How to Effectively Cross Train Your Team
Many dentists have an idealistic perception of cross training. They tend to think that just because team members have been with them for years, they can step in and take on tasks whenever needed – whether that means making collections calls, managing the schedule or answering patient phone calls. Their team members can magically take care of anything that needs to be done, and they can do so confidently and effectively.
Sounds nice, but that isn’t reality. Why? It’s simple. When everyone is expected to do everything, no one is truly accountable for anything. This leads to confusion and excuses, like “I thought that was her responsibility” or “I didn’t know we did that” when certain tasks don’t get done.
Now, let me be clear. There are many benefits to cross training when it’s implemented correctly. There will be days when team members call in sick or take vacation. You might even find yourself with an unexpected open position that is difficult to fill. In all these scenarios you need team members to feel comfortable helping out and taking on tasks that aren’t typically on their to-do list.
Another benefit of cross training? It helps give your team members a better understanding of the big picture and how their contributions benefit the practice. It also helps them understand what other team members do each day, giving them more respect for their co-workers.
The problem is, team members can’t just step in and help out until you’ve established a clear delineation of duties. You can’t begin to cross train your team until you’ve designated specific team members to be responsible for specific systems, and provided them with the training they need to succeed.
Let me give you an example. You’ve just developed a new job description for your business employee, Lisa. Through the job description, Lisa knows she’s responsible for cash flow management, which includes processing insurance, treatment financing, collections and financial presentations. You’ve also outlined in the job description that you expect her to develop a new patient protocol, measure hygiene production and develop telephone techniques.
That’s great, but your work isn’t done. Sure, you’ve spelled out exactly what you want Lisa to do, but that doesn’t mean she’s prepared to effectively perform those tasks. No matter how much experience she has or how bright and energetic she is, she won’t be successful if you don’t also provide her with the proper training and tools she needs to perform those duties.
Remember, the single biggest contributor to practice inefficiency and mismanagement is a poorly trained team. And if you’re talking about business staff, the lack of guidance can cost you thousands of dollars every year, killing your bottom line and keeping your practice from meeting its full potential.
Many dentists say they don’t have time for training, but the fact is properly training your staff will save you a lot of time, frustration and money down the road. And cost shouldn’t be a barrier either. There’s plenty of affordable educational options available today.
Not sure where to get started? I suggest investing in job-specific instruction to ensure your team members can perform their duties effectively. This training is vital to your practice’s success and will go a long way in boosting staff morale. They’ll feel more confident in their abilities, and because they know you’re willing to invest in them, they’ll be more likely to remain dedicated, loyal employees for years to come.
Once your team members are professionally trained, I recommend that you make ongoing internal training part of your practice culture. How? Add it to your monthly staff meeting. This gives team members the opportunity to educate each other on their specific systems.
Need a few ideas? Let’s say one of your business employees is ready to establish telephone protocols. Set aside time during the staff meeting for this employee to teach everyone proper telephone techniques. Ask your business manager to teach team members how to schedule to meet production goals. Have your hygienist talk about how to build a rapport with patients. Team up with your assistant to teach the rest of the team how to answer common questions about a new procedure you just implemented.
This cross training will help ensure team members understand what role others play in the practice, as well as prepare them to effectively take over tasks outside their typical duties when needed.
Remember, for cross training to be successful, you have to develop a foundation of thorough and professional training. This focus on training will not only help keep the practice running smoothly when employees are out, it will lead to a more productive, confident team – and that means an increase in production numbers and your bottom line.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
What Do You Want?
Your office may or may not have great interviewing skills. Perhaps you are using the tools available from McKenzie Management when hiring new employees, such as Online Employee Testing or the How to Hire book. However, even if you hire a seemingly “perfect” employee, if they do not know your expectations, office policies, or what job they are responsible for, you may have hired the wrong person.
The first interview typically screens potential employees to see if they deserve a second interview. Hiring a person based on their previous experience and ability to show up to work on time is not enough. If you are hiring a person to work the front desk, for example, experience is not the only qualification you want. How they handle different aspects of the job and what the applicant feels they excel at are just a few of the items you need to learn about the person in front of you. Interviewing is a process that requires a lot of attention.
It’s important to have your team cross trained to help cover for each other when somebody is sick, on vacation, or the office is extremely busy. However, it is equally important for there to be accountability for individual responsibilities. If you are hiring a person and their specific responsibility is to work recall and keep the schedule full, make sure they are aware of this before you hire them. A person who is extremely qualified but hates to work recall is not the person to hire if recall is the job’s number one priority.
It is important to have the written job description available for candidates to review. Make sure they are aware of what their raises and reviews will be based on. If you are looking for a hygienist who is periodontally oriented, for example, make sure this is what you hire. Have the candidate explain to you what type of patient warrants root planing. What pocket depth should they have? What bleeding determines? How often should a patient be probed? There are countless questions and scenarios that may be created.
When interviewing, provide case studies and ask questions about the patient’s recommended treatment. How would the interviewee handle a particular situation? Ask “what if” questions. Provide actual patient information (omitting names) and see how the job candidate would handle that specific person. This may be done with any position.
If you are hiring someone to do treatment plans, have a mock phone call to hear them go over a treatment plan. If they are hired to answer phones, work recall and handle the schedule, have them do some role playing situations. Many people dislike role playing, but this allows you to see how they react to negative situations.
For example – as the person in charge of recall, what if you have a patient cancel in the hygiene schedule while you are currently working on another project. What would you do? What if a patient is in your chair who has 4 and 5 millimeter pocketing and is bleeding heavily during their 3-month recall appointment? Once the candidate has passed the “what if” scenarios and questions about specific situations, this is when you share the actual office job description and/or office policy manual.
Your practice philosophy and what you expect of your new hire will make a difference in the answers you look for during the interview. This is why it’s so important to have job descriptions and office policies/protocols in place when it comes to the care of the patients. However, if you as the leader do not know what you want, it is hard for your staff to provide the quality of care and service you expect them to perform for your patients. Leading by example is always the best type of leadership in a practice.
Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email email@example.com and ask us about our 1-Day Hygiene Training Program or call 877-777-6151
Learning Leadership from Leaders
No matter which side of the political fence you live on, President Obama has exemplified many leadership attributes to emulate. The litmus test of a successful leader is getting things done, and the President has shown his ability to move his agenda forward. Obama's healthcare reform is still unfolding, and numerous kinks are being worked out, but nonetheless it is law. Gay marriage is legal in every state. The United States is less dependent on foreign oil than it was when he became president. Healthcare, oil prices, marriage? These are some of the most controversial subjects in the American conversation. As a leader, how does Obama confront so much controversy without sacrificing results?
1. Personal risks. Obama's reputation as a master orator pales in comparison to what he is willing to do as an average singer. He spoke at Tucson after the shooting and at the Sandy Hook Elementary School after the killings. He spoke at the funeral of Senator Daniel Inouye. He spoke at Nelson Mandela's eulogy. You may not remember what he said at any of these events. But when he sang "Amazing Grace" in front of the world, you remember it. He showed us he's able to be himself, just as he is. In showing his average singing voice, he took a personal risk in order to create a memorable message. Taking personal, public risks shows how much you care about your message as a leader.
2. Repeat after “we.” Whether he's talking about the death of Osama bin Laden or more recently, eulogizing the Honorable Reverend Clementa Pinckney, Obama's change language is framed using “us” and “we.” This isn't just politics. Using the plural first person, instead of I, invites you to identify with him. Think of your own leadership. Sometimes it can be hard for your staff to identify with you too, right? By framing your position in terms of “us” and “we,” you invoke the power of a possible shared social identity with your team.
3. Believe. Obama's campaign used the slogan “change we can believe in.” Belief in change is a fundamental, foundational quality of his leadership. No matter which controversial topic Obama is taking a stand on today, chances are he comes across as believable to many of the people he’s asking to support the stance. When people are asked if they think Obama is a good leader, they consistently report, yes. When asked why, they state, “because you can see he really believes it and he's really fed up.” This quality of believing passionately in the change you are seeking – politically, socially, or in business – has power even when many are against you.
4. Out communicate your competition. In 2008, Obama was awarded Marketer of the Year by Advertising Age. His policies were online and as they evolved, they were updated by email and text. He had an online call tool that helped supporters make millions of calls from personal computers. Today, Obama keeps talking on multiple channels including video, network news, talk shows, personal appearances, web cams – you name it. An incredible commitment to communicating in the media his audience uses, even over-communicating, is an Obama trademark. Do you just send emails, or only communicate during staff meetings, or perhaps have your office manager communicate for you? Knowing your own preference in communication style is important. Knowing your audiences’ styles may even be more so.
5. Make endings into beginnings. When you're a leader with many aspirations, how do you keep momentum? Obama, when referencing the Affordable Healthcare Act, was quoted to say “This was a good day for America; let's get back to work.” He repeats that phrase “let's get back to work” hundreds of times. Classic Obama leadership celebrates ends with a beginning. Rather than rest on the laurels of any particular victory or mope about moments that didn't go his way, Obama uses circumstances to set up the next phase of his agenda. In business terms, you blew it out of the park this quarter? Awesome! But be sure to use this quarter's success to set up next quarter's quota. Even more so, Obama's leadership style in using the moment as a springboard for his message forwards his longer term agenda – meaning as he leaves office at the end of his term, he's accomplished a lot of the items in his leadership bucket list.
Be sure to know and outline the bucket list for your practice, for yourself as a leader, and for your people. Find ways to develop and enhance your leadership effectiveness so you can happily cross those things off your list.
Dr. Gale provides coaching and training to enhance leadership skills, interpersonal communications and team building. If you would like to learn more, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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