new job offer

When your dental hygienist, dental assistant, or front office team member catches you off guard with a resignation notice, it can send you into a panic state because we simply cannot afford to lose team members when they are so difficult to come by. Emotions are on high on both their side and yours, so in order to not react emotionally, it helps to be prepared before that day comes. Even in the Great Resignation, the advice of HR experts remains consistent –– take a deep breath and stay calm. Staying cool-headed and focusing on these beneficial actions can help soften the blow or perhaps even change the outcome. 

5 Steps to Take When Your Dental Employee Has a New Job Offer

1. Ask Questions, Listen, And Learn from your dental employee

When someone delivers this news, it’s easy to make it about us and how it will affect our business, the team, etc. It can even get us emotional and anxious. Try to keep the emotion in check so that you can listen and learn why the employee intends to leave and take the new job offer. Be empathetic and focus on the reasons why. This allows you to take on the role of an objective career counselor who cares about them personally, saying “Tell me more.” Ask them for details about the role they are moving to and why the offer is more attractive to them than their current job. Ask about the other dental practice or company, the people they will be working with, and the challenges they anticipate. 

An impartial conversation will help you regulate emotionally and adjust, giving you time to think about a counteroffer (if that’s a possibility) and help your employee consider if they truly want to go or if they actually want to stay. Keep in mind that often an employee isn’t sure if the job change will be better. Sometimes they are open and interested in a renewed opportunity with you. 

2. Buy Time & Stay In Control

Buy yourself a little time to think through possibilities. You can say something like, “This is big news. You’re very valuable to me and to this practice. Would it be ok if we pause this conversation overnight so I can think through some possibilities and respond thoughtfully? I really hate the thought of losing you. I do want you to be happy, but I want the chance to think about how we can provide that happiness for you here.” 

If you are the practice manager, you will want to discuss the situation with the practice owner. If you are the practice owner, you will likely want to discuss the situation with your practice manager or another clinical team member. One of the most important voices you need to be present to in these moments is your own. 

What is your gut telling you about the situation? 

In the past, what have you thought about the employee? 

What were your hopes for this employee going forward in your practice?

3. Give Your Dental Team Member Reasons To Stay

If you really want to keep them, you’ll need to have some compelling reasons or a renewed offer for them to stay. When you’re clear on that, remind the employee of the benefits of staying. Discuss the opportunities that lie ahead if the employee stays. Many times, growth opportunities are sought outside when they could be created inside. As the employer, you lead the effort in redefining the employee’s role and compensation, but a collaborative approach to establishing new goals and responsibilities works best.

If you cannot offer growth opportunities on the scale they are moving to, your best response may be to congratulate the employee for winning the opportunity and demonstrate that you genuinely have their best interests at heart. As a friend and colleague, you may be able to gently coach the employee on making the most of their new job. This spirit and attitude surely will not be forgotten and can boomerang back to you in the form of referrals for their replacement. 

What if the employee directly or indirectly asks for a raise to stay? 

Given the labor shortage and increased market rates, this is a reality, but it is a bit risky for both the employer and the employee. Resentment can linger when an employee is paid more to stay. Team morale can crumble if other employees feel they also deserve more for their loyalty and efforts. Be aware that the rest of the team will be asking what made this team member change their mind and stay. 

The general advice is to refrain from making a counteroffer. One way to make the morale risk go away is to announce to all employees that you are going to pay them a loyalty bonus for sticking with you for the year. Show you care about their aspirations by conducting stay interviews. These are invaluable at preventing the dreaded surprise “I quit” conversations. 

Is it time to give your employees a raise to stay competitive? A tactic you can use to stay in control is to preempt an explicit or implicit raise request with news of your own: “I am working to level up everyone’s wages here. Can we discuss how that looks for you before you make your final decision?”

4. Conduct an Exit Interview 

You’ve already discussed why the new job is appealing to them, but making it formal in an exit interview prior to an employee leaving will give you the opportunity to ask for their honest thoughts on the positives and negatives of working at the practice. These insights can illuminate problem team members who are negatively impacting your practice culture, things you need to improve upon clinically or in your production schedule, or even highlight some leadership issues that you can own. In the end, it will help you become a better employer. Use the positives to help you attract and engage your new hire. Look at the negatives as objectively as you can to determine if changes are needed to improve the practice culture and work environment. 

5. Strengthen Your Bridges 

“Love them out the door” with a farewell celebration, such as a lunch, with the team. Thank the employee and formally send them off with genuine best wishes. As mentioned earlier, an employee who departs on excellent terms may help you find their replacement. Maintain interest in your former employee. Practice reputations are enhanced by employees who continue to sing their praises even after they’ve left the team. These firms develop reputations in the community and quickly become the practices everyone wants to work for. It’s a small world after all. 

Tip: When crossing paths with a former employee, show genuine interest in how they are doing and ask them about their impressions of your dental practice now that they have been gone a while. After someone has settled into their new work environment, they may give you different insights and helpful, actionable information.

Reasons Dental Team Members Leave & How You Can Respond

Sometimes when one tenders their resignation, they’ve been through the consternation and contemplation and their mind is set. But sometimes it’s not. Uncovering the reasons behind their leaving empowers and enables you to overcome their objection and possibly retain them or set yourself up for retention of the next hire.

Here are a few examples of some of these scenarios. 

Scenario 1
  • The Situation: An employee is looking to move closer to home because the cost of travel to your location is eroding their take-home pay.
  • The Solution: You offer to make travel reimbursement part of their compensation. 
Scenario 2
  • The Situation: Your hygienist has been with you for 12 years and has reached a stage in her life when she wants to spend more time with her children. The temp agency has offered to pay her the same hourly wage and give her the freedom to work as few as 20 hours a week. She admits she will miss your practice and her patients.
  • The Solution: You offer her two extra weeks off during the summer and find a part-time hygienist to work with her. She will onboard the part-time hygienist, introduce her patients to the new hire, and continue working with her patients in need of advanced care. She might know another hygienist who would like to return to work half-time.
Scenario 3
  • The Situation: Your youngest front office staff member has been with you for two years and has an offer to work in an emerging DSO. The new employer has promised her opportunities to grow as a practice administrator and become a practice manager within two to four years. She is eager to learn and do more, and she will have health benefits that you do not offer.
  • The Solution: You realize that you cannot give her the same opportunity and that you might be able to hire someone to take her place. You congratulate her, thank her for her contributions, and plan a goodbye lunch to send her off with best wishes. You (the dentist) and your practice manager draft a development plan for the new hire that includes immediate and annual education opportunities and a series of work challenges that will keep the right new person engaged and moving forward to share in the management responsibilities of your growing practice.

How To Use What Happened To Win Over A Replacement Hire

And if you want to take steps to avoid this situation with your other team members, consider conducting “stay interviews” to proactively check-in with your team members before they get to this point!

But one thing you need to consider (and consider thoughtfully) by exploring your intuition, is when it’s time to cut your losses and accept that they need to move on. You can do all these things but when someone gets to the point of resigning, sometimes it’s best to let them go. It was likely was difficult and took a lot of contemplation for them to get to this place, so make sure you’re responsible with your words and intentions. If you’re promising something to get them to stay, do so with integrity and intention to deliver on that promise. In the end, if they end up moving on in spite of your best efforts to keep them, you’ll know you did your best to manage the situation in everyone’s best interests.

Give yourself a minute to grieve the loss, but while it’s fresh get to updating that job description and ad with the very reasons this team member stated she accepted with the other firm. Make those your most salient points.

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