Why Donít Your Employees Measure Up?
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 they have goals 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 among doctors 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 where 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 four key steps.
Step #1 - Create specific job descriptions for each employee. This can be the ideal tool to explain to employees exactly what is expected of them. Define the job that each staff member is responsible for performing. Specify the skills the person in the position should have. Outline the specific duties and responsibilities of the job. Include the job title, a summary of the position, and a list of job duties.
You can purchase downloadable and customizable job descriptions on my website HERE.
Step #2 - Create a culture for success. Provide the necessary equipment and tools to perform the job. Provide training to help team members carry out the job duties most effectively. If your expectation is that your scheduling coordinator be accountable for scheduling to a specific daily, weekly, or monthly goal, s/he will likely need some professional training to learn how to effectively communicate with patients. S/he will need to learn about the pros and cons of blocking the schedule and the importance of monitoring the unscheduled treatment reports. Success is created, it doesn’t just happen.
Explain what is expected of employees and how their performance will be measured. If you expect your assistants to achieve an 85% case acceptance, they need to know this. If it’s your expectation that they give a daily report on post-treatment calls, they need to be told. If you expect them to convert 75% of emergency patients to comprehensive exam patients and to keep the cost of dental supplies at no more than 5% of practice collections, make sure that direction is abundantly clear.
Step #3 - What gets measured gets done. Appraise employee performance using an effective performance appraisal instrument that evaluates key areas such as:
• The employee’s ability to follow instructions
Step #4 - Give ongoing direction and constructive feedback. Too many dentists ignore issues indefinitely or wait until there’s a serious problem or crisis before they give staff any feedback. Be specific. Don’t candy-coat the feedback and don’t beat around the bush. Tell employees what they’re doing well and what needs to be adjusted. Give praise publicly, and if you must be critical of an employee’s actions do so privately.
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.
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email email@example.com
Communication - between leadership and team, team and patients, and the team with each other - can be a problem in many offices. Employee benefits, practice hours, office policies, informing patients that you will no longer be taking their insurance or that you are taking new insurances, asking for patient referrals, informing patients that they are due for a hygiene appointment or that they still have treatment to be completed...the list goes on.
Patients may also communicate complaints - perhaps about something that was said by your staff, how many notices they get for their appointments or a specific situation that made them unhappy. In these situations, you as the leader have to talk to your team members. Are you and your staff trained to have a successful communication process that ends with a positive outcome?
Communication skills are not always given the focus and training that they deserve. Whether verbal, non-verbal or written, communication is what makes our world go round, and it may be the one thing that stops your office from being the top practice in your area. In dentistry, we depend on our patients to return on a regular basis. What is said, the tone in which it is said, and possibly even the way a letter is worded can change someone’s perception of your practice - even if they are a long time patient.
The most important communication system we have with our patients is the recall system. Whether it’s to have them come in to see the doctor or the hygienist, it is one of the ways we keep the schedule full. It is also one of the most neglected systems in many practices. The recall system is 100% dependent on communication. It keeps your patients on schedule, and if they get off schedule it is also what keeps them walking through the front door and choosing to have treatment done.
With the many ways we have to communicate with patients, the recall system of today is much more sophisticated than it used to be. We now have outside sources, like Sesame Communications, that can help us with our recall system by sending text messages, phone calls, and emails to remind your patients of upcoming appointments. However, you want to make sure you are aware of how the recall system works before you choose to utilize an outside source. Not all recall systems are created equal.
Some outside sources are not set up to do as much as others. Choosing an outside source to help with your recall system can be like hiring another employee (but without as much cost). You want to make sure the entire team is aware of the way the recall system works before it is implemented. With so many different avenues for us to communicate with each other, it‘s important to use the best option for each individual patient.
Communication is critical in all aspects of the dental experience. The entire team is responsible for educating patients about the recall system. This is your way of retaining patients and keeping them in the chair, instead of walking out the back door or getting lost in cyberspace. We need to be conscious of what we say, how we say it, and the tone we say it in when speaking to each other or to patients. The best thing an office can do is to continually practice improving communication skills and providing a positive experience. Be confident, honest, and thorough with all forms - whether it is nonverbal, verbal, or written.
Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask us about our 1-Day Hygiene Training Program or call 877-777-6151
Is Your Practice Psychologically Safe?
Physical safety is our most basic human need. As the dental leader, it is your responsibility to provide an environment for your staff and patients that does not have serious hazards. This is so important that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets standards for maintaining a safe workplace for employees. I am confident that you know the importance of proper medical waste and sharps disposal. You abide by a sterilization plan. Your practice has accessible building exits and restricted areas to limit employee exposure to x-rays. There is no doubt in my mind that you want to prevent injuries and save lives.
When people think about occupational health and safety, the first things that come to mind are usually associated with physical injury or illness. Just as physical safety is important, so is psychological safety. Leadership guru Warren Bennis first introduced ‘psychological safety’ in the 1960s to mean being able to give your opinion without fear of reprisal. Psychological safety endorses the concept that employees learn and perform better when there is respect and acceptance. Embracing this idea means creating an environment where team members feel comfortable enough to acknowledge their own weaknesses, voice their gaps in knowledge, and ask for help when they need it.
Over the past 30 years, research has shown that in order for businesses to thrive, leaders need to ensure that employees feel psychologically safe. Without it, disastrous consequences can happen. For example, on February 2, 2003, the space shuttle Columbia broke up as it returned to Earth, killing the seven astronauts on board. The NASA investigation determined that a large piece of foam fell from the shuttle's external tank and fatally breached the spacecraft wing. This problem with foam had been known for years and one of the key management reasons for the failure to disclose this was the fear that scientists had to tell top leadership.
Do you know the warning signs of a psychologically UNSAFE workplace?
• Increased conflict among coworkers
Psychological safety is at the heart of good leadership. Research shows that companies with a high degree of it do better financially – and no wonder! In the best of worlds, psychological safety starts at the top and is filtered down.
Creating a psychologically safe workplace starts with you, the dental leader. Take an inventory of yourself and your behaviors. Are you doing and/or saying things that are getting in the way of building safety? Employees watch you. You are the role model who sets the standard for office behavior. I guarantee that you will not get top performance out of any employee who does not trust you. If they don't trust you to make the best decisions AND trust you to look out for their best interests, your staff will feel that they have to do it themselves. The time they spend looking out for #1 erodes team cohesion, decreases productivity, and reduces the quality of patient care. Remember, staff that care for others will only continue do so if they feel supported and cared for themselves.
Take an inventory of your team.
• Do employees openly and readily disclose their opinions?
Although no team is perfect and even the best teams sometimes struggle with one or more of these issues, the best dental practices constantly work to ensure that their answers are “yes”.
If you want your practice to thrive, develop an environment that maximizes collaboration and unity. The foundation of strong teamwork is trust, and trust is about vulnerability. Team members who trust one another are comfortable being open about their failures, weaknesses and fears. That is psychological safety. And that is the foundation on which you can to build a strong practice.
To strengthen leadership and teamwork in your office, contact Dr. Haller at email@example.com
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here
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