Human Resources: Stop the Human Resources Leak

by Anne Charette

Today’s dentist needs to embrace a range of specialist’s skills and knowledge to drive performance and help the management team achieve competitive advantage in a tough labour market.

What is H.R. and how does it affect my practice? Working with the human element of your practice isn’t just about being nice to people–if it were, chocolates, tissues and a sympathetic shoulder would be the answer!

Today’s dentist needs to embrace a range of specialist’s skills and knowledge to drive performance and help the management team achieve competitive advantage in a tough labour market. If this sounds infinitely more challenging and just a little daunting than your normal day-to-day management style, it’s time to ensure that your practice provides a solid grounding in all aspects of people management and development.

In the inaugural roundtable discussion in the Summer 2002 Dental Practice Management, we reviewed the “future of the profession” and discovered with great interest that every issue identified was affected directly or indirectly by the people component of organizations. So… to move into the future, the profession has to clearly take a hard look at their HR practices.

The management of the people in any organization is by far the most difficult challenge facing leadership teams today. The shortage of labour as the baby boomers move into retirement will create a need for organizations to create the strongest learning environments and the most satisfying working conditions to attract and retain quality employees. Combined with more generational diversity than has ever existed in the workplace before, it creates a need for a commitment and expertise in the field of people management and development. Improved management skills that will increase confidence, improve productivity and patient care all lead to a stronger bottom line.

Recruitment & Selection

With increased competition and tighter labour markets dentists are under extreme pressure. The need to hire the right talent to sustain and grow your practice, while controlling costs and increasing profits, create an administrative challenge. International consulting firm Watson Wyatt quantifies the cost of losing an employee at as much as 200% of that employee’s salary. In addition, Workplace Resource Learning Centre estimates that a poor hiring decision can cost of $66,000.00 for an employee with a College/University degree. These costs combined with the standard operational expenses of salary, benefits, and office space reinforce the need for employers to value their talent.

The key factors in successful hiring are to understand what candidates are looking for and the hiring process used. Attitudes and needs differ according to generational diversity (Boomers vs. Gen Xers), financial status, and required working environments. A formal, consistent, well-developed hiring process is essential in the race for talent. A traditional interview yields only a 14% accuracy rate, so it’s no small wonder that when surveyed, 90% of people indicate they hate to interview. If investing the time to learn to develop a formal hiring process for your practice can increase your success rate to 45 or 50%, how much of an advantage will that give you over your competition?


Assuming then, you have implemented a structured hiring process, does that solve your turnover and staffing problems? You have only just begun. It is not enough to hire the right people. The hard part is to keep them.

Today, people have the power. With the technology boom, extravaganza and extreme talent shortage, employees are demanding more choice, more pay, more flexibility and more balance.

Most organizations fail to understand the basics of building trust and loyalty in the work environment. Professionals need to treat their investment in HR programs the way they do capital investments and work out the return on those investments. Without personal or organizational change or improved productivity and performance, the dental profession can anticipate a net loss at the patient base and a direct impact on the bottom line. A focus on improved communication and understanding removes the barriers, builds employee trust, and results in improved loyalty.

Ten of the most common mistakes made when hiring and managing staff are outlined below.

No established job descriptions. If you don’t know what you’re looking for the chances of finding it is slim.

Asking predictable, opinion based questions that provide very little insight about the individual. Behaviour based interviews increase the level of success by over 20%.

Being overly impressed by the resume. Where someone was educated or whom they worked for is not as important as what they did.

Being unprepared. Not planning the interview or reviewing the individuals’ resume in advance sends a message of disinterest.

Relying solely on the interview. The interview is only one component of the hiring process. Assessments, testing and references provide a more objective view of the candidate’s behaviours, motivations and aptitudes.

Personal Biases. Personal appearance and social bias should not be used to make assumptions about an individual’s ability.

Orientation. The sooner a new employee feels part of the team, the greater the desire to be successful in the practice. Take the time to welcome the employee and familiarize them with the culture of the firm.

Training. Every office does the same things differently. Provide the employee the training they need to function effectively in your environment.

Professional Development Opportunities. Provide all employees the opportunity for on-going learning and growth.

Performance Management. Every member of the team deserves to be part of achieving the goals of the practice and receiving feedback on their achievements.

The management of human resources must be a key component in any management strategy regardless of the size of the practice. It is no longer only the responsibility of larger employers. Documented policies and procedures, consistent and valid processes, formal performance management and staff development plans must all be part of annual business planning. Only those practices that implement these strategies now will continue to enjoy growth and financial prosperity in the future.

Anne Charette is president and founder of The Burke Group, a full service Human Resources Firm located in St. Catharines, ON. She is the current President of the Canadian Council of Human Resources Associations (CCHRA) and the past President of the Human Resources Professionals Association of Ontario (HRPAO).