11.3.17 Issue #817 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

The Problem with Cross Training
By Sally McKenzie, CEO

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When dental team members are properly cross trained, they can confidently and effectively step in for colleagues whenever necessary. The problem is, while dentists love the idea of cross training, most simply don’t take the time to really prepare their team members to fill in for absent co-workers, and that can lead to a lot of frustration while also damaging the practice.

Dentists often expect their team members to instinctively know what to do in these situations (especially if they’re experienced or have been with the office for years) and for the practice to run smoothly no matter who is out sick or on vacation. Unfortunately, that just isn’t realistic.

For cross training to be effective in your practice, you need to establish certain protocols and prepare your team members to take over duties beyond the scope of their job when needed. Let me give you an example. Let’s say your Scheduling Coordinator, Linda, has been with your practice for a while. She’s great at educating patients about the treatment they need and she keeps your schedule running like a well-oiled machine. Linda is truly one of your rock star employees, and it seems like she can do just about anything.

After you found out your Financial Coordinator took another job out of state, you put Linda in charge of making collection calls (with very minimal training) as well as other responsibilities while you looked for a replacement. You were confident she could handle the extra work - she’s great with patients, after all, and always willing do to her part to help move the practice forward.

The problem is, Linda doesn’t really know much about collections and dreads making these calls. The previous Financial Coordinator spent about 15 minutes talking with Linda about the role before she left, but the “training” was rushed and Linda didn’t have the opportunity to ask many questions. To help reduce Linda’s workload, you tasked two other team members with making calls as well, thinking it would help. It didn’t. A few months later, you’ve noticed collections are down and so is team morale.

Unfortunately, this is a common approach to cross training that I see play out in many practices. Team members get a crash course in a colleague’s responsibilities or are expected to just take over without any training at all. As you might imagine, this causes more problems than it solves. It comes down to this: When everyone has their hands in everything, no one is accountable for anything. This ultimately results in conflict, confusion and a variety of other problems that hold your practice back.

You’re probably wondering what you can do to properly cross train your team. It starts with results-oriented job descriptions. I know what you’re thinking, job descriptions are a waste of time - but I’m here to tell you they’re not. They provide your team members with a roadmap to success, and make it clear who’s responsible for which tasks. Instead of just being expected to fill in when needed, employees can really take ownership of their role. They’ll do their part to meet and even exceed the clearly outlined performance measurements, leading to more productive, happier team members and a healthier bottom line for your practice.

To create effective job descriptions, sit down with your team members and ask for their input. This gets your employees involved in the process and shows them you value their opinion. Be sure every job description includes:

- The job title
- A summary of the position
- List of the position’s responsibilities and duties

It’s also a good idea to add:
- Individual performance goals that complement practice goals, such as maximizing the hygiene schedule, increasing the collections ratio, growing case acceptance and improving accounts receivables.

- Standards for measuring results. Let’s say you expect the front desk staff to schedule to meet specific production goals. For this to happen, they need to know what those goals are as well as receive proper training. This will help ensure their success.

You want your team members to be able to step in and help out when necessary, whether someone is out sick or you find yourself with an unexpected opening. You just have to remember that to do this effectively, they must have the proper training. As nice as it would be, they won’t just automatically know what to do. But if you give them the training and tools they need to succeed, your practice can stay productive and on track to meet established goals, even when you’re short on staff.

Next week: Are your team members ready to step up?

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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