Spell out the 3 Ps –
Policies, Procedures, and Practices
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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It’s the end of a very long day. You scarcely have enough energy to open the car door. Jessica, your assistant, asks if she can take a week off next month. You tell her that you think that will be okay. Jessica interprets this as a “yes” and will book her trip to Cancun that evening.
A few weeks later, you realize that both your assistants requested the same week off, although you don’t remember specifically giving approval you vaguely recollect some loose discussions about using some vacation time. Now what? You don’t have an established policy for requesting time off, and now you’re facing a real dilemma. Like too many other practices, you don’t realize the value of articulating key employee policies and procedures in an employee handbook until you’ve felt the consequences of its absence.
The process of creating the handbook can be very helpful to dentists in defining their leadership and giving serious consideration to which policies are most useful and practical in the dental practice setting. What’s more, it can be a constructive tool in setting the tone for a positive environment in which each member is viewed as a valuable contributor to the dental team. Rather than an extensive list of do’s and don’ts the document can encourage growth, improve morale and help employees to understand the doctor’s practice philosophy so that they can more effectively carry that philosophy out in their day-to-day activities.
The handbook may cover as many or as few issues as the doctor chooses, but would probably serve its purpose most effectively if it included some of the key practice policies, among them:
- Practice overview and doctor’s practice philosophy – The employee handbook is an excellent place to spell out your practice philosophy and define your guiding principles, such as ensuring patient satisfaction, the importance of doctor and employee commitment to excellence, your desire to see each member of the team lead by example, etc.
- Equal opportunity statement – This states that the employee’s religion, age, sex, or race will not influence hiring, promotion, pay, or benefits in any way.
- Definition of the work schedule – This indicates that all employees are to be at their assigned work areas and ready to provide care for patients at a certain time. The practice may want to indicate that staff are expected to be in the office and report for the daily meeting 15 minutes or more in advance of the first appointment.
- Salary/payment policies – This details when the employee can expect to be paid, how wage increases are handled, overtime, etc.
- Professional Code of Conduct – This section clarifies the practices expectations regarding employee dress, timeliness, use of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs, as well as policies regarding personal phone calls and personal visits.
- Performance review policy – This section explains exactly how and when employee performance is evaluated, including samples of performance evaluation forms. It may also spell out the practice’s policy on progressive discipline and unsatisfactory performance including a copy of the employee warning notice form. And it may list those infractions that could result in termination of employment, such as criminal activity, dishonesty, poor performance, security or confidentiality breaches, absenteeism, practice policy violations, health and safety threats, defiance of the established dress code, etc.
- Time off policies - This section explains policies on vacation, parental/maternity leave, illness, military, funeral, personal, jury duty, holidays, personal days, etc. If staff are expected to complete a written Vacation Request and Approval form or Request for Time off Form, include samples in the handbook, so that employees are familiar with the documents.
You may also want to include a section that outlines employee benefits provided as well as supply brochures and other written materials from your insurance company that further explain employee benefit options.
Numerous models, software packages, and books are available that can help dentists in developing an employee handbook. Once you’ve completed a draft, be sure to have your attorney review it before distributing to employees to ensure that it complies with employment laws that are specific to your state.
The handbook can and should be a positive and motivating tool that enables employees to understand exactly what your expectations are and what steps they can take to ensure that they meet, if not exceed, those expectations.
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