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Lions, Tigers and Employees, Oh My!!!

Almost every client we visit, every attendee at a study club, and every initial consult we meet asks if everyone has as much trouble with employees at they do. The answer we give is always a resounding “Yes!”, and then we do have to tell them that it will most probably always be that way. There is however hope, in the form of extra care in choosing, training, and even terminating employees.

Hiring – How do you hire?
In terms of salary, experience, and attitude; it is often said that when you hire attitude is the most important quality to look for in an employee. We tend to partially agree with that, however if you don’t have anyone to train them properly, both you and the employee will soon become frustrated and that stellar attitude will begin to change. If you have the time, patience and personnel (or consultant) to train an inexperienced person properly, you could end up with a great employee…… but it does takes patience.

Hiring the lowest paid person you can find can definitely end in disaster. If a potential employee has experience and they are willing to settle for a very low salary, there is usually a reason no one has rewarded this employee with raises for their outstanding job performance. This type of employee will also switch jobs regularly in search of a higher paycheck. We realize also that while paying a high salary may seem like the best path, new practices often can just barely afford that sort of salary. Our compromise on this is that if a practice does extend itself to pay a highly priced employee, she/he needs to be able walk the walk as well as talk the talk. Sadly, many times this just doesn’t happen.

So who do you hire? In most cases, we suggest trying to find the best combination of the three (salary, experience, and attitude). If at all possible have the potential employee come in for a working interview, more than one day has become acceptable. We like to see a potential employee take some initiative without being asked. Have the current staff take the potential employee out to lunch, so they can get to know them on a different level. Have the doctor call past employers (other doctors will speak more openly with another doctor), and attempt to visit the applicant’s social media pages. You’d be amazed what you find there!

Training: What is your training protocol?

Once hired, training is just as important to a good employee as the process of hiring. If the employee is trained in the systems that have been implemented in your practice vs. being just thrown into the mix, they have a much better chance of succeeding and becoming a good employee.

Handling Disputes: What’s your process?

Of course there will be disputes in the ranks, and for the most part, they will work it out amongst themselves, which is always the best resolution. However, on occasion, it will take intervention. This means getting both parties in the same room, sorting out what is going on, and helping mediate so they can work in out. If you have one particular employee who has the rest of your staff in a constant state of chaos, it’s probably time to make a change. No one in the office is indispensable except the doctor, no matter how much they (and even you) might think they are.

Raises and “atta boys”: How often and how much?

Raises (or the lack thereof) are an integral part of the process that begins with hiring. It seems there is a “rule” in the dental community that all raises have to be $1.00 a year and that every employee, whether they are doing their job or not, is to be given this raise. Believe it or not there is a glass ceiling in dental. If you start giving employees a $1 raises every year, over time they will be upset when they don’t get at least a $1 raise, or even get a lower amount. Most corporations give a percentage (3-5%) raise per year for good work, which doesn’t have the potentially to eventually break the bank. Raises should be given on merit and profitability of the practice. The questions to consider are, is the employee helping the practice grow, and (most importantly) is payroll in the 22-24 % range on your P&L? Remember this is a business and you need to treat it as such. Don’t however discount telling the staff they are doing a good job, as it goes a long way towards making the staff feel appreciated and valued. Team events (indoor parachuting, scavenger hunts, etc.) are also a good way to have some fun, make people happy, and bring the staff together.

Dismissal: How is it done?

If you need to dismiss an employee, let them know they are underperforming in the form of a written warning. Ask the employee to sign that form and give them time to improve. Also make sure they understand the ramifications of not improving. Be sure the time frame and likely ramifications are clearly spelled out on the written warning.

When a dismissal is the final solution, sit the employee down, let them know in very few words that they are being dismissed and give a brief reason. Give the employee their final check, collect keys, etc. (if they do not have the key or other items, hold that final check until they return them). Have someone with you during this meeting, then you, or the other employee, need to escort the dismissed employee out, stay with them while they collect their belongings, and walk them out the door. Under no circumstances can they have access to any computer in the practice or practice files during this time. Change access codes and passwords the same day.

While walking them out may seem a bit draconian, it will save you from needing your IT person to come in and rescue you and/or keep you from dumpster diving for files (and yes, both have happened)!

With all these ideas and systems in place, hopefully we can have a great deal less Oh MY!! In your practices and a great deal more happy smiles.