Oral Health Group

You NEED to be the Ideal Employer

July 5, 2021
by Shawn Peers, DentalPeers


Train people well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough so they don’t want to!” – Sir Richard Branson.

At a time of incredible labour shortages for so many dental positions, the ability to attract and keep top level talent is proving to be as challenging as it is critical. I know of a number of offices whose productivity has declined in 2021, not because of a lack of patients. Rather, it is a lack of qualified team members to treat the more than ample patients they have.

You may have heard that in Ontario, approximately 500 hygienists retired from the operatory in 2020. Time will tell if this trend continues in 2021 and we lose even more top-notch team members. It is resulting in some offices considering moving ahead without offering the services of a hygienist. They simply have no choice!

Ontario is not the only province facing these challenges and hygiene is not the only area being affected.  Dental assistants are jumping from one office to the next all for the promise of huge pay increases and “signing bonuses.” Perhaps more concerning, many of them are also leaving the profession entirely.

So, the question is, how do we stop the bleeding?

The most immediate issue to address is the matter of compensation. Some of you might wonder why that would be the most important matter. After all, have you not read somewhere that money is not the most important element to job satisfaction?

The answer to that is a resounding “yes.” Many studies have confirmed that money consistently ranks below the culture and values of the workplace, quality of leadership, and career opportunities in assessing job satisfaction. While this applies across all income levels, compensation is more important to those earning less than $40,000 per year compared to higher income levels.

Perhaps more importantly, while compensation may not be the number one factor in determining job satisfaction, it is a primary driver for assessing new opportunities.

So, think about what you are up against. Many admin team members and assistants will have earned salaries around or slightly above that $40,000 threshold. That makes the salary level more important to overall job satisfaction than higher paid team members. Salary increases of 10% or 15% will be more impactful to them.

What about those leaving dentistry entirely? While hardly a statistically relevant survey, my own conversations with some who left dentistry indicated the lack of a benefits program was a major consideration. Even those who acknowledged they were at the top of the salary scale indicated they would forgo some salary to have a benefits plan.

So how do you navigate the world of group benefits as a small employer? Premiums can seem unaffordable at the outset. In some cases, you may be offered attractive premiums to earn your business only to see a significant increase at your first renewal.

It takes time to find the right program for your small office. And you may have to be creative on this front. Look for ways to increase your negotiating strength by enlarging your group. There are solutions that bring a number of independent practices together to ensure greater stability on premiums both now and into the future.

Remember…while benefits programs are part of your compensation plan, they also contribute to an office culture that demonstrates how much you care for your employees and their families. That kind of culture creates greater loyalty.

You will still have to contend with the current labour shortages driving huge salary increases. But being an ideal employer with a solid benefit plan just may be the differentiating factor that lessens the impact on your office.


About the Author

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


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