5.20.11 Issue #480 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Eliminate the Costly “Learning Curve” For New Hires
by Sally McKenzie CEO

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“Ellen, we would like to offer you the job.” There is a sense of excitement and hope when a new employee comes on board, as well as a fair amount of uncertainty. In most cases, dental teams want to see new hires do well. The problem is that too often, many well-intentioned doctors and staff unwittingly undermine the new employee’s success. They sit back and hope the new hire is smart enough to pick things up quickly, is sharp enough to figure out systems, and is savvy enough to integrate seamlessly into the practice culture. All eyes are on the employee - will they be able to handle it?


In actuality, dentists and their teams need to turn the spotlight on themselves. Once the new employee is hired, that person’s success or failure is contingent upon the people and the processes in place, specifically what is referred to in the corporate world as “onboarding.” It begins when the chosen individual accepts the job, which may be weeks before they actually start in the practice, and it continues through the employee’s first year.

Study after study shows that investing in a new employee’s success can pay huge dividends, including improving employee performance nearly 12% and enabling them to achieve much higher productivity a full two months sooner than others. And don’t overlook the fact that onboarding significantly reduces employee turnover, which can cost anywhere from 30-400% of an employee’s annual salary, depending on the position. 

If you are about to enter what you hope will be a long-term employment partnership with a quality hire, take these steps to bring them onboard effectively.  

  1. Begin the “onboarding” process for a new employee when s/he accepts the offer. Don’t wait until his/her first day in the office. Send the individual a welcome packet and a token gift, such as a small gift basket with specialty coffees and teas. Include a welcome letter from the doctor and team that indicates you are excited to have this person join your staff. Provide information about the practice, the doctors, the team, the mission and goals of the office. Include brochures about services provided and the last few practice newsletters. Explain what they can expect the first day. And don’t forget to include the employee’s job description. They should have received a copy during the interview, but this is a good time to send it again.
  2. Encourage the employee to complete paperwork and review the office policy manual prior to the first day. If possible, set up an employee portal on the practice website where the new hire can review documents such as the policy manual, complete necessary forms, and submit necessary information electronically.
  3. Assign a “practice liaison” to contact the employee to welcome her/him on behalf of the staff and be available if the new hire has questions. This person can be vital in providing information such as what is the best route to the office, where are the best places to lunch in the neighborhood, where should they park or where can public transportation be accessed, etc. The liaison should invite the employee to join them for lunch the first day and help to ensure that their questions are answered.
  4. When the new hire arrives, ensure that the workspace is ready and s/he has necessary supplies to do the job, such as a computer, email account, passwords, etc. Order business cards and discuss the employee’s upcoming training schedule.
  5. Make the first day a positive experience. If possible, schedule a brief staff meeting that day to give the team the opportunity to personally welcome the new hire to the practice. Post a welcome sign in the breakroom along with bagels and fruit to celebrate the occasion. Take time to reiterate the vision and mission and the importance of the new employee’s job in fulfilling that practice mission.
  6. Provide ongoing feedback and regularly scheduled performance reviews at 30 days, 90 days, and on the anniversary of the hire. Do not wait until a problem arises. Give praise often and clear direction daily. Do not assume that the employee knows how your office handles specific tasks, even if s/he has past dental office experience. Continue to assess and provide training opportunities to fill skill gaps and enable the employee to reach her/his full potential.

Invest in a strong onboarding process upfront, and you will save yourself countless headaches and likely thousands of dollars in the long run.

Want more of me? Click here to visit my blog, The Lighter Side, for more Dental Practice Management info.

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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Jean Gallienne RDH BS
Hygiene Consultant
McKenzie Management
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Patients Will Always Need To Be Educated
By Jean Gallienne, RDH BS

In college, one of the first things we are taught as hygienists is how to educate our patients on the skills of brushing, flossing, and other oral hygiene aids that will help increase the overall health of their mouth. This is great information that we will take into our practices and utilize every day for the rest of our careers. However, the education of our patients does not stop with oral hygiene instruction. It also involves educating the patients about their restorative needs, periodontal disease, and preventative care needs. We also have to continually educate our patients about the constant changes to their insurance benefits (or should I say lack of benefits), because employers continue to cut costs by offering insurance plans that provide less and less benefit to the patient.

Are we going to lower our standards of care because of changes in insurance coverage? I hope not. We need to help our patients with utilizing their insurance benefits to the maximum possible, but it is our ethical responsibility to the patients to educate them about their specific dental needs, and provide them with all the information needed to make an informed decision.

There are two codes that are used on a regular basis when billing out root planing, and they specifically state that root planing procedures are not prophylactic in nature. So, for those of you that are doing a cleaning after root planning, the new trend for many insurance companies is to deny this procedure if it is not more than 90 days after the root planing. So when is the hygienist supposed to clean the areas of the mouth that are within normal limits and not periodontally involved, which need prophylactic care and not periodontal therapy/treatment? Three months from the root planing should be the first periodontal maintenance appointment. Not a prophylaxis, according to the codes.

The example of a cleaning after root planing is just one example of procedures that may not be covered by insurance. Adult fluoride, placement of chemotherapeutic agents, more than two cleanings, more than two periodontal maintenances, and night guards are a few more. This doesn’t mean that the patient does not need the treatment. It does mean that the patient needs to be educated about why they need and want to not only have the treatment completed, but pay for it out of their own pocket. 

Educating patients about insurance benefit limitations is crucial and needs to be done by the entire staff. Of course, the financial coordinator is the person that will go over specifics when it comes to the patients treatment plan and out of pocket expenses. It is also the financial coordinator that will help in educating the staff about the constant changes and challenges that are happening when it comes to billing and getting paid by insurance companies. There are thousands of plans and there is no way to know all of the limitations. However, it is important to know how the majority of insurance companies are handling payment and even more importantly, non-payment for services rendered.

The perfect time to educate the patient about areas that are not covered by insurance and reiterate the need for the treatment regardless of insurance limitations, is while doing the treatment that is covered by insurance and that the patient has committed to do. This may be as easy as telling the patient at the last root planing appointment:

Sandy, your next treatment is a (fine scale, prophylaxis, or whatever name your staff is calling a cleaning). We have finished the active phase of the periodontal treatment, but we still need to treat the teeth that are not infected. Unfortunately your insurance may not cover this, but it is the one time that I will be able to work on the areas of your mouth that are not infected and return to site-specific areas that still need some more attention now that there has been some healing.” 

The main thing is for the assistant, hygienist, and doctor to help inform the patients about what treatment is needed, and why it is recommended regardless of the insurance limitations. It is the responsibility of the financial coordinator to inform the patient if the insurance is going to cover all or none of the treatment.

The more the patient is educated about their needs, the more likely they are to accept not only the treatment that is covered, but the treatment that they have to pay for out of pocket.

Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email hygiene@mckenziemgmt.com and ask us about our 1-Day Hygiene Training Program.

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Imprive your hygiene performance one day... in your office

Nancy Haller, P.h. D.
Leadership Coach
McKenzie Management
coach@ mckenziemgmt.com
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Team Dysfunction: Five Steps to Get Your Team on Track
Nancy Haller, Ph.D., Leadership Coach McKenzie Management

The two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers were swept out of the NBA playoffs this year. It was a humiliating 4-0 loss. The issue wasn’t so much that the Dallas Mavericks were a better team. If you watched any of the series you saw flagrant fouls that were deplorable and disgraceful. Even Phil Jackson, the most winning coach with a collection of 11 championship rings, was fined by the league for his comments about officiating. As a long-time Laker fan, I was sad to see a talented group of people fall apart at the seams.

You may not be Dr. Jerry Buss, majority owner of the Lakers, but getting the ‘dys’ out of your team’s function is essential for your success. Here are five steps that help energize your staff and get them back to winning.

  1. As the dental leader, take 100% responsibility for your team falling apart and start changing your leadership behaviors today. If you are sitting and waiting for things to improve then you are not a leader, you are a follower. Stop griping about how Mary isn’t carrying her weight or that she has an ongoing tiff with Jane. Wishing and hoping isn’t going to change things. It’s time to get some backbone, look in the mirror and ask yourself: “What am I doing or not doing that is causing this team to fall apart?” You’re the one in charge and you need to take command, albeit diplomatically.
  2. Provide structure and hold people accountable. Get in there and establish clear expectations and standards for performance. Winning teams know what to do and how to do it, and they are held accountable to that process. After all, teamwork is about individuals setting aside their needs for the good of the whole. Certainly you want to empower your staff, but this doesn’t mean letting them do their own thing. It’s necessary to have a dependable system and processes in place. These create commitment.
  3. Meet individually with each employee and develop a plan for the next six months. Each person on your team has responsibilities. Just like a winning coach, let your employees know when they miss a “play.” Fairly and respectfully, identify the gaps between expected and actual performance. Listen openly to what they tell you. Involve them in finding solutions. Help them to improve in areas that need attention. By teaching and training your employees, you enable them to align with your expectations. When each person understands and executes his/her role, it leads to a winning team. Be sure to monitor performance.
  4. Develop team synergy. Teams that “win” work hard, but they’ll tell you they are having the time of their lives. They get the job done, and at the end of the day they celebrate. Sit down with your team and brainstorm on how to get stronger by using creativity and how to make it fun.  Most leaders never sit down and talk about how they are going to get better and have fun doing it.  When the fun stops, teams fall apart. They lose their spirit. So, get in there - work hard, and play hard!
  5. Get rid of the dead beats. It’s never easy to let someone go, but it is the right thing to do if that's the employee’s "choice." Yes, it is his or her choice. Once you’ve clarified job responsibilities and performance expectations, document it. If it’s necessary to have a second conversation about poor performance, have the employee sign a written warning. Then empower the employee to create his/her own destiny. Their actions will signal their "choice." Show support. Reward them for progress, or release them from a situation that neither party is happy with.

If your team is marred by dysfunction, contact Dr. Nancy Haller. She’ll help you to turn them into a team that excels together.

Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at coach@mckenziemgmt.com

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

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