Dental offices across the country are all facing the same challenges right now – everyone is short-staffed, teams are stretched thin, and burnout is running high. And, as a result, practice owners everywhere are looking for answers to the same big questions: “How do I bring on enough people to cover what needs to be done at my practice?” and “How do I make sure the people I have on board will stick around?”
By Paul Edwards, Founder and CEO of CEDR HR Solutions
Here’s something that might surprise you – throwing money at the problem isn’t a solution. While you need to make sure your business is competitive when it comes to salary and benefits, the research is in and it shows that, when it comes to keeping employees from leaving, people want to work for businesses and managers that engage them even more than they want higher pay.
While there are no quick and easy solutions to the lack of qualified people in the applicant pool, there are things you can do to keep your team engaged in their work and dedicated to seeing your business succeed and grow. The easiest hire is the one you don’t have to make. And, when your employees can see themselves in, and understand their contribution to, your business’ goals and its greater purpose, they feel invested in its success and want to be part of making that success a reality.
At CEDR HR Solutions, we call those highly engaged employees “difference makers.” And building a team of difference makers and keeping them on your payroll comes down to getting your employees invested in your company culture and helping them see how that culture aligns with both their higher purpose as individuals and your business goals.
What a Difference Maker Looks Like
Difference makers are employees who bring fresh energy, skills, and ideas to your business. Though they may not love every single thing they do in their jobs, difference makers love what they do because they can see how it supports their higher purpose as individuals. That’s why difference makers are quick to find solutions and act as problem solvers when challenges present themselves at work, and why they are excited to do what they can to help your business grow and thrive.
In short, difference makers are engaged employees, and engaged employees understand the importance of the role they play and how it contributes to the success of your practice. This means they aren’t just showing up on time and answering the phone when it rings because you told them to, but because they understand the importance of that first touchpoint with each and every patient and appreciate how providing good customer service will support your business and help it reach its full potential.
Take Your Team to the Next Level
Having a team of difference makers is every practice owner’s dream, but it doesn’t have to be a fantasy. Every practice owner has the potential to turn their staff of individuals into a team that works together in a focused way toward common goals, and a little bit of strategic planning and consistent reinforcement will go a long way in helping you develop a next-level team for your practice.
Understand and Communicate the “How” and “Why” of Your Practice
To get your team engaged, you have to build a culture of engagement at your practice. That means defining your company purpose – meaning the foundational reason “why” your business exists beyond just “making a profit” – and your core values – the “how” you do what you do in service of your “why” – and making sure that those elements resonate with your team.
The important thing to remember is that defining the culture of your practice isn’t a marketing exercise. Though some elements of your culture might eventually find their way into your marketing material, your company culture is meant to be a tool to help you set goals for your business, keep your team aligned on shared priorities, and provide a framework for solving problems as they come up. Your culture can also help you make tough management decisions, such as knowing when it’s time to let an employee go who isn’t matching up with that agreed-upon framework when the time comes.
To make sure your team is engaged with and invested in your company culture from the start – and this is important – work with your employees and involve them in the process of defining your company’s core values. Set aside an hour when you can get everyone together to talk about core values and be open to input from everyone about what motivates them to provide the best care possible for your patients. Write down every idea that comes up, then work to prioritize and consolidate those ideas into a final list you can all agree to abide by.
Set Goals and Celebrate Successes
Building out your company culture isn’t just fluff – all of this work is ultimately in service to your bottom line. So, once you’ve defined the “why” and “how” that drive your business, refer to them and use them to craft measurable goals (the “what”) that you want to see your team achieve together. Then identify the key points of interest (some prefer the term “Key Performance Indicators”), or KPIs, you will use to measure your team’s success for each goal.
Once you’ve defined your goals, the next step is dividing the work that needs to be done to achieve each goal between your employees. Make sure everyone on the team understands the role they play in your business's ability to achieve your goals and check in often to make sure everyone is still on track.
When you hit your numbers, celebrate with your team. This doesn’t necessarily mean paying out monetary rewards for every success (though it can). But celebration can take many forms, including recognizing employees for their contributions individually or during team meetings, giving out an extra day or a few hours of time off, or just taking a moment to give yourselves a round of applause or do a happy dance – whatever makes sense for your team and helps the role players feel proud of and appreciated for their accomplishments.
Of course, there may come a time when you fall short of your goals. When that happens, you may still be able to find ways to celebrate the effort that went into the process, though you’ll also need to identify what went wrong and figure out a way to correct it during the next round of goal setting. Engaged employees want to see your business succeed, and that means being willing to take accountability when things don’t go to plan, as well.
Problem Solving as a Team Sport
Retaining employees is more about employee engagement than it is about pay, and keeping your team engaged hinges on having a healthy, well-defined company culture in place. Defining your company culture will not only help you to set goals as a business owner, but working with your team to create that culture will help your employees see themselves in your business’ success and its shortcomings, and to understand the role they each play in helping your business achieve those goals.
For employees to be engaged, they need to know that the work they do is integral to helping your business achieve its “why." This means working from a shared set of core values – the “how” in service to your “why” – that empower employees to problem solve on their own and inspire them to work together on specific goals within an agreed-upon framework.
Of course, as an HR professional, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how important it is to make sure that you have an employee handbook in place that is customized for your business, current, up to date with the employment laws that apply to you, and that you use it as part of your onboarding process to set expectations for your employees and introduce them to your company culture from the start.
As I mentioned before, a little bit of strategic planning goes a long way when it comes to engaging and retaining your employees. It’s never too late to build the foundation your employees need to be successful. And, once you put this basic framework in place, you’ll see that it plays a major role in keeping your employees invested and engaged in their own success, and in the success of your business.
You can find a recent webinar on this topic by CEO of CEDR HR Solutions, Paul Edwards here. This webinar is worth 1 CE (free) for DOCS Members and Trial Members. If you're a DOCS member, you can access this timely video at no charge as part of your benefits. Visit your Dashboard to find the video there.
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Author: Paul Edwards is the CEO and Founder of CEDR HR Solutions, HR Vault software, and hosts the Facebook group, HR Base Camp. CEDR is a leading provider of on-demand HR support for dental practices of all sizes and specialties across the United States. With over 25 years of experience as a manager and business owner, Paul is well-known throughout the dental and health care community for his expertise when it comes to helping owners and managers effectively solve HR Issues. He and his team of HR Experts specialize in helping dentists successfully handle employee issues and safely navigate the complex and ever-changing employment law landscape across all 50 states.