I believe in starting with the basics, when it comes to growing a dental practice. Having the right team in place means that treatment and patient care are of high quality. This makes it easier to retain patients, and to attract new ones. Retaining, and increasing, a patient pool is essential for any dental surgery that wants to see profits grow and expansion occur.
I looked at creating a team in our book titled “Success in starting a dental practice”. That is just the beginning. Retaining a professional, caring and highly motivated team is essential for anyone who has ambitions to grow a successful dental practice. There are several points that I always reinforce with clients which can make staff retention a lot easier.
Creating a positive working environment
The first step to take when creating a positive working environment in a dental surgery is to make sure that everyone is on the same page. Every member of the team needs to be aware of the vision of the practice, and to be on board with it. Remember that a vision is not set in stone. As a practice evolves, so the vision can be tweaked to reflect the way forward.
This vision needs to be at the centre of everything that happens in a flourishing dental practice. It also needs to be supported by other factors which make the surgery an excellent place to work. These factors may include:
- Emphasis on a good work/life balance.
- Additional benefits on top of salary.
- Use of the latest technology.
- Access to ongoing training and education.
- Recognition for a job well-done. This can be as simple as thank-you or may involve a bonus scheme.
For dental professionals, one of the best ways to check for a good working environment in their practice is to put themselves in the place of every staff member and be honest about whether they would really want to work there. Doing this can be a real eye opener; I’ve used it as a tool myself over the years.
Encouraging good performance
Every successful business needs to have an appraisal process in place; dental practices are no different. This should not be seen as a way of monitoring members of the team; it needs to be seen as a chance to develop, learn and be rewarded for success.
I have always found that 360 degree feedback is useful as part of this process. I have certainly learned important things about myself in this way. Remember, it’s about providing excellent patient care, and growing the business as a result. There is no place for an inflated ago.
In any successful appraisal system there are some important points to get right.
- Create clear and specific job roles so that there is no room for confusion.
- Create SMART goals which each team member can work towards achieving and be measured against. Creating goals which are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed gives people more chance of achieving them (2)
- Make sure that every team member has a personal development plan in place (PDP). This can be especially important in an SME like a dental practice where career advancement opportunities may be limited but development can be encouraged and supported.
- Use key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure performance so that measurement standards are consistent.
Performance appraisal reviews should normally happen every twelve months, but there should be opportunity to talk at any time.
According to Forbes,
“The most common form of performance appraisals compare our current performance levels either with our previous performance levels or the performance levels of our peers. When the two approaches were compared, the researchers found that comparing our performance now with our performances in the past was more effective because employees regarded them as fairer, especially on an interpersonal level.”
This makes sense in a dental surgery where staff numbers are limited and comparing peers may promote discord rather than the harmony that is required. The aim of any successful appraisal system is to improve individual and overall performance in a motivational and supportive manner.
Communicating is key
I have never come across a client yet who has disagreed with my assertion that effective communication is at the centre of any successful dental surgery. However, with the best will in the world, communications become confused and messy, if there is no strategy and plan in place. These plans can include factors such as:
- Defined communication timelines.
- Creation of a staff Intranet system.
- Daily and Weekly team meetings.
- Defined methods of communicating management plans and concerns.
Poor communication tends to lead to poor performance, reduced patient satisfaction and reduced chance of growth. Never take communication for granted.
These are all factors that can help keep a good team in place in a dental practice. The longer a good team is retained, the more likely a practice is to thrive and grow.
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