we review the additional office employee whom he thought was having her own difficulties with insurance filing and billing. These happened to be her primary responsibilities.

Upon conducting our usual due diligence, it was quite easy to see that there were even bigger problems than anyone expected, but the proof was in the numbers, and with comprehensive research we uncovered a myriad of unsettling issues.

Pre-determinations were filed, approved and tucked away with no appointments scheduled and apparently no follow-up calls even made to those patients that had their paperwork submitted and returned. There were 9 pages of problematic insurance issues that were never addressed where many simply needed an additional x-ray or even a simple narrative. Some claims that were discovered dated back to 2015!

Then there were the statements that had not been generated for a couple of months. And did I mention the major ADA code discrepancies? These were bogus codes obviously fabricated by past employees that were used periodically and sat in the system for years. No one seemed to know the origin of this.

Once we delivered our findings to the doctor (and administered his CPR), I knew it was time for us to now take charge and get his practice back on its feet again. Unfortunately, we had to dismiss the 2 team members, but we had clear documentation that they couldn’t defend, and apologized for not asking for help. They left the practice with the understanding that it was time.

To support the doctor, he like so many others in my experience hired quickly without properly checking to be sure the knowledge required to fill the positions was present. He also neglected to check on status, reports, numbers, etc. He loved his dentistry, was good at it, and felt he could count on his team to handle the business segment of his practice efficiently. This too is not uncommon. No strong hiring protocols, hiring with no formal systems, no information tracking, no period reviews and basically assuming all would be well.

I knew the caliber of candidates we needed to locate, and although it took about 6 weeks to find two great team members, the 2 we were fortunate to find were both perfect for the position. Both had ideal skill sets, terrific attitudes and worked extremely well together! We conducted our interviews with all my “road tested” systems in place, dotted all of our “i”s and crossed all our “t”s. Yes, it took time, but it was so worth it.

Here we are 2 weeks into the Superstar Front Office Team’s partnership and I got a report today. You see, we track the progress and we make sure the team members track their activities as well. We look at the challenges acquired and meet them head-on.

The main concerns were the time-sensitive issues, such as insurance re-filing. I spoke with the person who is managing the insurance this morning, and in only 2 weeks time she has recovered $6,000 of back claims and took the print-out list down from 9 to 7 pages! She has managed more in two weeks than the prior business team handled in 2 years. They actually moved the production back rather than forward.

This is an example of how increases are deserved and earned without a second thought or hesitation from the employer. My Progressive Salary Program is built around this premise and Suzie (not her real name) hit her first benchmark, exceeded her first goal, totally hit it out of the park . So…Suzie’s next pay check will reflect her first 2-week increase!

Deb Roberge has been coaching and writing about dental team development and related areas for the past 25 years. During her onsite visits to numerous periodontal practices, she quickly recognized the very specific challenges that were prevalent in this particular specialty. She felt it was important to step up and support not only these clinicians, but the team members that work alongside of them, as well as the referring generalists and their teams. Ourperioteam cloud-based software was created with Deb’s input along with perio practices and teams across the country. OPT is changing the way both periodontists and their referring generalists interact, as well as how they measure their mutual successes.