I have a secret. I once worked in a dental office, for about a week. Seriously. I couldn’t take it. (Being a writer is so much easier.)
Most office managers aren’t worried about hiring someone who will quit in a week, though, because it rarely happens. A bigger concern is having an excellent team member who isn’t happy in the long run. You can give them money, you can give them a great team, or you can give them opportunity for growth, but unless they have all three, they’re probably going to search for greener pastures. (Check out this Venn diagram and explanation of what I’m referring to on The Curious Dentist.)
With that said, we reached out to top dental consultants and asked, “What are the most common reasons an employee gives for quitting?” Unsurprisingly, they confirmed what The Curious Dentist hypothesized years ago, elaborating on the areas that force a practice’s greatest asset to find a new path.
From my conversations with dental consultants, money is the least important of the three (you’ll see why in later sections). That being said, it still talks, as they say.
“Even though my production increased every year, I never got a raise in eight and a half years,” said JaNetta Gibbs, RDH. “I realized I was working harder, but wasn't benefiting from it. So I took the leap to something different.
Cindy Ishimoto, an independent dental consultant, suggests conducting employee reviews and offering raises based on merit. “Even if the employee hasn’t earned a raise, conducting the meeting is a positive experience for everyone.”
It’s easy to slip into a routine in any career, especially one in which job duties and expectations are as strictly defined as they are in dentistry. Don’t let that keep you from offering your employees the chance to continue to develop their skills and take on professional challenges.
“In the dental industry, we have very specific job descriptions that often require specific types of training,” said Kim Miller, a consultant at PerioFrogz. “Once trained, there is very little opportunity for growth or advancement within a dental office. Feeling as though you are in a dead-end job can lead to dissatisfaction.”
It has been repeatedly acknowledged that people leave mostly because of personal fulfillment. Often, they feel like they can’t contribute, they’re not respected or they’re not growing, said Ishimoto. “Employees want to learn but have no way of doing so if training opportunities aren’t provided.
To combat this issue, Miller adds that dentists should encourage team participation in continuing education, arranging a continuing education trip every year. “It doesn’t have to be extravagant,” she adds, “but it should be clinical in nature and provide an opportunity to grow and learn.”
Continue to page two to see the top reason for quitting....
Every consultant we asked mentioned this as a top contender for why good employees disappear. “In the long term, high salaries, great benefits and the promise of bonuses and profit sharing don’t outweigh the basic human desire to feel appreciated on a daily basis,” said Miller.
Bob Spiel, founder of Spiel Consulting, told a story that embodied what happens when employees feel underappreciated.
“A few years ago I was contacted by the treatment coordinator of a successful practice I had consulted with previously,” he told me. “She wanted to ask my opinion about leaving for another opportunity. We had a long conversation about why she wanted to make this move even though she was paid extremely well and had a very valuable part of the practice for her responsibility. Fundamentally, however, she felt no level of appreciation from the two doctors she was working for. She took the other opportunity and left an enormous hole in the practice.”
Your employees have to feel valued, but extra zeros on a paycheck won’t make up for issues elsewhere. A lot of dentists attempt to show their appreciation and gratitude for a job well done with bigger paychecks, but without a simple verbal acknowledgement, their efforts are wasted.
Spiel says he sees the theme repeated constantly. Money talks, but it’s not a genuine motivator, he says. “What does motivate good team members is sincere appreciation, clear expectations and accountability, and being allowed to problem solve and have a voice in how to their practice runs. To paraphrase H.J. Heinz, the best practices run on heart power.”
Tell your team members when they’re doing a good job. You may expect excellence from them, but they still need to hear that you recognize it. Take the time to hold annual performance reviews, which are a great opportunity to communicate with your team members and realign the needs of your practice and your employees every year.