3 Ways to Improve Employee Performance and Reduce Overhead
As you get caught up in the day-to-day routine that comes with owning a dental practice, focusing on everything you need to do to keep the practice running smoothly, it can be easy to forget just how important your team members are to your practice’s success, as well as your role in providing the proper guidance. A properly trained, motivated team can help your practice flourish, while a team with no clear goals or direction can turn into your practice’s downfall.
In fact, if you haven’t taken the time to set clear expectations and performance goals, the team members you hired to contribute to your practice’s success are contributing to your overhead problem instead. Worse yet, they probably don’t even realize it, and even if they do, they certainly don’t know how to fix it.
As the CEO of your practice you have to step up and be a leader, even if the thought of it makes you uncomfortable. It’s your job to make sure every team member knows exactly what’s expected of them, and that they’re held accountable. Once you do this and everyone understands their role in the practice’s success, you’ll notice a drop in overhead and an increase in revenues, as well as a happier, more energized team.
Here are three steps you can take to improve employee performance and in turn reduce practice overhead:
1. Provide clear job descriptions. In my experience, this is critical to every team members’ success. Just think about it. Job descriptions provide the game plan for you and your team, and outline your expectations. Through this vital tool, you can define exactly what each team member is responsible for and specify the skills necessary for success in each position. There’s no longer any question about who’s responsible for what, or pointing fingers when an important detail or task gets overlooked.
Remember, don’t overlap job duties when putting these descriptions together. When you overlap, you are giving employees tasks rather than responsibilities. You may not believe this, but team members actually want to be held accountable. They want to take ownership of the system they’re responsible for, but feel like they can’t if it isn’t truly theirs to oversee. This of course leads to frustration, and while tasks still might get done, they won’t necessarily be done right. If you put multiple employees in charge of collections or scheduling, for example, no one will be accountable for specific goals. That’s not in your practice’s best interest, and will only lead to inefficiencies, confusion and increased overhead costs.
Rather than overlapping job duties, cross-train your team. That way you know each area has coverage when the point person is out sick or on vacation, yet that person is still ultimately accountable for the system’s success.
2. Establish individual performance goals that complement practice goals. Sit down with every employee to set individual performance goals, and make sure they understand how reaching these goals not only benefits them, but also the practice. What types of goals should you set? For starters, aim to increase the collections ratio, improve accounts receivables, expand production, reduce the time it takes to prepare treatment rooms and improve clinical skills.
When you’re setting these individual goals, believe me, it’s not enough to just tell the front desk to improve the collections ratio. You have to set a target number and put a plan in place to reach it. So if you want collections to be at 98%, make sure the team member in charge of collections is aware of your goal, and help him or her develop a strategy to get there, even if that means providing extra training. Want to improve the hygiene department? Task the Patient Coordinator with specific recall-related goals, such as making a certain number of patient calls per day, scheduling a specific number of appointments, ensuring a certain number of patients complete treatment, and scheduling to ensure hygienists produce 3 times their daily wages.
I can’t stress this enough: For this to work, you have to hold employees accountable. Provide the job expectations in writing, and rate employees on those expectations. Once you do, you’ll notice major progress toward your practice goals and a reduction in overhead.
3. Provide performance reviews. I can almost hear you groaning, and I know why. No one likes those yearly performance reviews where you sit down with team members individually, take out your list, and painstakingly go over what they’ve done right and what they’ve done wrong in the last 12 months.
But that doesn’t mean you should give up on performance reviews all together. The best performance reviews are actually more like coaching encounters. You structure them as positive interactions that are part of an ongoing performance measurement system that includes regular employer/employee feedback and system monitoring.
Instead of giving out raises just because, use these performance reviews to determine pay bumps. Like I stressed in last week’s article, this will make a big difference in your payroll costs, and therefore your overhead costs. Your staff may be resistant at first, but team members rated against objective measures will place more trust and confidence in the process. And when their performance goals complement practice objectives, they’ll also see the relationship between their performance and the practice’s success, as well as their potential for advancement and raises.
Your team members don’t want to be left wondering what their role is in your practice. They want to take ownership of and be held accountable for systems, not spend their time trying to read your mind. They want to make positive contributions to your practice, the type of contributions that reduce overhead costs and increase revenues. All you have to do is offer guidance, open communication and the tools they need for success.
For more information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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