3 Steps to Establish Performance Expectations
It stands to reason that most dental practice team members are far more likely to succeed when they know what is expected of them, when there are goals they can seek to achieve, when they are part of an overall effort to attain a common objective, and when they know what path to follow. It seems so profoundly simple and obvious, as fundamental as turning on the lights, unlocking the doors, and opening the practice for business each morning.
Yet this simple concept is often lost on dental practice owners. Commonly, the assumption is that employees “instinctively know” what is expected of them, particularly if they have worked in another practice. McKenzie Management consultants walk into countless offices in which the doctor can’t understand why employees don’t just “do their jobs,” and employees can’t understand why the doctor “won’t tell them what s/he wants.” Consistently, the culprit is lack of or weak performance measurement systems. Successfully measuring employee performance requires a clear and well defined strategy, and it starts with three key steps:
Step #1 - Create Specific Job Descriptions
For example, your dental assistant’s job description should include points such as attending beginning of the day meetings, completing case presentations, reinforcing to patients the quality of care delivered in the practice, directing the doctor to check hygiene patients, completing post treatment care calls, converting emergency patients to new patients, turning the treatment room around promptly, etc.
Avoid the common yet dangerous pitfall of overlapping job duties. Instead, cross-train so that each area has coverage when the point person is out ill or is unavailable. If you overlap duties, employees are given tasks but not responsibility. Consequently, the team member quickly becomes frustrated. S/he wants to take ownership for a particular system, but can’t because it’s not “her/his system” to oversee. It’s simply not in the practice’s best interest to have multiple people responsible for areas such as collections or scheduling.
Step #2 - Lay The Groundwork For Success
For example, if you are measuring the performance of your dental assistant, you should be able to see the distal of the cuspid on every bitewing X-ray, you should never have to reach for an instrument on any setup, and the molds the assistant pours should be free of defects. In addition, if you expect your assistant to achieve an 85% case acceptance, s/he needs to know this. If it’s your expectation that s/he give a daily report on post-treatment calls, s/he needs to be told. If you expect her/him to convert 75% of emergency patients to comprehensive exam patients, and that s/he is to keep the cost of dental supplies at no more than 5% of practice collections, make sure that direction is abundantly clear to the employee.
Step #3 - What Gets Measured Gets Done
When you provide your team with clear direction they have the opportunity to do more than just perform a task. They can excel. Remember, the vast majority of employees want to deliver a quality work product. They want to feel they are part of a harmonious team that not only enjoys working together, but also is committed to succeeding together. They want to feel that they are rewarded based on their individual ability to achieve what is expected of them. And they want to know that they are heading down the right path to achieve individual and overall practice success.
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