It's the Holidays - Time to Thank Your Team... or Not
This time of year, with the holidays lurking just around the corner, some dentists are getting nervous. In fact, it’s not uncommon for a few to ask me, “What’s the point of the holiday party? Isn’t it just another unnecessary expense? The employees come to work. I give them their paychecks. If they are doing things reasonably well, I leave them alone. Why do I have to deliver some sort of fanfare just because it’s the holidays?”
I pity the dentists who are reluctant to celebrate practice accomplishments even once a year, yet I would be willing to bet that in their current practice culture, there’s little to celebrate anyway. These would be the offices that habitually struggle. There is little if anything in the way of ongoing employee recognition or rewards. Consequently, almost without exception, these are the practices filled with mediocre teams and chronic staff turnover. These dentists line their employment ranks with individuals that are looking for little more than a paycheck. They will show up for work, at least for now, until something better comes along.
Yet, the paycheck is but a small sliver of a much larger employer/employee relationship that is built over time and nurtured through trust, mutual respect, and commitment to practice goals, values, and objectives. An essential, yet often overlooked, component in the development of that relationship is a program of ongoing staff recognition and rewards that goes well beyond an obligatory annual holiday party.
Let me rephrase the opening question - what’s the point of staff recognition and rewards? Read on.
Businesses that recognize their people outperform those that don’t by 30-40%. Nothing drives profitability more during a poor economy than employees who are engaged, happy, and committed to doing their best, particularly in a service-related profession like dentistry. Some of you may say, “My employees know I value and appreciate them. I don’t need any kind of special program.” Well, consider this little fact: A Gallup poll found that 82% of employees say that the recognition or praise they receive at work motivates them to improve their performance.
Recognition means more than sputtering the words “Great Job” or “Thanks” on occasion. Acknowledging excellence means making the recognition truly meaningful. And recognition that is given as close to the event or action as possible proves to be one of the most effective motivators employers have available to them at absolutely no cost. According to the book “Turn Best Practices into Common Practices with On-the-Spot Recognition” by Louise Anderson, “Spontaneous, on-the-spot recognition is highly motivating. It provides immediate positive feedback while building a strong, positive culture based on respect, recognition, and a dedication to excellence.”
Use the opportunity to tell employees how their actions reflect positively on the practice and the team, and why they are important in helping the practice move toward its goals and objectives. In other words, what this employee accomplishes has a direct impact on the success of the total practice, and they need to know that. Ultimately, the goal is to create a culture of ongoing recognition and acknowledgement. Let’s face it, when we are told we are doing a good job, that we are appreciated, and that we are an important part of the business, we become more vested in the success of the business as a whole.
Rewards are personal expressions of your gratitude. Certainly, the holidays provide an opportunity for you to acknowledge your employees’ hard work and dedication. But now is not the time for you to “make up” for a year’s worth of working through lunch, disregarding your staff’s personal lives, or being generally rude and disrespectful to your team. The annual holiday party does not excuse you from regularly demonstrating your appreciation to the team that ensures your success throughout the entire year. Rather, the holidays merely cap off a rewards and recognition program that you should be following from January 1 through December 31.
Next week, the many ways in which you can show your appreciation.
Why Should I Use a Routing Slip?
One of the most common “critical issues” that are mentioned by the doctors and team members in offices that we consult with is Organization. The other critical issue that is common is Communication. This article, instead of spotlighting one particular practice, encompasses many of the offices that we work with every week.
Symptoms of Lack of Communication and Organization:
As you can quickly surmise, the list can go on. The purpose of this article is to encourage you to implement the magical “Routing Slip” to your daily protocols. All practice management software programs are capable of creating one for each patient that is on your schedule for the day. If you are unfamiliar with this valuable tool, ask your Business Coordinator to call your software support team and obtain the simple steps to generate one.
What A Routing Slip Will Do For You
1. Services Not Posted
When a routing slip is printed, IF the procedures are entered into the appointment as they should be, these procedures are printed on the routing slip. This is reviewed at the morning meeting for accuracy and when the treatment is completed chairside, the clinical team member simply ‘checks’ these procedures on the routing slip to indicate that the treatment was completed. If there are any changes, it is indicated on the routing slip by drawing a line through a procedure that was not completed or adding treatment. The routing slip is brought to the check-out desk, along with the patient, and is given to the Business Coordinator to expedite the check-out. In most occasions, there are no changes and she simply “posts” or “walks out” the charges.
2. Procedures Posted to the Incorrect Provider
By reconciling the routing slips at the end of the day, there is confirmation that the charges were posted correctly. Each routing slip has a dollar value for a provider. Hygiene patients have two values - one for the doctor that performed the exam and one for the hygienist that provided the hygiene services. The routing slips are totaled “by provider” and the provider totals are compared to the daysheet’s provider totals for accuracy. Changes are made if errors are found.
3. Appointment Lengths are Incorrect
Time is Money in Dentistry! It is vital to your production that appointment times are accurate. The most sure-fire way of this happening is that the Next Visit (NV) is written on the routing slip along with the amount of time that is needed in the form of Assistant/Doctor/Assistant if you are scheduling out of two columns. You may say that you always take 20 minutes per surface for a filling. Would you say that it takes longer to perform interproximal restorations opposed to those that aren’t but they are still 2 surfaces?
If you and your hygienists want the proper amount of time for your appointments, inform the Business Coordinator what you want on the routing slip. There is never a question. If you have not indicated how much time you need, your assistant or hygienist should inquire.
4. Ineffective Morning Meetings
If your practice is chartless, routing slips are even more vital to daily communication and organization. It is your “temporary” paper record for the day. Now – go and be organized!
Hiring Relatives or Friends? Hire Right!
“When I first started up my new practice, I wanted to save money on employees because my schedule was light - so I asked a friend of my sister who had experience at the front desk to help out for about a year until we could build our patient base. After a couple of months I realized that she was not a good fit for me and I wished that I’d interviewed her like I would a stranger. I had to let her go and now my sister is upset with me.” - Dr. J
A painful lesson for Dr. J, but easily avoided by seeing that hiring protocols are strictly adhered to regardless of the person involved. Don’t push the panic button when considering hiring someone for your practice. Take time to think through what kind of person you want to be working with, talking too and directing for eight hours or more per day. For start-up practices it may be a challenge because of lack of salary funds, but it is better to pay a little more to attract someone who can build the practice quickly rather than hire someone that will turn people away.
Temperament testing is important to identify the personality types best suited for the position you are looking to fill. Dentistry is an extroverted profession, so always hire an extrovert because they are energized by contact with people all day. Introverted types like contact in smaller doses and need to be in private to recharge their batteries.
Take a hard look at the resume presented to you. Does it show gaps in the work history? Are short periods of employment without good explanation indicative of a job jumper? Resumes are only a small part of the picture because people often hire a professional to write them, so take the time to look beyond the glossy cover.
Always have the applicant fill out an employment application, and make sure that the applicant has answered the questions in legible handwriting using the correct grammar, punctuation and spelling. In the How to Hire book available through McKenzie Management’s website, there is a step by step guide to hiring without pitfalls. Included in this valuable resource are questions to ask applicants that are open-ended, meaning that the question cannot be answered with a yes or no, it must be explained. Testing for computer skills, spelling and math is also a must, because the business of dentistry is about these skills as much as it is about people skills.
Job descriptions for each position available in your practice are necessary to define the job skills of the applicant, and can be used as a check-off list to determine what training a promising employee may need to become an asset to the practice. Without a job description, there is a lot of assumption as to what this person can bring to the position. This same job description is used in yearly performance reviews to measure job growth and accountability.
When interviewing the applicant, have them go over the job description and mark any areas where they feel they have experience or could benefit from extra training. For instance, you want all dental assistants to be able to input treatment plans into the computer, so your business coordinator can prepare a treatment estimate to present to the patient upon their dismissal. If the dental assistant had never used the software before or for that matter any dental software, you would experience a learning period of a good two weeks to get this person trained without errors.
When hiring friends or relatives, the standards for performance are very often not communicated for fear of alienating the relationship. If friends or relatives are given hours that are the envy of the other team members you have or will hire in the future, this can be a source of friction and tension in the practice. It is far better to establish hiring protocols now and standardize how all employees will be treated to avoid future bickers and staff turnover.
For the real scoop on hiring and training your team, call McKenzie Management today and sign up for a Dental Office Training course customized to your practice needs.
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