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3.07.08 Issue #313 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Nancy Caudill
Senior Consultant
McKenzie Management
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Does One Bad Apple Spoil the Whole Basket?

Dr. Jennifer Small – Case Study #113

“Why can’t I find a good employee? They come and they go. It is so disrupting to the team and my patients!”

Dr. Small was again experiencing employee turnover in her practice.  The following is an analysis of the problem and possible solution.

Why does an employee stay?

  • The salary is so high that they can’t afford to go anywhere else!
  • They enjoy working with the other team members.
  • The benefits are exceptional.
  • It’s close to home.
  • The work is not demanding.
  • The salary is adequate.
  • They’re afraid that they can’t find employment elsewhere.

Why does an employee leave?

  • The salary is so low that they can’t afford to stay!
  • They don’t enjoy working with one or more of the team.
  • There are no benefits.
  • It is too far to drive.
  • The work is too demanding.
  • The salary is not adequate.
  • They can easily find employment elsewhere for more money and they do!

Although all of these issues are worth exploring, this article will address the concern in Dr. Small’s office. The individual team members communicated the following lament: They don’t enjoy one or more members of the team that they work with and this affects their performance.

Though this is a common thread in many offices, it is also common to see systems lacking in these offices that directly affect these problems. As with Dr. Small, there is a breakdown in communication due to lack of job descriptions for the team. Susie isn’t going to confirm patients because she perceives that it is not her job…she perceives that Judy is supposed to be confirming patients. 

Typically this scenario starts the day a new person is trained by the person that is leaving. Whatever is shown to this new person is perceived as the only job duties to be performed.  The reality is that no one is sure who is responsible for what and that includes the doctor.

The label of “bad apple” may be premature. This is especially true if the team member is a new addition to the team. When there aren’t training protocols or written job descriptions in place, it is difficult for the new team member to assimilate into the working environment. The following systems are recommended for orienting and training a new team member.

Systems necessary for a successful new team member:

  • A summarized employment checklist signed by the doctor and the new employee that outlines salary, review date, benefits, grievance pay, jury duty compensation, etc. It is recommended that there be a formal Employee Policy Manual to clarify these issues along with starting date, starting pay, when holidays are paid, when vacation starts, etc. This signed form is kept in the new employee’s employment file.
  • A systemized training program! Many dentists think that if they are hiring an “experienced” assistant or business person, there is no training required.  EVERY practice is different.  The dental software system, processing new patients system and the recall system are just examples of systems that change from practice to practice. The new employee should be teamed up with an experienced employee in the practice so they can learn to duplicate the every day tasks. Make sure that the person who is doing the training is a stellar example of the performance and attitude standards of the practice.
  • A scheduled performance review to give constructive feedback by the doctor. New employees are always wondering how they are doing and the doctor is always wondering why they are doing what they do...communication!
  • A specific Job Description and clearly defined areas of accountability.  All the team members need to know what each person’s responsibilities are to the practice. This does not mean that only certain people perform certain tasks.  Everyone is capable of doing another’s tasks but only one person is held accountable for the completion or performance of that task.

An unhappy employee will leave due to lack of training. Other team members will justify this with “we don’t like her/him” because she/he is too slow, she/he isn’t a team player, she/he doesn’t talk, etc. Before you lose a potentially great employee, make sure that you have the tools in place to help the new hire to be successful. 

If you would like more information on how McKenzie's Practice Enrichment Programs can help you IMPLEMENT proven strategies….. email

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