11.23.07 - Issue # 298 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Lost Another Good Employee?
Do Something about It
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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It’s one of the most frustrating and unpredictable situations dentists face. Everything is humming along just fine. The schedule is full. Production is solid. Collections are good, and treatment acceptance is even better. The team appears to be functioning reasonably well. Then, as they say, the other shoe drops. Your long-term business employee – the one who is the expert on the computer systems, a master scheduler and overall great employee – hands in her two-weeks notice. There’s no hiding your shock and disappointment. WHY is she leaving? And how is it that you did not see it coming? What happened to trigger this?

The scenario is all too common in dental practices in every major city, small town, and growing metropolis. Employee turnover is nothing new; in fact it happens about every 18 months in most dental offices. After the initial shock and feelings of betrayal subside, most dentists shrug their shoulders and resign themselves to the “good help is hard to keep” attitude. As most of you know, it’s even harder to find. Estimates for replacing an employee range from $20,000 to 1.5 times the team member’s annual salary. And when it comes to quality personnel, you’re losing far more than money when they walk out the door.

Attorney Mike Moore knows all about staff turnover. He’s been an employee relations litigator for more than 30 years and has seen businesses large and small struggle with employee issues and human resources nightmares that could have been resolved amicably if employers would take a few preemptive steps. Mike is McKenzie Management’s new Director of Human Resources and the author of the Employment Policy and Handbook.

Over the years he’s found time and again that when employers ignore problems, it’s the good team members that silently fume and eventually leave. “They see that the doctor doesn’t address the negative behaviors of other employees. They become concerned, disappointed, and angry. Eventually they just start looking for another job.” 

What’s more, in most practices, there’s no mechanism or process in place for employees to effectively share concerns or grievances. Typically, most doctors or office managers mistakenly believe that if they claim the office has an “open door policy” they’ve done all that’s necessary to encourage employees to come forward with concerns. That’s not going to do it, says Mike. “To keep good employees, team members need to know that if they have concerns or complaints there are procedures in place in which they can voice their concerns and know that they will be addressed, without fear of punishment.”

Mike urges practices to implement an “Employee Concerns Policy.” This is a defined procedure in which employees complete a form that is available to them and give it to the doctor anonymously if they choose. “Rather than saying ‘we have an open door policy,’ the policy needs to say that the employee will be protected if they come forward with a concern. There will not be any retaliation. We want you to come forward so that we can have a discussion. It may be as small a concern as how staff breaks are handled to the more serious issues, such as reporting harassment.”

The most important aspect of this is that there is a written section in which the employee writes down their concern and the doctor writes down the practice’s response to the employee’s concern. The employee knows that the problem will get a response, it won’t just be ignored.

One of the major benefits of a process such as this is that it enables the doctor or office manager to learn much more about what’s happening in the practice and among the team. But the greatest benefit, Mike has found in working with practices, is that both employees and the doctor genuinely appreciate the policy because it makes it much easier for the entire team to deal with problems as they arise. “Let’s face it, when it comes to dealing with concerns and problem employees, if you’re just making it up as you go along you are certainly going to face many more obstacles than if you have a policy in writing that you consistently follow.”

Next week, find out why you need to throw out that Progressive Discipline Policy.

Interested in having Mike Moore write your customized Employment Policy and Handbook?  Go here. Interested in having  Mike speak to your dental society or study club? Click Here.

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