3 ways to help keep your dental staff happy

October 12, 2014

Happy staff, happy life? Quite possibly. Although there's no guarantee that a happy staff leads to a happy dentist, you can be sure that a happy staff strengthens your practice. When your staff is unhappy, that unhappiness manifests itself in the form of turnover, which is something you don't want to see with any level of frequency.

Turnover is bad for your practice for a few reasons. First, it costs you money. You'll have to recruit new staff and train them. You may even have to turn down appointments because you don't have enough staff on hand.

Turnover also hurts morale in both your employees and your patients. Employees see the turnover and start to wonder whether they too should look for a new job with another practice. Patients see frequent turnover among your staff and wonder why their favorite hygienists or assistants are no longer around. 

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You can limit turnover by making your office an enjoyable place to work. Here are three suggestions.

Give praise

Study after study has shown that employees - regardless of industry - view praise as the single-most rewarding benefit they can receive. In a recent study, 83 percent of all surveyed employees said that individual praise was more rewarding than any form of bonus or gift. 

There are a few ways in which you can offer praise. You can do it in a standardized way that's open to all employees. Popular forms of this kind of praise include an Employee of the Month award or contests that are tied directly to some performance metric.

Another good way to praise is in one-on-one conversations. Performance reviews present a perfect opportunity to offer praise. You can also do it when it's not expected. Pull high-performing employees aside and let them know how they're doing. Tell an improving employee that you notice and appreciate his or her efforts. These actions may seem small, but they pay big dividends.

ADDITIONAL READING:How keeping your team happy will prevent the destruction of your practice

Help them with retirement

Your employees are worried about retirement. They're concerned that they won't have enough saved and that they'll have to continue working long past their desired retirement dates.

You can show your appreciation for their efforts by helping them save for retirement. A 401k plan can be an effective way to do this. It gives your staff the opportunity to save money for their own retirement and it gives you a vehicle to contribute. If your office is small and you think a 401k may be too complex or expensive, you could talk to your financial advisor about alternatives like SEP IRAs.

Many employees expect some kind of group benefit plan at their place of employment. If you don't have one, you may have difficulty recruiting quality talent. Similarly, your employees who you do have may view their benefits as being inferior to those offered at other practices.

RELATED: Do you really know what motivates your dental staff?

Create a bonus plan

Your staff knows that you make significantly more money than them. They're likely fine with that. After all, they also know that you bear all the risk of owning the practice.

However, they also know that they contribute a great deal to your success. When your business is operating at full speed, they like to be recognized for their contributions - and not just in praise.

A bonus plan can foster the feeling that you're all working for the same team. It can create a direct link between your employees' performance and their compensation. You can tie the bonuses to the practice's overall performance or you can tie it to specific job functions.

One note on bonuses: Whatever system you put in place, be sure to make the system easy to understand and transparent. If employees feel that bonuses aren't fair, bitterness and resentment could develop.

It's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day management of your practice. However, always remember that your staff is a crucial part of your practice's success. Invest in their happiness and you're likely to see the benefits.

ADDITIONAL READING:Is your dental staff an asset or a liability?