10.31.14 Issue #660 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

3 Ways to Improve Employee Performance and Reduce Overhead
By Sally McKenzie, CEO

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As you get caught up in the day-to-day routine that comes with owning a dental practice, focusing on everything you need to do to keep the practice running smoothly, it can be easy to forget just how important your team members are to your practice’s success, as well as your role in providing the proper guidance. A properly trained, motivated team can help your practice flourish, while a team with no clear goals or direction can turn into your practice’s downfall.

In fact, if you haven’t taken the time to set clear expectations and performance goals, the team members you hired to contribute to your practice’s success are contributing to your overhead problem instead. Worse yet, they probably don’t even realize it, and even if they do, they certainly don’t know how to fix it.

As the CEO of your practice you have to step up and be a leader, even if the thought of it makes you uncomfortable. It’s your job to make sure every team member knows exactly what’s expected of them, and that they’re held accountable. Once you do this and everyone understands their role in the practice’s success, you’ll notice a drop in overhead and an increase in revenues, as well as a happier, more energized team. 

Here are three steps you can take to improve employee performance and in turn reduce practice overhead:

1. Provide clear job descriptions. In my experience, this is critical to every team members’ success. Just think about it. Job descriptions provide the game plan for you and your team, and outline your expectations. Through this vital tool, you can define exactly what each team member is responsible for and specify the skills necessary for success in each position. There’s no longer any question about who’s responsible for what, or pointing fingers when an important detail or task gets overlooked.

Remember, don’t overlap job duties when putting these descriptions together. When you overlap, you are giving employees tasks rather than responsibilities. You may not believe this, but team members actually want to be held accountable. They want to take ownership of the system they’re responsible for, but feel like they can’t if it isn’t truly theirs to oversee. This of course leads to frustration, and while tasks still might get done, they won’t necessarily be done right. If you put multiple employees in charge of collections or scheduling, for example, no one will be accountable for specific goals. That’s not in your practice’s best interest, and will only lead to inefficiencies, confusion and increased overhead costs.

Rather than overlapping job duties, cross-train your team. That way you know each area has coverage when the point person is out sick or on vacation, yet that person is still ultimately accountable for the system’s success.

2. Establish individual performance goals that complement practice goals. Sit down with every employee to set individual performance goals, and make sure they understand how reaching these goals not only benefits them, but also the practice. What types of goals should you set? For starters, aim to increase the collections ratio, improve accounts receivables, expand production, reduce the time it takes to prepare treatment rooms and improve clinical skills.

When you’re setting these individual goals, believe me, it’s not enough to just tell the front desk to improve the collections ratio. You have to set a target number and put a plan in place to reach it. So if you want collections to be at 98%, make sure the team member in charge of collections is aware of your goal, and help him or her develop a strategy to get there, even if that means providing extra training. Want to improve the hygiene department? Task the Patient Coordinator with specific recall-related goals, such as making a certain number of patient calls per day, scheduling a specific number of appointments, ensuring a certain number of patients complete treatment, and scheduling to ensure hygienists produce 3 times their daily wages.

I can’t stress this enough: For this to work, you have to hold employees accountable. Provide the job expectations in writing, and rate employees on those expectations. Once you do, you’ll notice major progress toward your practice goals and a reduction in overhead.

3. Provide performance reviews. I can almost hear you groaning, and I know why. No one likes those yearly performance reviews where you sit down with team members individually, take out your list, and painstakingly go over what they’ve done right and what they’ve done wrong in the last 12 months.

But that doesn’t mean you should give up on performance reviews all together. The best performance reviews are actually more like coaching encounters. You structure them as positive interactions that are part of an ongoing performance measurement system that includes regular employer/employee feedback and system monitoring. 

Instead of giving out raises just because, use these performance reviews to determine pay bumps. Like I stressed in last week’s article, this will make a big difference in your payroll costs, and therefore your overhead costs. Your staff may be resistant at first, but team members rated against objective measures will place more trust and confidence in the process. And when their performance goals complement practice objectives, they’ll also see the relationship between their performance and the practice’s success, as well as their potential for advancement and raises.

Your team members don’t want to be left wondering what their role is in your practice. They want to take ownership of and be held accountable for systems, not spend their time trying to read your mind. They want to make positive contributions to your practice, the type of contributions that reduce overhead costs and increase revenues. All you have to do is offer guidance, open communication and the tools they need for success. 

For more 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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Jean Gallienne RDH BS
McKenzie Management
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Reinforcing Hygiene
By Jean Gallienne, RDH BS

It is important for dental hygienists to help support the doctor’s treatment plans and educate patients about their needs. It is equally important for the entire team to understand the importance of patient hygiene appointments. Recall is an ongoing internal system, and the doctor is one of the most important team members when it comes to reinforcing the recall system to patients.

With the recall system, we are not only texting, emailing, and mailing reminders to patients. We are also sending messages when they are overdue for their hygiene appointment, and the recall person is working diligently to make contact with patients via telephone to get them scheduled. This is all great, but the most effective way to communicate with people is face-to-face. Telephone is next, and then written. Now, we are not going to knock on patients’ doors to remind them of their appointments or get them scheduled. However, there are often many missed opportunities happening in the office.

“Tom Jones” was just in the office because he was having sensitivity on the upper right. The doctor took a look at Tom’s mouth and found he had a cracked tooth that was going to need a crown. The patient received his estimated portion from the treatment plan coordinator and was scheduled for the crown in a couple of weeks.

This is great. However, nobody bothered to mention to Tom that he is overdue for his periodontal maintenance appointment. Since this was never mentioned by the doctor, assistant or treatment plan coordinator, the perceived value of the importance for Tom to stay on his regular recall has decreased.

The best scenario would be the following: At the morning meeting, the assistant informs the entire staff that Tom is overdue for his periodontal maintenance appointment, and that he does not have one scheduled at this time. The assistant also notes that Tom’s youngest daughter is due for her hygiene appointment in three days, and is not yet scheduled. The assistant has all of this information at her fingertips because the office uses route slips, and the team prepares for the morning meeting by reviewing the patients coming in the day before.

Now when Tom comes in, the doctor looks at the sensitive area and also confirms that Tom is overdue for his periodontal maintenance appointment. The doctor emphasizes the importance of staying on top of the hygiene appointments to help reduce the risk of gum disease destroying even more bone support. The doctor also lets Tom know his daughter will be due in a couple of days, and maybe they can schedule his periodontal maintenance appointment on the same day to save a trip. Tom is also informed of the need for a crown because of the cracked tooth.

When he is taken to the treatment plan coordinator by the assistant, she reinforces (out loud and in writing on the route slip) that Tom and his daughter are in need of hygiene appointments. The treatment plan coordinator goes over the treatment needed in addition to the periodontal maintenance, and encourages Tom to make not only the crown appointment but the hygiene appointments that are needed as well.

Regardless of how busy your hygiene department is, it’s important to seize every chance we have to create value for patients to maintain their periodontal health. This is best done when patients are in the office, face-to-face with not only the doctor but the entire team. You don’t want to be the office that missed an opportunity!

Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email hygiene@mckenziemgmt.com and ask us about our 1-Day Hygiene Training Program or call 877-777-6151

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Nancy Haller, Ph.D.
Leadership Coach
McKenzie Management
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Course Correct with Staff
By Nancy Haller, Ph.D.

From time to time you will be disappointed when one of your staff doesn’t meet performance expectations. It may be something rather small, such as the waste baskets weren’t emptied. It could be more significant – the hygienist didn’t come close to her daily production goals. The biggest challenge in communication occurs when we are under stress and have an expectation that is not met. If we try to talk in the heat of the moment, we can say things that we later regret. Therefore, it is best to wait and think it through.

At the core of these situations is a timeless management debate…do employees want to do a good job and be productive, or do they want to get by with as little work as possible? The former is more likely to be true most of the time. My experience is that people are inherently good and want to succeed, even if it is not obvious to others. And studies also have shown that the number one factor affecting an employee’s performance is his/her relationship with their boss. Before you do or say anything to the employee, be careful that you are not misjudging his or her actions. Remember that this person is most likely operating from a positive intention, despite falling short of meeting your needs and expectations. Employees need feedback.

Feedback is communication regarding the effect that a person’s behavior has on another individual and/or group. The term ‘feedback’ was originally borrowed from electrical engineering. In the field of rocket science, for example, each rocket has a built-in apparatus that sends messages to a steering mechanism on the ground. When the rocket is off target, these messages come back to the steering mechanism that in turn makes adjustments and puts the rocket back on target again. 

Feedback then tells us whether we are ‘on course’ – keep doing what you’re doing, it’s working – or provides us with information to put us back ‘on course’.  The problem is, most people associate the term ‘feedback’ to mean criticism rather than information. As such, it is met with reluctance or anxiety, or simply avoided. Yet, the process of giving and receiving feedback is one of the most important communication tools you have to keep your office efficient and profitable.   

Here are some steps for feedback:

1. THINK through the main idea you want to express. Organize supporting thoughts or facts so they lead to your main point. By being concise and clear you increase the likelihood that you have a positive impact and your message will be heard.

2. BE POSITIVE AND CALM. Make good eye contact. Start the conversation by identifying something(s) you sincerely appreciate about the person. Then define the current issue in concrete terms. Address behaviors, not personalities. Be direct in a non-aggressive manner. Stick to the issue at hand. Avoid bringing in other business or old problems.

3. NEGOTIATE. Ask the person for their feedback. By requesting their input, you build a “win-win” atmosphere. Remain non-judgmental. Show concern and avoid interrupting. Listen for main thoughts or ideas, particularly with people who include a lot of detail or tend to ramble. Paraphrase what they have said if you need clarification, or simply to confirm understanding.

Here’s a situation and a script to consider. Imagine you told your Patient Coordinator, Carol, that you don’t want to schedule patients six months in advance any longer. You just found out she is still doing this.

1. Carol, do you have a few minutes to talk? Always ask permission to talk. Be sensitive that the other person may not be available to give you full attention at that time.
2. First, I want to thank you for being so diligent in scheduling patients so we can meet our daily production goals.
3. Do you remember when we discussed the new recall system? Pause to ensure understanding and clarify as needed.
4. I was surprised when I realized that you were still scheduling patients six months out. Can you give me some idea about why you aren’t using the new recall system? Stop and listen. Ask open-ended questions to draw out thoughts and feelings.
5. Was there anything I could have done differently/better to help you? Try to understand it from Carol’s point of view.
6. Let’s talk again in a week and see how you are doing with this. Thanks Carol. 

Recognize that mistakes will happen. That’s how people learn. Be prepared to give consistent and timely feedback, both positive and developmental. Keep your eye on the big picture – a more productive practice. By communicating in this way with employees, you are on the road to increasing quality results!

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

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

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