PPE (Please Practice Empathy)

Training our team and on-boarding new members

Integrating new team members has become more of a challenge today than ever before. As a result, I suggest we all need to regroup and take a step back. We owe it to the new hires as well as to ourselves to consider the approach to onboarding in a whole new way.

The myriad of adjustments required along with added precautions as to how we now practice, as well as re-adjusted protocols and systems make it near impossible to “support” a new hire efficiently and effectively as they enter your practice. After all, you are still trying to figure things out and learn how to streamline operations almost daily that had been working just fine for years. With all of you trying to get into a rhythm and a system, how can you possibly train and coach others new to your practice? Yet without your employees, how can we possibly function today?

How do we manage this? For starters with patience! Patience is incredibly important right now. Don’t expect a new hire to pick things up quickly and be 100% compliant with your practice culture and practice style while you are all involved in the learning curve too! The practice you created and maintained pre-Covid is not the same practice you are working in today.

I am so discouraged by some of my clients who are pushing their new hires to learn quickly so that they can help immediately. This is occurring while the existing team members are also trying to figure things out. No one had a playbook to work from, making things nearly impossible to hand off or share responsibilities with others. We are all taking things day by day and hopefully developing new ways of adjusting to learn how to manage things that in many cases have been done one way for years.

Based on the nature of our business environment, we all know that change is stressful and nerve-racking as dental professionals under normal conditions. Add to it all the other components that we are now required to oversee, and we have a prescription for heightened emotions.

Please show some patience. And if you haven’t been a patient person in the past, please try your absolute best to pull from within to attempt to display this quality. It’s difficult enough to locate dental personnel today. Not offering them a safe and welcoming haven professionally and personally and providing reasonable time to learn the ropes can assure you of a rapid turnover.

If you have been lucky enough to locate quality job seekers that are passionate about dentistry and value the position they hold within the practice, give them what they need to succeed and a little more time than usual to get into the swing of things.

Today many new hires are going to lack the attention we would normally be giving as we are all looking to find our way. Let’s all try to be kind to one another as we all navigate through uncharted waters.

 

Do you have a “Conscientious Objector”?

Watch for a pattern

I encourage my clients to involve the team in the hiring process whenever it is applicable.

I so appreciate those who step away to leave the team and the job candidate alone for an informal get together without the dentist’s participation. It is a great way for the potential new hire to get a feel for the practice culture and team energy.  For the team, it is an opportunity to get to know the candidate a little better without having to contend with the activity of the day to day business operations.  This event should immediately follow the doctor/candidate face-to-face interview and precede the Skills Assessment (my equivalent of the “Working Interview”).

I find it interesting, and quite frankly a bit revealing, when one team member more than the others voices a negative opinion frequently as candidates go through the process. While we should always welcome objective feedback, I’m always a bit suspicious of the one team member who objects more than the rest. And what exactly are their concerns? Is it something personal or is it based on something factual that they personally have experienced with this individual.

Background checks and drug testing should be basic hiring protocols but having a personal vendetta or some type of envy are things that should raise red flags.

Evaluate concerns closely and objectively. I suggest that if the one “thumbs-down” comes from the same team member consistently, perhaps there is an overall issue that is hidden and not necessarily one that is based on whether or not this individual would be a fit for the practice style.

I suggest you go directly to this particular team member and see if you can determine where his/her actual concerns are coming from.  Could it be that he/she is threatened? Might he/she be worried that they will have to take a back seat? Does he/she see the group as an elite “clique” with no room for additional new blood?

Whatever the reason, keep in mind that not only should the majority rule, but it is the leader/employer that should ultimately make the final hiring decision while closely examining team member objections–especially if it recurs with one particular person over and over.

Try Creating Long-term Business Relationships

Minimizing employment turnover

 

It’s the time of year that historically marks one of the biggest shifts in dental team structure. The turnover!
Employers will typically wait until the end of Christmas before they dismiss employees. Employees will typically wait until the end of Christmas to see if they receive the increase they were expecting or at least receive the bonus they were hoping for.

 

With this–the scramble is on!

 

Ads are being placed and hiring search engines are buzzing, while job seekers frantically seek out the position that will deliver all they have been seeking in their new (forever) employment.
What about attempting to put a stop to this holiday madness and consider creating some stability in your practice?

 

Employees, how about creating a work history with long-term employment? What about a resume that depicts less short “stays” and rather substantial employment commitments? I believe that both employers and employees can enjoy less “job movement” and more lengthy, healthy business relationships with some system adjustments.

 

Think of the time and money that everyone will save, not to mention the peace of mind.

 

It starts with three words that will reverse the paradigm which are: Take Your Time!

 

Employers–TAKE YOUR TIME to plan out every step of the hiring process from the mode used to attract viable candidates, to the interview process, comprehensive on-boarding protocols, and of course continuing employee maintenance.

 

Be prepared to do things the right way this time.  It’s YOU that determines salary and not the employee.  Asking them “what they need, want, or made in their last job” is a recipe for major problems. Eliminate the Working Interview and replace it with a well thought out, structured Skills Assessment. Skills Assessments differ from Working Interviews in that the assessments allow both parties to better evaluate each other.  Giving both the opportunity to view whether this would be the best business relationship–one that would enable the employer and employee to build tenure and a long-lasting commitment where everyone will benefit!

 

Employees, TAKE YOUR TIME to conduct thorough due diligence in order to learn as much as possible regarding the style, culture and flavor of the practice. Be totally sure that the hours, days and location are acceptable prior to starting the process. Ask questions during your initial interview that pertain to the practice philosophy so that you are able gather valuable information in order to make an educated decision before you move to the next step. Stay present with the PROCESS and celebrate when a potential employer has one.

 

If you dread turnover/change from either the employer or employee side, perhaps it is time to consider doing things differently. Change is never easy for most of us, but if you find that nothing seems to change and you continue to walk down the same road year after year, I can assure you that IT’S TIME!  Best wishes and much success in 2020 to all!

 

Very Early Telltale Signs

Taking note of some early indicators

I believe that there is a lot of valuable information we miss early on during the interview process. There are signs that are indicators regarding what I call “soft skills”, which are vital during the job candidate evaluation period.

I realize that I may recognize more than most, but perhaps this is due to the volume of job candidates I have interfaced with over the years. I admit that I might be a little more particular than most too, as I have learned through experience that small signs can amount to big problems later.

What ever happened to a friendly, warm voicemail message?

It is not uncommon to call the number provided by a job applicant and hear an automated message that is created by the cellular provider. Why not at least a “hello, this is Suzie, thanks for calling”?

What about calling the number provided only to learn that the mailbox is full and can no longer accept messages? How telling is this?

Granted, on occasion this happens to all of us but it can clearly be a sign of someone who does not pay attention. Taking into consideration that this is a job seeker who you would think is seriously interested in this position would be even more aware of the opportunities lost from an uncleared voice mailbox.

What about receiving a resume without an updated phone number or address? Before the “send” button is pushed, this is something that should be checked (and re-checked).

I’m referencing the obvious, the things that should be an automatic. Areas that a forward-thinking, responsible job candidate should always consider when applying for a job. Keep in mind that the observations I have referenced are things that occur even before contact is made. Before a response to the job seeker is sent and before any interaction at all takes place.

Just think of what you have gleaned before you even step through the interview process. How valuable is this information when it comes to eliminating those job candidates that may not be worth your effort. Early discovery should not be overlooked and although it might pay to continue to move things forward, these small signs should not necessarily be discounted.

Do You Leave Candidates Hanging?

Consider the Golden Rule

Those of you that follow my blog and other social media posts that I generate know that I am consistently reminding all employers to prepare well for the interview process. Have all your ducks in a row, including documents such as comprehensive job descriptions (in writing) along with any other materials that you might be able to supply the job seeker with to help them better understand what the position entails, the practice philosophy, etc.

 

But what if after thorough due diligence, vetting the candidate and evaluating their skill sets and their “soft” skills, you come to realize they are not going to be the best fit for your practice?  Do you get in touch with them or do you wait for them to call the office inquiring about status?

 

And what about the job seekers that appear to have promise–the ones that could be ideal candidates for your practice and the position you are looking to fill? Do you find yourself drifting off, losing contact with those that could be valuable assets to your practice or do you maintain an ongoing dialog with them?

 

It’s quite common for me to give my clients light nudges to remind them that “candidates you have interest in are not going to hang around long.” Or, ” Did you communicate with the clinical assistant that didn’t make the cut?” It’s not fair to her if you feel you want to curtail the forward motion and the hiring process with her.
I get it! This is one of the “yucky” things the practice leader, owner, dentist has to deal with.  This is why I’ll often hear, “Deb, can you call Suzie and let her know we’re still looking, or we are changing the job description, or our employee decided she is staying with us, so we stopped the process”. While I know this is a difficult task for many, the best thing to do is firstly, don’t leave these people hanging.  Be as honest as possible without hurting feelings.  Some are holding out for you and will stop seeking other opportunities as a result.

 

Heck, I know of a couple of instances where the job seeker was so certain the job was theirs that they excitedly give notice to their present employer. But what bothers me most is when nothing at all is said.  Rather than have to deliver this tough message, the job candidate is conveniently forgotten. Sure, it’s a tough conversation to have, but the least you can do is send a thoughtful, short email thanking them for their time and wishing them the best of luck.  No stories. No excuses. Simply. “We don’t believe we are the best fit for each other.”

 

While I don’t have a problem delivering the message (although I don’t find it particularly enjoyable) I have been the messenger for many of my clients for fear that these candidates would be patiently waiting for some news.  I’m troubled if I feel as though they are living on false hope or perhaps missing out on opportunities that could be more suitable for them. This is but another challenge of being a business owner and while I’m at it, please don’t have someone other than the person who will be generating the paycheck (the boss) finalize this relationship.

 

Don’t burn bridges, no matter where we reside, be it small towns, suburbia or major cities, dentistry is a close-knit community.   Good reputations travel fast, but bad ones travel faster.

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.