Donít Hire Until You Do This
It’s an interesting paradox of these economic times. Although the unemployment rate nationwide continues to be quite high and it would seem that the job market would be flooded with able candidates, according to a recent Manpower survey, talent shortages remain a problem. In some cases, employers have become so rigid in what they will accept that some very good, albeit not perfect, candidates are never even considered. The challenge is that the people available and the skills required by employers do not match up, particularly as businesses seek greater specificity in the skill set. In other words, there may be plenty of talent, but it’s not the right talent available in the right place at the right time. For these employers, flexibility is an issue.
However, for dentists, the opposite is too often the case. Dentists typically are so flexible in their hiring practices, they make Gumby look rigid. When a vacancy occurs in the practice, it is common for dentists to focus almost solely on filling the position and give little consideration to the long-term quality of the hire, or the specificity of the skills required – particularly if the hire is going to be a business employee.
They may zero-in on one line of the resume that indicates a sliver of past dental office experience and consider this applicant to be “the one.” Yet they will disregard a multitude of red flags, such as gaps in the resume or frequent job changes. Dentists commonly disregard recommendations to check out references. Too often they are driven by one primary goal: How quickly can I get someone, anyone, in here.
Little or no consideration is given to assessing the likelihood that this person will succeed in the position or what impact the individual will have on the success of the practice over time - or in other words, the “quality of the hire.” That being said, hiring failures can cost a fortune. The figure commonly tossed about to fill a vacancy is 1.5 times the position’s annual salary. But if the new hire doesn’t work out and you’re filling the position again six or maybe nine months later, you’re looking at doubling the cost - not to mention the frustration. All the more reason why focusing greater attention on the quality of the hire, rather than merely filling the slot, is tremendously important.
Take steps now to ensure that when the next employee turns in a two-week’s notice, you’re not spiraling into panic mode and scrambling to merely fill the position. Establish a well-defined hiring procedure. One of the key components of this hiring procedure is clearly defined job descriptions for every position in your practice. Keep in mind that when an opening occurs, that is the opportunity to closely look at the position and update and/or refine the job description to better address the continually changing needs of the office. That being said, a staff opening isn’t the time to be creating the job description from scratch.
And please don’t utter this tired line: “But I don’t like job descriptions because they box people in.” If that’s your excuse for not having job descriptions, I can assure you that your practice also lacks accountability. There are likely significant system breakdowns, and you are losing money hand over fist. What’s more, if you’re looking for quality applicants to fill the position - not just a warm body - they expect to see a job description. The candidate will want details of precisely what the job entails and the expectations. Vague generalizations about the position that appear in the classified ads will not satisfy a quality applicant.
Speaking of ads, your hiring procedure also should include an advertising strategy. Consider the type of applicant you want to attract and target your ad to appeal to that particular audience. Place your ad in publications and on websites where prospective candidates are likely to see it. Look well beyond the local paper; consider online newsletters geared toward business employees, management staff, as well as the usual dental publications targeting assistants and dental hygienists.
Screen candidates first by narrowing down the applicants to those you are most interested in. From there, conduct phone interviews. Be sure that in the phone interviews you ask all of the applicants the same basic questions. Pay attention to tone of voice, word usage and grammar. You should now have pared the list down to only those you are most interested in interviewing face-to-face.
Next week, finding the “quality hire.”
"Scripts" Can Help
Patients have many concerns when it comes to their dental treatment. It is often up to office staff to address these concerns, and it is helpful to have some ready answers to questions that you know will likely come up. Obviously we do not want to appear to be parroting a memorized script. However, familiarizing yourself with a “script” that fits your office philosophy can make your answers come easily and comfortably.
What could you say to address his question, and possibly pre-empt his follow-up concern over the lack of insurance coverage for the build-up?
“A crown is a way of re-creating the anatomy of your tooth so that it can continue to function normally. Your tooth has a broken cusp, which means it is badly damaged, plus it already has much of its normal anatomy replaced by amalgam. This means that there is little left of your original tooth. A crown can replace the damaged top part of your tooth and make it strong for years to come. A filling can only be used when there is enough natural tooth structure left to support the filling material.
Dr. A has also recommended that you have what we call a “build-up” on this tooth. There is so little of your natural tooth left that he will use a material to make the tooth sturdier before putting the crown on it. Without this build-up material, there would not be enough tooth structure to hold the crown in place. Your insurance will likely cover a portion of the cost of the crown, but typically it does not cover build-ups. We want the crown to have a long life. Your insurance wants to have the smallest cost to them. We will apply to your insurance for payment for everything, but don’t be surprised if they won’t pay toward the build-up. We can help with outside financing if you need it.”
After presenting the treatment plan and the fees for the build-up and crown, your patient asks: “Why do crowns cost so much?”
You might say: “A crown is an intricate replacement for a part of your tooth that takes a huge amount of wear and tear every day. Even when you are not eating, your teeth touch together more than 2,000 times daily - every time you swallow! (Source: American Academy of Head, Neck and Facial Pain). Your crown is a custom replacement made just for you. If a person could just buy a crown, ready-made like a sweatshirt, it would not cost very much. Your tooth is prepared by a professional, and fitted with a tailor-made replacement. It is “one-of-a-kind.”
Patients also often have questions concerning other aspects of their limited insurance benefits. For example: “The hygienist is recommending that I come for more frequent “cleanings.” Will my insurance cover these?”
You might say: “Your plan contract specifies how many of certain types of services it will cover each year. Most plans limit the number of x-rays, professional cleanings, and “gum” treatments they will cover because these are the types of treatments that many people need; and need to have frequently. It is our job to let you know what you need to do to get healthy and stay healthy. It is the insurance carrier’s job to limit their costs. With what we now know about the importance of the health of a person’s mouth and teeth, it is a mistake to let a plan decide what is best for you. The good news is that your plan benefits can help, and may cover at least two of these professional cleanings a year!”
Patients may ask you to “fudge” on their dental claims. For example: “My insurance doesn’t go into effect until next month. Can you send in the claim next month for my appointment today?”
You might say: “We always try to help our patients get the most from their insurance plans, however, it we change the dates on a claim form, both you and Dr. A could be prosecuted for insurance fraud. We can delay some of your future treatment until your plan goes into effect, but changing claim dates is not possible.” (Patients may not care very much if Dr. A could be prosecuted, but it sometimes comes as a surprise to them to find out that they would be implicated as well.)
Patients may have a hard time understanding the differences among a cleaning, root planing and a periodontal maintenance procedure. In fact, state dental boards have seen an increase in patient complaints regarding “my dentist and hygienist are just cleaning my teeth, but charging me more!”
While detailed information should be supplied to patients before embarking on root planing and subsequent periodontal maintenance, all staff members should be able to articulate a simple explanation. They might say: “A professional cleaning is for persons who do not have any bone loss or infection around their teeth, a root planing is for a person who is suffering from gum and bone disease due to bacteria and diseased deposits on the tooth roots, and periodontal maintenance is for persons who have received gum and bone treatment and need to keep their health from going downhill.”
These are just a few examples of answers to questions you hear every day. Knowing what to say can help keep patients happy and can give staff the confidence to deal with their concerns.
Carol Tekavec CDA RDH is the Director of Hygiene for McKenzie Management. Carol can improve your hygiene department in just one day of training “in your office.” Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Carol is also a speaker on dental records, insurance coding and billing, patient communication and hygiene efficiency for McKenzie Management. Interested in having Carol speak to your dental society or study club? Click here
Can I Have Your Attention
Getting your staff to pay attention is probably one of the most difficult and important things you have to do as the dental leader. You might ‘talk up’ the importance of good patient service or sterilization procedures. In all likelihood you’ve emphasized punctuality and team work. Your policy and procedure manual is a complete reference on how things are done in the practice and you’ve encouraged the staff to review it. Great - you know how to run your practice. But how do you know if your employees are paying attention to what you say and do?
Attention is one of our most valuable resources, and yet strangely we seldom pay attention to how we pay attention. In today’s fast-paced business world, people are operating on continuous partial attention, the illusion of multitasking that actually involves rapidly switching our attention between tasks. Even for you, the dental leader, so many matters compete for your attention during the day that it's often difficult to see the "forest for the trees." What's more, it can be extremely difficult to get everyone in the team pulling in the same direction and focusing on the true essentials.
Attention is the cognitive process of selectively concentrating on one aspect while ignoring other things. Examples include listening carefully to what someone is saying while ignoring other conversations in a room, such as when conducting an initial consultation when your employees are walking by the door. Attention is one of the most intensely studied topics within psychology, yet we still don’t do it well. Yes, it’s pretty easy to pay attention to an 8-month old when she's screaming, but how do you get employees to pay attention to you?
If you don’t pay attention to what has your employees’ attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves. Begin with the notion that everyone can learn to pay attention. There really aren’t any deep secrets to getting their attention and here are a few. Let’s use the example of a staff meeting.
Getting and keeping your employees’ attention is easier when you use these guidelines. These strategies work well in groups as well as in individual meetings and discussion. They’ll help your staff focus on the things you need them to learn and retain. After all, the currency of leadership is attention.
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at email@example.com
Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.
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