I Don’t Want to Play Employee Roulette: What Do I Do?

by Shawn Peers, DentalPeers

In my last blog, I touched upon the idea that proper onboarding of a new team member was vital to avoid playing the current, far too popular game of employee roulette.

Many of my colleagues agree that most dental offices have historically struggled with onboarding and training. Rather than develop a training program, many offices simply hired the candidate with the most “experience.”

They wanted someone who had “experience” with the same practice management software. Someone with “experience” taking patient phone calls. Someone with “experience” greeting and dealing with patients in the office.

That “experience” did not actually have to be “good experience”! “Adequate experience” was sufficient. Never mind that investing in optimal training could produce an employee with greater long-term upside. “Adequate experience” meant little to no training time…and that was good enough!

One positive to the current shortage of candidates for virtually every position in dentistry is it is now much harder to find candidates with “adequate experience.” Offices are being forced to hire outside the “dental box” and recruit candidates with no dental experience.

Your onboarding plan for these individuals cannot simply be to throw them into the fire. It has to make them feel welcome and set them on a path where they will be able to succeed…a path where they feel they can make a difference.

The simple act of properly welcoming someone on their first day can have an impact. Failing to make a new hire feel warmly received on their first day can increase the chances they will not show up for the second.

Don’t rush it!

Make sure a key employee (usually the office manager) introduces your new team member to their new colleagues. Don’t try to do this while the rest of the team is busy. They may shrug off the introduction and leave an impression that meeting the “newbie” is not important. Ensure there is time to extend a warm welcome!

I strongly recommend that all dentists in the office be part of this process, particularly the owner dentist. When the owner takes time to make someone feel welcome, that can have a strong impact.

Then move toward making your new team member as familiar with the office as possible. Take them on a tour so they can physically see how you are organized. Start making them familiar with any distinguishing features of your office that might impact the procedures that are delivered and the process you follow in providing them (CEREC, for instance).

Introduce them to your vision statement, your standard of care, your policies and procedures manuals. Talk to them about how each of these documents reinforce the other. Provide them with any training videos you have as such videos often have both a visual and verbal representations of how things are done in your office. This combination can enhance the learning experience.

You will need to have a training program in place to familiarize this new person with your practice management software. This will not be a one-day, immersive program and they are done. Plan it out so they are not overwhelmed but that they can learn and apply what they are taught gradually.

It is imperative that you schedule time, at least weekly, to review their progress and to check in with them. They need to know you are taking a positive role in their development so there is never a sense that they have been thrown to the wolves! If they identify an area they might need some help with, make sure you follow up with the appropriate training and guidance.

This process does require a bigger time commitment from you than hiring someone with “adequate experience.”  And if your office is short-staffed, it may seem challenging to find the time and resources to follow an effective on-boarding plan. But if you are going to try to break the habit of playing employee roulette, you have to give employees a reason to stay. Showing you are prepared to take the time to invest in them is a vital step to building your ideal team now and in the long run!

About the Author

Shawn Peers is the President of DentalPeers. DentalPeers is one of Canada’s oldest, continuous operating buying groups exclusively for dentists.