9.23.16 Issue #759 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Are Hygiene Salaries Hurting Your Practice?
By Sally McKenzie, CEO

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You know how important your hygienist is to practice success. This person is a key producer who you want to keep happy, which is why you usually opt to pay a guaranteed salary. With this payment structure, hygienists never have to wonder how big or small their paycheck will be each month; they earn the same amount, no matter what.

Do you see the problem here? If there’s no potential for your hygienist to earn more money, chances are this person won’t focus on increasing production numbers. There’s no motivation to excel, so why bother.

Though this is a popular payment structure, it can be hurting your practice and keeping you from reaching true success and profitability. Don’t believe me? Here’s a look at the problems it can cause and another payment option that benefits both you and your hygienist. 

Your hygienist’s wages are well beyond the industry benchmark
In order to have industry healthy overhead, hygiene wages should be no more than 33% of hygiene production. If that isn’t the case in your practice, you’ll probably see your overhead over 62% of collections.

Let me give you an example of what this looks like. Let’s say your hygienist makes $45 an hour and works 8 hour days. That’s $360 a day. If the hygienist produces $1080 a day, or three times his/her salary, you’re in great shape. The hygienist gets one-third in compensation, one-third is applied to practice expenses, and the last third comes back to the practice as profit.

Unfortunately, this happy scenario doesn’t play out in most practices, especially if the Scheduling Coordinator isn’t scheduling the hygienist properly or if the recall system is full of weaknesses. When these vital practice systems struggle, practices have trouble reaching production goals.

This might not be the hygienist’s fault, but it doesn’t matter. You’re paying hygiene the same whether the department meets production goals or not, and when it doesn’t your practice suffers.

You tasked your hygienist with recall
Many dentists think it’s a good idea to ask their hygienist to contact recall patients during their down time. They convince themselves this will help get more patients in the chair and boost hygiene production numbers. Besides, if hygiene isn’t producing and you’re paying the same wage no matter what, they might as well be doing something.

Sorry, but this is actually costing you money. Do you really want your $45 an hour hygienist working the phones? No, you want this person chairside. Remember, you need to start looking at your hygienist like you would an associate. Ever ask an associate to dial for dollars? I didn’t think so. The bottom line is, your hygienist should be focused on producing. I suggest you task another team member with reaching out to recall patients to boost hygiene production, not your hygienist.

There’s a better way
Now you can see the problems that come with a guaranteed salary, and you’re probably wondering how you should compensate your hygienist. I recommend considering a guaranteed base plus commission. That way hygienists have the guaranteed base pay they’ve come to depend on, along with the opportunity to grow their wages with increased production.

While this is the best option for both you and your hygienist, there’s a chance you will meet some resistance to the idea at first. After all, most people don’t like change, especially when it involves their paycheck. Take the time to explain how the model benefits both the hygienist and the practice. The hygienist’s earning potential is no longer limited, and there is opportunity to grow each month. This has the opportunity to make the hygienist’s job more fulfilling, as well as lead to bigger pay days.

Another tip? When it’s time to hire a hygienist, play up this payment structure in your ad. The candidates who respond will understand the benefits of this model and will come prepared to excel in their role, and that will boost practice production numbers as well as revenues.

If you’ve used the guaranteed salary system for years, I understand it can be difficult to change. But the truth is, this payment structure has the potential to hurt your practice and limit your hygienist. Switching to a system that offers a guaranteed base pay plus commission will likely increase practice production and revenues. Your hygienist will be motivated to meet and exceed daily production goals, putting your practice on the road toward true success and profitability.

Next week: 5 benefits of a two-tier hygiene salary system 

For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side

Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com
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