09.04.09 Issue #391 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

She Has Computer Experience, Just Not the Kind Your Office Needs
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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Experience. It’s a word that conveys different meanings to different people. When seeking employment, applicants naturally want to convince their prospective bosses that they would bring necessary experience to the position. Meanwhile employers – dentists specifically – often are in the difficult position of trying to fill vacancies quickly. Many don’t typically need a lot of convincing that the applicant with the pleasant smile and friendly demeanor is the one for their office, particularly when the applicant asserts that she/he has what it takes to do the job.

Take Dr. Carrel, for example. His business employee of 12 years decided it was time for a change of scenery and accepted a position out of state. That left Dr. Carrel frantically trying to fill the position. In walks applicant Amanda. She has worked as a receptionist and as a clerk in the children’s department at a large retail store, which must mean that she’s good with people and well organized – both very important qualities for this job, surmises a stressed Dr. Carrel.

During the interview, he dutifully covers the usual questions with Amanda, listening closely for those things he wants to hear. “Do you have experience with scheduling?” asks Dr. Carrel. “Certainly,” Amanda says, thinking to herself, I have to get in the shower by 7 a.m., make the train by 8 a.m., be at work by 9 a.m., at the gym by 5:30 p.m. so I can be out with friends by 8 p.m…“Yes, I am very good at scheduling.”

“Do you have computer training?” “Of course,” the applicant says emphatically, ticking through a variety of point and click responsibilities in her mind. I know how to buy and sell on e-bay, I have all the important websites organized in my favorites list, and I am a whiz at email. “Yes, I have lots of computer experience.” “How would you rate your experience in effectively communicating with others?” asks Dr. Carrel. “Very high,” answers Amanda. You should see my thumbs go. I can text message while driving, applying make-up, even during a movie. “I consider myself to be an expert communicator.” Amanda is hired, bringing all her “technical expertise” to the position.

While the scenario above may be somewhat exaggerated, it is not uncommon for practices to hire new employees that bring “experience,” “knowledge,” and “training,” in numerous areas, but oftentimes it’s not what the practice needs or what the job really requires. Practice needs and expectations have changed. Managing a dental practice has always demanded excellent customer service skills and knowledge of dental business systems such as scheduling, financial arrangements, insurance processing, collection and billing, recall etc.  But today the need for specific computer literacy is significantly greater. 

Even jobs that would not necessarily be described as “technical” commonly require computer experience or technical skills. Dental practice employees – both clinical and business – are often expected to understand and use spreadsheet, word-processing, and database software. Although an applicant may bring some computer experience, it doesn’t mean she/he has the compulsory knowledge to access and interpret necessary reports or compile spreadsheets.

Historically, a college degree in business was not a requirement to get a position in the dental business office and many people employed at the front office were former dental assistants or people who were trained on the job in another practice. And although most of Generations X, Y, and Millennials (those coming of age in the new Millennium) have been exposed to computers virtually their entire lives, if they do not go on to college or receive specific training, the skills often remain elementary. 

When hiring someone to manage a busy practice, formal business training and more than basic knowledge of computer software is essential. The practice management reports that can be generated by today’s sophisticated software will tell you virtually everything you must know about your practice: if it is growing or declining, what procedures are your “bread and butter,” what other services or products you need to market, how many new patients are coming in and how many patients are leaving, how many children you see and how many adults, what percentages of your practice is insurance and what is private pay, what percentage of the insurance base is this company or that, and so on.  The wealth of critical information is virtually boundless provided that your team knows how to access and use it. 

Next week, discover how prepared those applicants really are.

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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