05.22.09 Issue #376 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Good Employees: Hard to Find and Harder to Keep
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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So why is it that good employee’s leave? Dentists are often baffled when team members quit. They feel they have been blindsided. They are left wondering what exactly it is that drives the quality staff to go – even during challenging economic times. In reality, there are a number of reasons why staff leave.

Is it the money? Not as often as you might think, although employees will use this as grounds to make their exit because they don’t want to tell you or they are afraid to tell you the real reason. Certainly, the members of your team want and appreciate salary increases, but money is definitely not the only motivator and it’s clearly not the best motivator to keep good employees. As long as the staff are paid competitively there is far more to keeping your team intact than tossing a few more bucks their way.

Some leave because of how they perceive they are treated in the workplace. Human resource surveys routinely show that more than 40% of employees quit because they don’t feel appreciated by their boss. Why is that important? Because 50% of job satisfaction is determined by the quality of the relationship that staff have with you – the dentist – their boss.

In some cases, the dentist treats the employees disrespectfully. He/she is a screamer, a micromanager, or just a nasty boss. These practices churn through good employees at record pace. The only ones who stay are the mediocre performers. They stick it out with a bad boss because they don’t have the confidence that they can find another job.

Certainly, there are many dentists who are very nice people. They are not screamers or nasty bosses, but their idea of managing people is to tell them what they are doing wrong, what they should be doing better, where they are falling short. Or they say nothing, which is just as bad if not worse. If you cannot think of specific instances in the past few weeks in which you have clearly and directly told the top performers on your team that you appreciate what they are doing and their contributions, I can virtually guarantee that they think you neither recognize nor appreciate what they are doing for you and your practice.

The fact is that it is easy to ignore the good employees. After all, these are the ones the dentist doesn’t have to coddle. Understandably, dentists love these employees because they can count on them to get the job done and they are low-to-no maintenance. The dentist tells him/herself that these employees know what they are doing. They are good. They are independent. They don’t need or want feedback or coaching. Big mistake.

Your top performers resent that they show up on time (or early), work hard every day, consistently meet or exceed their performance goals, and you say virtually nothing. But you’re going “gaga” over the totally unreliable assistant’s ability to actually take an X-ray that you can read!

Which leads me to another key reason why good employees are hard to keep: You refuse to deal with the problem performers. There are few things more demoralizing to a top-flight employee than a boss who looks the other way when others on the team consistently disregard office policies, bring poor attitudes to work, generate conflict, make excuse after excuse for why they were late, why they were sick, why they simply cannot get their jobs done. Believe me, your good employees know exactly who’s doing just enough to get by. Yet they get the same pay raises, same vacation time, and the same perks as top performers. Understandably, your capable staff will only tolerate this for so long. As Vince Lombardi once said, "There is nothing more unequal that the equal treatment of unequals."

Ultimately, the good employees come to the conclusion that the doctor is either a coward or simply prefers the poor performers, so they choose to leave and go to a practice where their contributions are appreciated and the culture encourages rather than discourages excellence.

Of course there are myriad other reasons why employees leave, such as lack of training, no opportunity to grow, not the right job fit, personality conflicts, and the list goes on. If you’re losing good employees, don’t just sit back and watch, find out what’s driving the exodus.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com.

Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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