dental team success

We all have good and bad days at work. No matter how much we enjoy our jobs, patients, or work colleagues, it’s normal to have “off” days when we know we haven’t fully shown up or given it our all. 

The same applies to your dental team; they aren’t always going to feel motivated to put their best foot forward every time they are at the practice. That said, there’s a significant difference between a temporary dip in work quality and more extended periods of underperformance. 

Poor patient care due to apathy or low morale can put your practice’s reputation at risk, so employee performance issues need to be addressed quickly and in a way that produces the best outcomes for your practice, patients and staff.

Let’s look at the common reasons for employee underperformance and what you can do to help your dental practice staff stay motivated and succeed at what they do.

Why Do Employees Typically Underperform? 

According to AIHR, employees underperform for many reasons, not just a lack of skill and confidence in executing their tasks. Stress at work, disappointment in the job, a poor work culture fit, unclear work expectations, poor management, and even personal challenges at home all contribute to underperformance. 

Employees who feel they aren’t growing professionally or advancing in their careers can also become detached from their work. A global McKinsey & Company study of 13,382 employees who quit their jobs from April 2020 to April 2022 revealed that the participants’ top reasons for resigning included a lack of career development and the need for more meaningful work. 

Employee Disengagement Comes at a Cost 

Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2021 Report identified employee disengagement as a top reason for record-high resignation levels, with 48% of workers looking for new opportunities in 2021. 

DentalPost’s Dental Job Satisfaction report showed similar findings, with 59.25% of Dental Hygienists, 67.5% of Dental Front Office staff, and 63% of Dental Assistants confirming that they were actively seeking and applying for new jobs in 2022.

Their reasons included needing higher pay and wanting to feel more appreciated at work.

According to the Gallup report, disengaged employees lead to lower team productivity, high staff turnover rates, and increased costs to businesses trying to find new hires. 

The good news is that it’s possible to address low team morale with timely and skilled performance management.

Creating the Conditions for Employee Success 

Performance management approaches have shifted recently as employers, HR, and managers have realized the need for more motivating ways to fuel employee performance.  

A Forbes article highlights that a fundamental flaw of the traditional performance management processes is that feedback is often limited to annual reviews, which don’t offer employees the opportunity to resolve any performance issues during the year. Instead, many of today’s employees would prefer daily, weekly, or even immediate feedback – especially regarding a job well done. 

Appreciation and recognition…given in a timely manner…[create] meaningful moments of connection that can have a lasting, positive impact on the recipient.”

‘Approach as a coach’ is the new motto for managing employee performance in 2022. Continuous performance coaching involves HR or managers having regular and meaningful conversations with their team members that help align practice staffs’ career aspirations with core business goals. 

These coaching discussions help create clear action plans for resolving any issues before underperformance (and the reasons for it) becomes a bigger problem.

Adopting a Coaching Culture to Help Your Dental Team GROW 

The GROW model is one coaching method businesses can use to help highlight team performance improvements and support employees in setting career performance goals. 

The GROW model coaching framework helps guide regular performance conversations. Employees can identify solutions to their work challenges, and managers can address work performance areas needing attention.

Goal-setting (G) – What do your employees want to achieve?

Stage 1 of the GROW framework establishes what the team member wants. It helps them clarify what inspirational goal(s) they can set to help drive their success and keep them motivated.

Questions managers can ask to help employees identify these goals include:

  • What do you want to work on?
  • What do you want to achieve?
  • What do you want to change and why?
  • What does success look like to you?

Exploring Current Reality (R) – How do your employees experience their situation right now? 

The second stage helps employees examine their current position or experience so they have an accurate picture of where they are and where they need to be. Exploring their present reality helps them identify the internal or external obstacles preventing them from achieving success. 

Guiding questions include:

  • What are you doing to achieve the goal you have identified?
  • What progress have you made towards achieving this goal so far?
  • What is working well right now? What is not?
  • What can you learn from past attempts?
  • What resources do you have available to help you?
  • What challenges are you experiencing?

Identifying Options (O) – What opportunities exist to help your employees achieve their goals?

Managers can help their team members identify the strategies and activities they need to implement to achieve their goals by asking them some of the following questions.

  • How do you think it’s best to approach this?
  • What smaller steps can you take to achieve your goal?
  • What option do you feel you can act on right now?
  • What could you do differently?

Confirming a Way (W) Forward – What is the action plan? 

A clear action plan is necessary to accomplish any goal. So is an understanding of how to measure its completion. Here, managers can ask a team member ‘what’ and ‘by when’ questions to confirm their next steps.

  • What do you need to do?
  • How are you going to do it?
  • When will you start?
  • By when will you do it? 
  • What help do you need? 
  • How can I help you?
  • When can we check in to confirm progress?

Clarifying an employee’s vision for success and engaging with them about the steps needed to achieve their career goals is an effective way to show support for their growth and success.

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