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1.23.09 Issue #359 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Can She Really Hit the Ground Running? Not Likely.
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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Problems, problems, problems. At times, it can feel as if the problems are going to take over your existence.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a reasonably well-adjusted attitude about life and work, however, you’ve probably come to realize that problems are a fact of life, and not all problems are bad. In fact, in dentistry, you make your living identifying and solving oral health problems for your patients.

True, some problems can be far more draining than others—namely dealing with the dreaded problem employee. Take this scenario: The doctor has a vacancy to fill. She needs to hire a Scheduling Coordinator immediately. She wants someone with plenty of experience because there will be little time for training in this busy place. A pleasant personality and nice demeanor are good qualities to have if they are part of the package, but the driving factor on the winning applicant’s scoring sheet will be experience.

The resumes come in and in a matter of weeks the doctor finds Cassandra. She definitely brings experience; she has worked in three dental offices and a medical office in the past 10 years. Cassandra is THE ONE, and doctor can’t wait to get her in the door and at the desk so that she can scratch this vacancy problem off the list. Slam, bang, another hire done, back to the important stuff—dentistry.

Eight weeks down the road more serious problems have taken over. The schedule is a disaster. No-shows have skyrocketed. On some days, production comes to a screeching halt; other days the team is running from dawn ’til dusk. And at least once a week the dentist or the hygienist is double-booked, which sends everyone scrambling. The doctor is about to have a meltdown and Cassandra is about to have a breakdown. That list of problems has grown tenfold. So what went wrong? This doctor was drawn in by the illusion of experience.

When hiring a new employee, how many times have you said, “I want to get someone in here who can hit the ground running”?  Dentists often think that just because employees have experience they will know exactly how to perform the jobs they are hired for according to the doctor’s preferred standards. It doesn’t occur to the hiring dentist that a new employee cannot “hit the ground running” without some training, without a job description or without daily feedback and periodic performance reviews. Certainly, a more experienced new hire may pick up systems more quickly, but it doesn’t mean you can just point out the desk, the computer, the phone and the bathroom and expect the kind of performance you’d get from an employee who has worked in your office for years.

That “experienced” new employee brings the last office’s system protocols into your practice, unless trained otherwise. Cassandra had come from a practice in which the doctors wanted to be very busy, so patients were booked in any and every available slot. She was unfamiliar with the new practice’s recall system because her former employer used automatic text messages and email to confirm appointments. Yes, she had experience managing a recall system, but she wasn’t responsible for making several daily calls. Consequently, she didn’t recognize the importance of that function. Plus she was never given a job description, which should have spelled out her duties exactly. To make matters worse, the scheduling program in the new office was totally different from what she had used in the past.

When new employees are hired, they must be given clear job descriptions that detail their responsibilities. They need to be told exactly what they will be held accountable for and how their performance will be measured. Next, there simply has to be a protocol for training new employees and orienting them into the practice. Create a list of areas that a new employee must be trained on immediately as well as a list of those areas she/he should be exposed to over the coming months.

At a minimum, provide job-specific instruction to ensure that new employees are prepared to carry out their duties according to your specific expectations. In today’s dental marketplace, a wide variety of affordable educational options are available. Taking these steps will save you from a whole host of major practice problems down the road and ensure that neither you nor your employee is ready to “hit the ground running” … right out the back door. Next week: Does your team make you want to scream?

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