Staff: Pain or Profit?
Are your systems providing a solid foundation for growth, or is everything you’re working so hard to build being slowly chiseled away because of circumstances beyond your control - namely, staff. Far too many dentists are convinced that their practice would be going gangbusters if they could just find good help. Ah yes, staff are such an easy target. She’s controlling. He’s demanding. She’ll cry over a paper cut. He couldn’t problem solve 2 + 2, and so on.
Without exception, practices that struggle, struggle with staff. Listen to the doctors and they claim to be doing everything in their power to hire and keep good staff. But they are victims. Yes, they are victims indeed. They have failed themselves, each time they rush to simply fill a position with a warm body rather than the ideal candidate, or when they choose to withhold praise and acknowledgement for a job well done, or when they don’t take the time to give clear direction. And as a result, these struggling practices have employees, but they are far from having highly functioning teams. Consequently, turnover is an ongoing issue.
Certainly, employees leave for a variety of reasons. They move away, retire, choose to stay home with children. But many walk because of their boss and/or coworkers. And staff turnover that occurs every 12-18 months or less is a strong indicator of serious flaws in your hiring and employee retention systems as well as your leadership.
Oftentimes, staff will leave because they feel they’ve been tossed into the deep end of the pool. It’s sink or swim and they can’t count on you to throw them a line. Do you provide clear job descriptions so that your staff know what is expected of them and how you will measure their performance? Or do you assume that they know what to do but become upset when they don’t do it “right”? Your employees must be able to count on you for direction, feedback, and vision.
Do you create a culture of cooperation and collaboration among your staff, or do you have warring factions lobbing verbal grenades and razor sharp sneers at one another? It’s a good day when no one corners you in your office sobbing, finger pointing, or threatening to quit. Nothing will send staff running for the exits quicker than a toxic workplace in which high drama and low accountability go unaddressed because the “leader” refuses to lead.
Running a practice and building a team takes courage. The team mirrors the leadership of the practice. Look carefully at your employees. Do they reflect your commitment to excellence? Do they represent a culture of collaboration and cooperation? Are you willing to challenge them to improve? And are they open to embracing new and better ways of doing things? Or do you shun more efficient systems and procedures because the transition will be difficult. They won’t go for it. You don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or make anyone mad. You rationalize your fear of addressing the problems by telling yourself that you’re better off leaving well enough alone.
If you’ve chosen to ignore the problem, you’ve abdicated your responsibility as the leader. And I guarantee, there will be trouble ahead. Most likely it will result in patient attrition. Staff turnover and lack of leadership invariably lead to poor customer service. Morale is low, and employees will check out of the practice mentally long before they turn in their two weeks’ notice.
“Mary” knows she’s leaving; she hasn’t told you yet, but the fact that she’s a short-timer comes through loud and clear to your patients. And if “Mary” is the second or third person they’ve seen in that position over the last 12-24 months, you can bet patients sense there is a problem.
I’ll be the first to admit that effective leadership is not easy. It’s like exercise. It can be painful. It requires time and commitment, and you may not see the results for months. You must be intentional. You must have a plan. You must have realistic goals. You’re not going to get that beach body overnight, nor will you increase practice efficiency and profitability in 24 hours. Yet, just like exercise, strong leadership results in a strong team and will most certainly yield the rewards, provided you’re willing to do some heavy lifting.
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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