The ebb and flow of staff has always existed. Babies are born, people move cross-country, practices downsize, and often the grass is simply just greener elsewhere. But never, ever has it been like we have experienced for the last two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Revolving door syndrome
Many practice owners are describing the situation as the revolving door syndrome. More maternity leaves than usual (hmmm… perhaps another pandemic by-product?), staff deciding to stay home with the kids and home-school, COVID-related lingering illness, some deciding to retire early, job offers at outrageous hourly amounts, and so on.
Staff turnover has deeply affected many practices. However, now that the pandemic is nearing completion, it is time to rebuild and stabilize your team so you can expand like never before, right?
Is there a secret answer?
What is the secret to keeping great staff loyal to you and your practice? The answer is not a single sentence but more like a puzzle with many pieces that must all come together to provide the perfect picture.
Why do they leave?
A great staff member that you really like suddenly gives two weeks’ notice that she is moving on to another practice. She will not tell you why, so you start thinking:
- Has she been head-hunted and offered a higher paying position?
- Was she unhappy because there was no growth opportunity in my practice?
- Should I have offered her more training courses?
- Is it because I did not give her a big enough holiday bonus?
- Is something going on between her and the other staff I do not know about?
- Does the office culture lack togetherness and fun?
- Have I been sharp or rude with her?
- Am I doing something wrong as the boss?
- Did we ask her for too much overtime?
- When was her last raise? Did I forget?
- Have I not thanked her enough? Does she feel underappreciated?
- When was her last employee review and feedback?
These are very valid questions and each one is a piece of the puzzle required to create a team of superstars who are loyal to you and your practice. Let us take them up one at a time, not in any order of importance as they are all part of the picture.
Unfortunately, there are recruiters who may contact your staff and offer them seemingly “more exciting and well-paying” positions in other practices. Fact of life. However, if your staff love you, the team, the practice as a whole, and are being paid well and bonused for production, and if all the other points covered below are ticked boxes, then she or he will happily turn down these head-hunters.
Growth opportunities and training for the future
Competent staff want to feel that they are growing as a person and as a member of your team. Dead-end jobs are toxic and after awhile, other pastures can start to look greener. There may not be a lot of room for upward mobility in terms of positions, but there is always room for additional skills learned and brought into the practice for increased ideal care to the patients. Look for opportunities for staff to attend courses to expand themselves. Help them to grow into the team member they and you want them to be. This is an investment that pays back many times.
Bonuses for production
While it is generous to gift staff with bonuses at Christmas, production bonuses throughout the year are much more welcome to competent staff who are helping you expand your practice. It motivates them to be more effective and efficient in their jobs and to give better service to the patients or clients of the practice – just as it does for you when you are more productive and earn more profit as the owner.
Managing staff upsets
When you lose great staff, the first place to look is at management. Every staff member is a unique individual and will get along better with some people more than others. Never is this more evident than when you have a team of under 25 people all working together in a practice. You must care for each staff member and invest time into discovering what each member of a team needs both at work and outside of work to do their job to the best of their ability. Staff flare-ups must be dealt with as immediately as possible, so they do not escalate into toxic war zones. This should be done privately with both parties present, and an intelligent resolution worked out.
As the practice owner, you create the atmosphere and tone of the whole office. It is like the game “Follow the Leader” in which everyone is a reflection of you and your actions. If you want to keep them happy, sassy, efficient, productive and loyal to the practice, you need to engage them as a strong, fun, fair and patient leader. You must not ignore this aspect of your practice. Hold fun birthday parties, celebrations of diverse cultures, lunch and learns, games (photo scavenger hunts, Secret Santa at Christmas, and so on).
At your monthly staff meeting, include discussions of ideas that can make the office a more fun and engaging place to work. Put a staff member who can get things done into the role of making these ideas become actuality.
All the remaining questions on the list above can be appropriately handled with effective, frequent performance reviews. These have immense value for the employees and employers alike, highlighting what is and is not working, and keeping everyone on the same page. They can empower your staff to reach new heights by identifying growth opportunities and potential areas of improvement.
On the flipside, employees also typically are given the opportunity to ask questions and share feedback with their manager. You need to hear what they have as difficulties and things that are upsetting to them, such as being chastised in public or yelled at (by you or other team members). Let them talk freely and try not to justify any negative comments they may make but treat them as gifts because these are bothering them. Work together on handling them, or you will lose the employee.
Staff wanting a raise is another issue for the performance review. As you probably already know, wages are on the rise right now and this again is a pandemic fall-out. It unfortunately is an unpleasant fact, and you must ensure that your staff are being paid at least the going rate for their position, training, experience and performance quality (see Glassdoor for typical remunerations for various positions). Ideally you should pay a little more than that and then, as mentioned above, have frequent production bonuses (which will lead to increased productivity and, therefore, more income which that covers the bonuses). It should be a win-win scenario for the team and the practice as a whole!
Validation is particularly important to everyone. Being acknowledged for being a genius and pulling off some major feat or handling an extremely irate patient situation and turning it into a win for everyone – these should be validated in public. Thanking staff every day for things they do right, or above and beyond, is also especially important for a wonderful team!
And the puzzle is solved!
All the above are the pieces to the puzzle of how to create and keep great staff loyal to you and your practice. To be the best that you can be at this, consider getting some executive training so you can also be a great leader!
About the Author
Janice Wheeler, is the President of The Art Of Management Inc. which has grown more than 700 Canadian dental offices over the last 32 years. She is an international speaker, has written over 500 management articles (www.amican.com), regularly contributes to various Canadian healthcare journals, wrote a book “Practical Advice for Practice Owners”, and has an awesome team who love helping dentists reach their practice goals.