“I’ve been here a year, and I work really hard. I’m nice to everyone. I deserve to make more money.” If those were the only criteria for increasing employee salaries, we would all be making enough to retire by the age of 35. Unfortunately, employees in many, many dental practices are convinced that those are the most important if not the only determining factors for increasing compensation.
The reality is that if the dental practice isn’t bringing more money in, the doctor/CEO cannot afford to hand more money out no matter how “hard working and loyal” you might be. But that doesn’t mean employees have no control over their income potential. In fact, just the opposite is true. Employees have a profound impact on the profitability of the practice and can directly improve their income potential provided they take one very important step: Focus on delivering measurable results daily. Here’s how:
First, you need clear, results-oriented job descriptions. Next you and your teammates should work with the doctor in establishing your own performance objectives/job expectations that are consistent with the doctor’s overall practice goals, such as scheduling to meet production goals, keeping the hygiene schedule full, eliminating the insurance backlog, improving the new patient process and materials, enhancing your assisting skills, etc. Showing up for work every day and being nice to the patients doesn’t cut it. That’s simply expected.
At the monthly business meeting you should be prepared to report to the entire team the status of your area of responsibility. If you are the scheduling coordinator and a concern has been raised regarding the prevalence of last minute cancellations and no-shows what strategies and procedures will you propose to control those problems. As the scheduling coordinator, you need to recognize that your performance affects the ability of the hygienist to meet production goals and the ability of the practice to achieve financial objectives and, consequently, your own ability to secure a raise.
Develop a list of specific steps you can take to be valuable assets to the business. Monitor your progress and your accomplishments using concrete numbers whenever possible. For example, if you developed a new patient welcoming procedure and materials that increased the number of patients coming into the practice and pursuing recommended treatment plans, document your strategy, measure the outcomes, and report the results to the doctor and team.
Consider a few other areas that have a direct impact on your income potential in the practice. How well do you follow instructions? Has the doctor attempted to teach you a specific procedure multiple times but you just don’t seem to get it? Are you cooperative or confrontational? What is the quality of your work product? Do others have to come in and fix or cleanup after you? Do you take the initiative to solve problems immediately or do you routinely hand them off because it’s “not your job”?
Are you frequently unable to get your work done because of interruptions from the phone, the Internet, too much time chatting with patients and colleagues. Do you communicate openly and respectfully with the doctor, your teammates, and the patients? Are you flexible? The dental practice is full of unexpected situations that throw the best laid plans and the most well-developed schedules into a tailspin. Do you panic and become difficult or are you able to adapt to the daily frustrations and unexpected interruptions with a cool head and finesse? What steps do you take daily to improve your specific area, the operation of the practice, the patient experience? What steps do you take daily to reduce practice expenses, save time, or increase revenues, improve treatment acceptance?
In addition, consider what’s happening outside the office. If the manufacturing plant down the street is preparing to layoff half its workforce and many of those employees are your patients, the practice is going to be facing some potentially difficult times. Above all else, avoid threats or demands. The last thing you want to do is put the doctor on the defensive. Requesting a raise with the attitude "if I don't get it, I'm leaving" will only tell the doctor and team that you are uncompromising and only out for yourself. Be professional and, if your job is worth keeping, be willing to listen and learn.
“Service is just a day-in, day-out, ongoing, never ending, unremitting, persevering, compassionate type of activity.” Leon Gorman of L.L. Bean
If you have any questions or comments, please email Sally McKenzie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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