Keeping the Right People on Your Bus:
Key Factors to Retain and Inspire Employees
In my last article I talked about the importance of hiring the best people for your dental practice. Turns out that the old adage 'Employees are your most important asset' is not quite accurate. Jim Collins, author of the book "Good to Great", summed it up by saying that great companies "first get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats”. He added, “People are not your most important asset. The right people are”.
Your challenge is to keep them on your bus. Here are five important ways to help you retain and inspire your staff.
Don't try to fit a square peg into a round hole. No matter how talented the person, matching employees successfully with the work they do is the key. When people feel competent, they are more inclined to take interest in their daily duties. When they are given the opportunity to use their natural skills, productivity increases. Even the most hardworking employees will be stressed if the job they’re hired for is a poor fit with their personality. That’s because personality predicts aspects of performance not necessarily related to knowledge, skills and abilities.
For example, in the long run, most shy individuals do not make very good treatment coordinators. They can go through the motions but they get exhausted being around people. On the other hand, true extroverts generally grow weary if they are assigned to work alone doing your billing.
Give regular feedback; avoid surprises. A study in 2001 involving some 20,000 exit interviews found that the No. 1 reason people leave jobs is "poor supervisory behavior." In other words, bad bosses. And the biggest factor cited was poor communication skills.
If you are going to keep the right people on your bus you need to make time for employees. Voice appreciation and recognize their efforts to do good work. Schedule short, one-to-one meetings with them at least once a month. Find out how they feel about their work, the practice, their interactions with co-workers and patients.
If employees have performance problems let them know and discuss ways to improve their work. Don’t wait until the annual evaluation. Your staff should be told well beforehand, and as kindly as possible, if there is something you want them to do differently.
Water your garden. The number one reason that people stay ‘on the bus’ has to do with developmental opportunities, not how well they are paid. You may have a small practice but you can still talk with your employees about what they like to do most, and how you envision them growing in their job. Top performers want and need to feel challenged. Explore what new opportunities they see in their work with you. Providing your staff with opportunities to expand their skills will show them that you are interested in them as people not just as employees.
Be a model of trust and respect. If you want good morale, high production and low turnover, you need to set the example. Leadership is about influencing others and nothing speaks louder than a leader’s actions. Above all, be honest in what you say and do.
The first ingredient of trust is competence. People will only follow someone they feel is competent. Articulate your vision, provide a workable plan, and then execute. Next, back up words with actions. If you don’t follow through with your commitments your employees will become cynical and disengaged. Then place your trust and confidence in your staff. Demonstrate that by delegating well and not micromanaging.
Remember, employees leave companies because of poor leadership and management. And human nature is that employees will accept mistakes if you are open about them. Apologize for your errors and be a model of accountability.
Make time for camaraderie and rejuvenation. When employees understand the importance of mutual cooperation, they assimilate the belief that “none of us is as good as all of us.” Plan a retreat that integrates team building with real-time work goals. Establish a systematic workplace integration and follow-up process before the event. You need to make the good feelings and the outcomes from the team building activity last beyond the final team building exercise.
Every dental leader wants employees who are happy in their jobs with great attitudes. When employees like their work, they perform better. Thus, productivity is higher. You experience less turnover. You save money. Your practice is more profitable.
Do you have the right people on your bus? Contact Nancy Haller at firstname.lastname@example.org and she’ll help you with hiring and retention.
Dr. Haller can help you to get your practice from good to great.
Contact her at email@example.com.
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