4 Tips for Building and Maintaining a Great Dental Staff

Having a great staff is essential for an office to run smoothly and win repeat customers. Here are four tips to assemble a top-notch team.

The best dental office and basketball teams operate like an intricate ballet: many members, each doing their individual job, in service of a larger goal. The point guard (you!) is essential, but if the power forward can’t get a rebound, the game may go the other way. You may be the most valuable player of your dental practice, but it takes the coordinated effort of the entire staff to achieve your practice’s goals.

Here are four essential tips for building and keeping a great staff.

1. Hire for people skills, train for clinical skills.

“People skills” means more than being friendly and knowledgeable with patients; it also involves the team member’s ability to self-motivate, come to work with a positive attitude, and work well with the other members of the team. Yes, it’s great if a prospective team member comes with great clinical skills. But those skills can be taught or developed through experience. The general attributes of positivity and motivation can be encouraged, but it helps if you hone in on these attributes during the interviewing process.

2. Invest in your staff, and they’ll invest in you.

This concept isn’t unique to dental offices, of course, but it can be particularly important in an environment where the staff might feel like they’re only a support person for the point guard. Actively solicit feedback from your staff regularly about matters trivial (what small token to offer child patients) and momentous (e.g., what new services your practice might offer to patients or what additional training they’d like to pursue). Investments in people don’t have to always be monetary. Sometimes they can be as simple as giving people the opportunity to make a contribution or have a voice within the practice.

3. Watch and listen to staff interactions with patients.

Do this both when the staff member knows you’re looking and listening, and at some times when they might not know. This isn’t spying and it shouldn’t make you uncomfortable; it’s making sure the face that the staff puts on for the patients is the same whether you’re in the room or not.

4. Don’t be afraid to part ways with staff who are not working out.

Bad morale can be as infectious as good morale, so if it’s clear that a staff member isn’t playing well with others or pulling their weight, consider making a change. If team members who are working hard and staying motivated see that colleagues who are putting in half the effort face no consequences, their motivation is likely to dip. You should never make quick or uniform decisions about hiring or firing, but you shouldn’t become paralyzed into inaction when it becomes clear that a problem is festering and may lead some of your better team members to shop their skills elsewhere.

Bonus step: Staff up when necessary.

In Part 2, we’ll look at how to decide when to staff up.