By Sharon Boyd, MA, RDH
As we approach the end of the year and the holidays start to creep up on us, dental offices throughout the country are experiencing staffing shortages and continued COVID-19 frustrations among patients and staff, all of which can impact positivity among their teams. Dental office managers and dentists alike have the weight of office morale resting directly upon their shoulders. Fortunately, there are effective measures that management can take to help boost positivity throughout their practice as well as improve overall attitudes, even during a pandemic.
Start with Personal Connections
Meaningful connections and conversations are beneficial to both patients and staff alike. Make a point to connect with each person you come into contact within your office, every day. Eye contact and just a few polite words are a priceless investment in the overall tone and relationships that encapsulate a dental team. When your staff feels cared for, it promotes better retention rates and spills over to job satisfaction, reducing turnover. Neglecting to make a personal connection can inherently cause gaps in communication, understanding, and feeling valued in the workplace.
Automate Process to Lighten Workloads
With a staffing shortage in dental offices across the United States, most teams are having to work harder than ever to fill in the gaps. Rather than overworking the team you do have, make a point to shift job responsibilities and begin automating roles that can be handled more efficiently. This change can help you value relationships among patients and staff alike while also functioning efficiently with fewer people.
For example, text-to-confirm messages free up your front desk. Yet less than 20% of dental offices are using full texting capabilities to communicate with their patients. Adding on this resource alone frees up time and manpower so that your existing team can easily handle the other tasks before them.
Cross-Train Everyone in Your Office
Whether someone needs to quarantine or there’s an opening in your team, today’s dental practices cannot afford to not have a team that’s thoroughly cross-trained. But cross-training doesn’t just keep the wheels spinning, it also makes your office more efficient and creates overall appreciation between your staff members. If one room needs to be flipped, instruments sterilized, or an appointment scheduled, everyone in the building should know how to perform those tasks. Cross-training makes busy parts of the day less stressful, even with a staff shortage. When everyone works smarter rather than harder, it significantly impacts office morale.
Celebrate “Getting Through the Year”
At this point, everyone deserves a little celebration for what we’ve gone through the past two years. Consider planning a traditional or modified team party to help celebrate your staff and recognize all of their hard work. You might even consider honorary or humorous certificates for especially challenging situations they’ve encountered throughout the year. Something that recognizes the dedication and the challenges that they’ve faced together. Sometimes a good laugh is all everyone needs to help lighten the load.
Watch Your Words
Great communication is more than just being able to say what we need to at the right time. It’s often in the delivery of the message we’re sharing. When situations are rushed or causing frustration, communication during those moments can leave a negative, lasting impact.
By choosing to consciously select the words we say and the tone in which they’re delivered, we can shift our communication from rigid, repetitive, or flustered into moments of encouragement, connection, and appreciation.
A Happier Place to Work
By creating personal connections with the people we’re around and automating systems, we’re able to continue nurturing personal relationships on a day-in, day-out basis. Ongoing cross-training of your entire staff will help your practice function efficiently, even if there’s a staffing shortage. And be sure to look back and reflect on what you’ve gone through over the past several months, recognizing and rewarding your team for everything they’ve conquered. But bottom line, work on your own communication. How we speak and the tone we choose will have a far-reaching impact on our teams for years to come.
Author: Sharon Boyd, MA, RDH has over 20 years of experience in the dental industry and is the founder of DentaSpeak, LLC. In addition to being a registered hygienist, she serves as a full-time patient education professional, with special interests in strategic dental communications. She often works as a liaison between practitioners and patients, bridging the gap between care needs and patient concerns. In her spare time, Sharon enjoys long-distance running, triathlon, and volunteering at her family’s church.