How to Effectively Cross Train Your Team
Many dentists have an idealistic perception of cross training. They tend to think that just because team members have been with them for years, they can step in and take on tasks whenever needed – whether that means making collections calls, managing the schedule or answering patient phone calls. Their team members can magically take care of anything that needs to be done, and they can do so confidently and effectively.
Sounds nice, but that isn’t reality. Why? It’s simple. When everyone is expected to do everything, no one is truly accountable for anything. This leads to confusion and excuses, like “I thought that was her responsibility” or “I didn’t know we did that” when certain tasks don’t get done.
Now, let me be clear. There are many benefits to cross training when it’s implemented correctly. There will be days when team members call in sick or take vacation. You might even find yourself with an unexpected open position that is difficult to fill. In all these scenarios you need team members to feel comfortable helping out and taking on tasks that aren’t typically on their to-do list.
Another benefit of cross training? It helps give your team members a better understanding of the big picture and how their contributions benefit the practice. It also helps them understand what other team members do each day, giving them more respect for their co-workers.
The problem is, team members can’t just step in and help out until you’ve established a clear delineation of duties. You can’t begin to cross train your team until you’ve designated specific team members to be responsible for specific systems, and provided them with the training they need to succeed.
Let me give you an example. You’ve just developed a new job description for your business employee, Lisa. Through the job description, Lisa knows she’s responsible for cash flow management, which includes processing insurance, treatment financing, collections and financial presentations. You’ve also outlined in the job description that you expect her to develop a new patient protocol, measure hygiene production and develop telephone techniques.
That’s great, but your work isn’t done. Sure, you’ve spelled out exactly what you want Lisa to do, but that doesn’t mean she’s prepared to effectively perform those tasks. No matter how much experience she has or how bright and energetic she is, she won’t be successful if you don’t also provide her with the proper training and tools she needs to perform those duties.
Remember, the single biggest contributor to practice inefficiency and mismanagement is a poorly trained team. And if you’re talking about business staff, the lack of guidance can cost you thousands of dollars every year, killing your bottom line and keeping your practice from meeting its full potential.
Many dentists say they don’t have time for training, but the fact is properly training your staff will save you a lot of time, frustration and money down the road. And cost shouldn’t be a barrier either. There’s plenty of affordable educational options available today.
Not sure where to get started? I suggest investing in job-specific instruction to ensure your team members can perform their duties effectively. This training is vital to your practice’s success and will go a long way in boosting staff morale. They’ll feel more confident in their abilities, and because they know you’re willing to invest in them, they’ll be more likely to remain dedicated, loyal employees for years to come.
Once your team members are professionally trained, I recommend that you make ongoing internal training part of your practice culture. How? Add it to your monthly staff meeting. This gives team members the opportunity to educate each other on their specific systems.
Need a few ideas? Let’s say one of your business employees is ready to establish telephone protocols. Set aside time during the staff meeting for this employee to teach everyone proper telephone techniques. Ask your business manager to teach team members how to schedule to meet production goals. Have your hygienist talk about how to build a rapport with patients. Team up with your assistant to teach the rest of the team how to answer common questions about a new procedure you just implemented.
This cross training will help ensure team members understand what role others play in the practice, as well as prepare them to effectively take over tasks outside their typical duties when needed.
Remember, for cross training to be successful, you have to develop a foundation of thorough and professional training. This focus on training will not only help keep the practice running smoothly when employees are out, it will lead to a more productive, confident team – and that means an increase in production numbers and your bottom line.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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