Can You Afford to Give Out Raises?
Giving out raises can be tricky business. You know your team members want and expect pay bumps from time to time, but you simply can’t increase salaries if practice revenues are down. When you tell employees you can’t afford to give out raises right now, they become frustrated and even start to resent you. They’re convinced you’re keeping all the money for yourself and that you don’t appreciate everything they do for the practice.
There’s no question figuring out how to balance the financial needs of the practice with the financial desires of the staff isn’t easy, but it’s necessary. Why? Some dentists give in to employee requests for raises even though they don’t have the money for it. They think an extra few dollars an hour couldn’t hurt. Unfortunately, they’re wrong.
Unless you want to send your overhead costs soaring, employee salaries must not exceed 22% of average monthly collections. That means you can’t give out raises just because employees ask, or give everyone on the team a bump in pay just because a year has gone by since the last increase. You have to make sure team members understand how they can earn raises and when they will be discussed. And that, doctor, starts with managing expectations.
It’s best to manage employee expectations from the very beginning, not six months after a new employee joins the team. From day one, make it clear when raises will be discussed and under what circumstances they’ll be given.
Here’s what I suggest you say:
Cindy, I’ll review your salary on your one-year employment anniversary. At that time, any increase in salary will be dependent on your performance and contributions to the practice, as well as the financial health of the business.
With this statement, you’ve made it clear that team members won’t receive a raise just because another year has gone by. They must meet certain performance measurements to earn a bump in pay.
Employees also must understand how their role fits into the overall success of the practice. That starts with detailed job descriptions and guidance from you, the practice CEO. It also includes regularly scheduled performance reviews and a commitment to giving team members feedback throughout the year, whether you see them exceling in their role or doing something wrong.
Let me give you an example of what you should include in a job description. If Cindy is your new dental assistant, her job description should list various tasks, such as attending the morning huddle, reinforcing the quality of dental care delivered, completing post treatment care calls, quickly turning the treatment room around and converting emergency patients into new patients.
This is all great, but you also need to spell out exactly how performance will be measured. Be specific. In the job description, make it clear that you expect 75% of emergency patients to be converted to comprehensive exams, and the cost of dental supplies should be kept at no more than 5% of practice collections. That way, Cindy knows exactly what’s expected of her and what she needs to do to earn a pay raise.
The problem is, just because Cindy is a valuable, contributing member of the team doesn’t mean you’ll be able to afford to give her a raise. Of course you want to reward your employees for their hard work, but if revenues are down, you simply can’t.
When this happens, remind employees that raises are also contingent upon the financial health of the practice. Make sure they understand practice economics. If you and your team regularly review the numbers in the monthly meetings like we talked about in last week’s article, everyone should know exactly where the practice’s monthly collections stand, and should be working together to make improvements that will make raises possible.
Another tip? Before you give out raises, I suggest conducting an Employee Salary Review. The review will only take about 10 minutes to complete and is time well spent. Once you’re done, you’ll know exactly how much money you need to bring in to cover pay increases, helping to ensure you keep salaries within that industry benchmark – no matter how tempted you are to give out raises even when you shouldn’t.
Here’s an example of why this benchmark is so important. If your current monthly collections are $48,325 and your existing salaries are $9,353, then a $2 hourly raise from $15 to $17 for your assistant, who works a 36 hour week, will increase existing salaries to $9,665. This is within the 20% industry benchmark.
But, if your current monthly collections are $39,000 and existing salaries are $9,353, that small $2 pay bump puts salaries at 24% of collections. That’s well above the industry standard and will leave you struggling to make ends meet.
Bottom line: You and your team members need to focus on strategies to bring in more money before the practice can afford to hand out any more. Need more guidance to help make that happen in your practice? Feel free to contact me. I’m happy to help.
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
Hygienists: Don’t Phone It In
After many years of working in the dental field, it is natural that we may begin to feel we have seen it all, treated it all, and explained it all. About a hundred times. On some days it is hard to summon much enthusiasm for discussing yet again, the dental problems resulting from oral bacteria. We get discouraged when we see a patient who has been with the office for decades continuing to insist that he flosses every day when we are viewing red, inflamed tissues and thick, gooey gingival plaque. It is disheartening when we ask a patient if she would like a sample floss and her response is that she still has the floss we gave her six months ago – especially when the sample floss containers we distribute have only six feet of floss! And really; how many times can we discuss brushing techniques?
Two weeks ago I had a patient tell me he did not want radiographs because he had read online that x-rays cause decay. While explaining (again) the nature and usefulness of radiographs in dentistry, I longed to simply say; “How can you possibly believe such a thing? If you don’t want the dentist to check your teeth completely, why did you come in for this appointment?!”
Of course I did not say this. But the urge was there nevertheless.
How can we combat this type of impulse; to be short, dismissive, or otherwise unprofessional with our patients? How can we keep our work “fresh” and our delivery of explanations enthusiastic? As long-time hygienists, how can we guard against giving in to the temptation to “phone it in” instead of giving our work our whole-hearted effort?
Here are four ideas:
1. When tackling patient discussions and explanations, pretend that you are playing a role in a play. Actors on the stage are required to recreate their roles nightly and sometimes for additional matinees. Each performance must be as enthusiastic as the first time the actor ever portrayed the part. After all, there are new people in the audience every night. If we adopt the role of a person who is excited to present dental explanations, we can sometimes convince ourselves we are more enthusiastic. If we present information in an animated way, patients listen better and may actually decide to make some changes in their oral health.
2. When treating patients, look at them as you do your personal friends or relatives, instead of just one more person to get through until the end of the day. We want the best for our family members and should want the best for all of our patients. If we focus on the fact that each of our patients is important to their own families, and that they are relying on us to always do our best, it can help us remember the importance of our work and what we do. This means always doing our best, even when our patients don’t act appreciative and even when we know that no one will ever actually realize the efforts we have made on their behalf this day. Doing the right thing means doing it all the time, even, and especially when, no one else is watching.
3. Keep abreast of new developments in the dental field. There are new ways of addressing many problems now available to us. If we don’t try to learn new methods and adapt to effective changes, we stagnate in our profession. A stagnate hygienist is not one who is happy and enthusiastic in his or her profession. A stagnate hygienist is also not likely to be providing the best treatment to patients. Attend dental courses, participate in webinars, read dental journals, sign up with chat/information websites, look into different instruments, and investigate new dental products. Keeping up with what is new and effective can help keep us fresh, while at the same time possibly providing better care for our patients.
4. Consciously take pride in your profession. We can be very proud of what we do. The work that we do helps people and it is easy for us to see its’ benefits. Someone who comes in with plaque and calculus leaves with a clean and sparkling mouth. A person who never understood the relationship between oral health and overall health leaves with knowledge of the mouth/body connections and how important their periodontal condition is to their general well-being. When we help identify a restorative need and the patient receives a beautiful crown, that person looks and feels much better. If a person is unhappy with their smile and we can help improve it, they can face the world with better self-confidence and higher self-esteem.
The hygiene profession is important to the world of healthcare. It is essential to being productive that we resist the temptation to sometimes “phone it in”. We owe it to ourselves and to others to remain as engaged as possible.
Carol Tekavec RDH is the Director of Hygiene for McKenzie Management. Carol can improve your hygiene department in just one day of training “in your office.” Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department? Email email@example.com.
3 Steps to Warming Up Your Practice Climate
Workplace climate is the atmosphere that employees and patients experience when they are in your office. Research across all industries indicates that a positive work climate can account for a nearly 30% increase in financial results. It also has been found that 50-70% of work climate is determined by the style of the leader. In other words, you have a HUGE impact on the workplace environment.
How would you categorize the climate in your practice these days?
If warfare, you’re in serious trouble. Conflict will drain productivity and cripple your practice. Wishing and hoping that it will go away is fantasy-thinking. Unaddressed conflict only increases in intensity. It results in marginal performance, creates poor patient service and ultimately drives out good employees. Workplace climate has been shown to be the single most important factor influencing employee well-being.
If your practice is experiencing negativity, stress, and poor employee attitudes, you’ve been negligent. Either you’re aggressive and model bad behavior, or you’ve stuck your head in the sand and allowed problems to fester and grow. The remedy is basic. Get to the root cause and ensure that all staff can work with dignity and respect in order to have a positive workplace experience.
Peaceful co-existence is better than warfare, but you still need to step up to the leadership plate. You’re getting less than optimal performance from your staff. Granted, the back-biting and snipping are absent and that’s a good thing. However, if your employees are merely ‘co-existing’ that means they’re doing just enough to get by. They’re watching the clock. They’re likely to be taking care of personal business on company time. Employees who co-exist don’t go the extra mile, for one another or for patients…or for you. They hold back the extra effort they could bring to their jobs.
If your practice climate is one of active mutual support, congratulations! You’ve enabled your employees to move from merely “doing tasks” to true “engagement.” The benefits of office unity are plentiful - improved patient care and service, increased job satisfaction and employee loyalty, stimulated creativity and profitability. Happy employees are more likely to accept ownership of their responsibilities, and much more inclined to do whatever it takes. Attracting patients is easier in an environment of hospitality.
The good news is that creating this kind of positive, enthusiastic climate is within your grasp. It takes strong leadership and a willingness to modify your actions as follows.
1. Accept Responsibility for the Climate in Which You Ask People to Work
2. Get Engaged With Your Employees
When you engage with your employees, encourage them to share ideas, information, reactions and perspectives. Listen to them and involve them in decision making. Build consensus. Set clear goals for each individual employee. In doing so you demonstrate respect for what people think, you keep disagreements constructive and you create urgency about action.
3. Have Conversations That You’ve Been Avoiding
These are the basic premises that foster extraordinary performance. By committing to follow these three steps, your office will experience global warming in the most positive sense.
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
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