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When it Comes to Dental Team Members, Don’t Settle for ‘Good Enough’

Posted June 18, 2014

Fred Joyal

5715916_mlOne of the biggest challenges for a business is that, as you grow, you often out-grow certain employees. Most large businesses have a human resources department, which handles hiring, reviewing, retraining and occasionally terminating employees. However, in most dental practices, these duties are typically handled either by the dentist or the office manager (along with a few hundred other responsibilities.)

I think we’re all aware that building a great team is essential to practice success, and hiring well is a critical process. But one of the hardest things to address is the current employee who is good enough, but is never going to be great.

Simply put, a thriving business must be in a constant state of upgrading its team members. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean firing and replacing people. In my business, the first question we ask when a person isn’t excelling in one position is, are they a good fit for the culture? If the answer is yes, then we try to “re-purpose” the individual; that is, we try to find out where else in the business they might excel.

Of course, if they are not a great cultural fit, then it doesn’t matter what position they are in, because they will always hold the team back. One of the most important reasons that you want to create a great culture is because a great work environment naturally attracts higher-caliber team members. Put concisely: culture attracts quality.

This brings us to the essential business practice of regular employee reviews. You have to give consistent feedback and evaluations to your team members. This is your opportunity to let them know how they fit in the culture, what they are great at, and where they could improve. Do this in writing, and it will save you a lot of trouble down the line. And don’t just do them once a year – that’s far too infrequent. Perform reviews at least quarterly, and if someone needs specific feedback now, then offer it now. Don’t put it off until review time.

In fact, the more systematic your employee review systems are, and the more you are vigilant about legal compliance with regard to employees, the more you lower your exposure to litigation. I suggest using a computerized system like the one offered by HR for Health. Documenting is a key part of employee management, and creating a written record that the employee sees and signs means that there is a real understanding of the communication.

Also, be willing to invest in your team’s growth. Offer suggestions for courses, books to read, seminars to attend. Encourage people to increase their strengths and address their weaknesses. As a team member, be on the lookout for how you could improve your skills, and ask for guidance and support. Start by asking yourself, “Did I improve this year? Am I supporting and expanding the culture of the practice? Do I make a consistent contribution to the growth of the practice?”

In other words, ask yourself how you could be upgrading yourself. Not just clinically, if that is your role in the practice, but in every other way. Clinical growth is important – and in most cases, required – but just as important is how you enhance the patient experience and add to the positive attitude of the team.

One more thought: if you are eager to grow and improve, to continuously upgrade yourself, but you find that you are in a practice that doesn’t encourage that, and is essentially static or stagnant, then it may be time for an upgrade to a new practice that is a better fit.

Great businesses know that good isn’t good enough. Not if you want to continue to have a thriving business in a competitive marketplace. You want great employees, eager to improve and motivated to excel. And if you’re a team member, the surest path to a long and successful career is to continuously strive to be exactly that type of player.


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