Avoid Firings at All Costs
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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RadioShack was recently featured in the news, and while I’m not sure what impact the publicity might have had on its stock prices, its public image definitely took a hit. The company evidently found a way to avoid that least favorite of all exchanges between management and employees – the firing. Instead of face-to-face dismissals, the human resources department sent an email to those whose jobs were being eliminated as part of a company-wide reduction in force. Needless to say, management gurus aren’t exactly praising the tactic.
Admittedly, the thought of letting email handle the dismissal dirty work probably has at least some level of appeal, particularly for those who don’t care much for confrontation, which would encompass a large percentage of dentists. It’s fair to say that employee dismissal is the most anxiety ridden of all practice management responsibilities, and many doctors will tolerate considerable interpersonal pain and suffering, deleterious effects on the team at large, and outright misery just to avoid it.
This may come as a surprise, but I recommend you avoid firing employees at all costs. Instead, implement a process to ensure you virtually never have to deal with a poor performer again. How? It starts with the hiring procedure.
First, no matter how urgent you feel your situation is, do not tell yourself you just need to get someone in the position and the rest will work itself out. The direct expense of a poor hire – at least 1.5 times their annual salary – as well as the resulting stress, anxiety, and practice inefficiency, will make it one of the most costly mistakes you can make. Second, high performers – and that would be the type of employee you seek to attract – want and need to know what they are getting into. Be sure you have a job description.
Third, you can’t fill your bucket from a dry well. If you consistently attract lackluster candidates from your classified ads, rethink both the ad itself and your “target audience.” Place your ad in publications and on websites that appeal to the type of employee you want to draw. For example, in addition to advertising in the local paper, consider area newsletters geared toward dental assistants, hygienists, and for business staff -management newsletters, such as Women in Management.
Fourth, plan and prepare for your interviews. Ask the same questions to all candidates to ensure you can compare their responses.
Finally, test the applicant. Emily may seem positively perfect in every way. She interviews well, her credentials look good, and you like her personality. But she may not be the right fit for the position. It could be Nicole, the other worthy candidate with strong credentials but not quite as much “personality.” What you don’t realize is that Nicole is the ultimate detail stickler, exactly what the job you’re trying to fill requires.
However, the interview process doesn’t always enable you to discern the subtle make or break distinctions between candidates. That’s where employee testing comes in. Make your final hiring decision based on data not personality.
Once the new hire is in the practice, help them succeed. Supply the necessary equipment and tools they need to perform the job well. Provide training on the computer system and other systems to help them carry out their job duties most effectively. Explain clearly what is expected of the employee and how their performance will be measured. Provide an office policy manual that explains policies and procedures, such as sick time, holidays, vacation, disciplinary procedures, etc.
In addition, provide routine, ongoing and direct feedback. This is constructive direction that helps the employee learn the ropes. It is not what you scream at the individual when you lose it with them because they performed specific tasks incorrectly. Nor is it the rolling eyes that the business manager gives the new front desk assistant every time she asks a question. It is a teaching tool used to direct the team member to perform well. Finally, schedule performance reviews to assess the new hires performance at least twice and preferably three times during the first 90 days.
Next week, save yourself the headache, let the poor performers fire themselves.
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