Integrating New Hires is Key to Dental Practice Efficiencies

Hiring is only the first part of on-boarding a new hire. Next, you've got to integrate them into your practice's culture.

Imagine that you’ve just hired a new member of your dental practice staff. Perhaps it’s a receptionist, or even a hygienist. Regardless, you have no doubt expended time and effort to select the best candidate for the position. But you’re not done.

All the time spent collecting and reviewing resumes, interviewing candidates and maybe even conducting a Skills Assessment will be for naught if the new member of your team is not efficiently and effectively integrated into the culture of your dental practice.

And that doesn’t happen overnight. According to Ann Marie Gorczyca, DMD, MPH, MS, owner of Gorczyca Orthodontics, and author of “Beyond the Morning Huddle,” integration is a 90-day process.

“It’s a process that takes communication, motivation, and collaboration,” Gorczyca says. And it starts with day one of employment.

Read the Handbook

Gorczyca says that the new employee should be given the team handbook on their first day of hire. And they should be asked to read it then and there, in the office. She even recommends paying the new employee for one hour to sit and read the handbook. Then obtain a written confirmation they have read and understand the handbook.

What … your practice doesn’t have a team handbook?

“Working in a dental office without a team handbook is like living in a lawless land,” Gorczyca says. “There are no standards. And there are no expectation from the new hire what conduct is expected of them.”

For example, Gorczyca recalls a story from the Mayo Clinic’s customer service book. The clinic had just hired a nurse, but he had tattoos up and down his arms. He was told he would be hired with the understanding his tattoos would always be covered.

“If you have in your handbook that tattoos are not allowed to be shown in the office, or that nose rings are not allowed, this is the culture of your office,” Gorczyca explains. “This is the dress code, and you have a right to maintain the dress code. But if you don’t have that written document, and for whatever reason you dismiss a person because of their tattoos, you could be accused of discrimination.”

Goals and Feedback

Gorczyca suggests that one thing you don’t want to do during the 90-day integration period is overwhelm your new team member. She recommends working on one skill at a time. For example, if you’ve hired a front desk person who will be handling contracts, insurance, payments and deposits, tackle one of those duties at a time.

“Take one thing the first day and say, ‘Okay, we’re going to train you how to do the contracts,’” Gorczyca says. “And work on that until the person says, ‘I’ve got it. I don’t need any additional training on this.’ Then move on to number two, and so on.”

Why is that important? Gorczyca says the number one reason a lot of people quit their jobs is a lack of training. So, thoroughly train new hires, and provide regular feedback.

“I would provide feedback every single day, because the person is new,” Gorczyca says.

In doing so, Gorczyca refers to Paul Edwards, co-founder of CEDR HR Solutions, a leading firm in developing employee handbooks and HR solutions for medical and dental practices. Edwards recommends six key performance assessments during the 90-day integration period:

• Discuss performance, not the person

• Communicate the impact of the performance

• Review previous discussions on performance

• Clearly state what improvements or standards are expected

• Document the conversation

• Have the employee acknowledge the corrective action required

“The new person has to learn the professional conduct of the office,” Gorczyca says. “They need to know the vision of the office, the goals of the office, the core values and the mission statement.”

Culture Isn’t an Option

Gorczyca stresses that all new hires need to fit into the culture of the dental practice, not the other way around.

“That’s something I think dentists really struggle with,” she says. “They change their schedule to accommodate the assistant rather than hiring the person to fit their schedule.”

As an example, she says that in her practice, seating or placing orthodontic bands on first and second molars is a 20-minute process. All of her dental assistants can seat four bands within 20 minutes.

“I would never hire someone who doesn’t seat molar bands in 20 minutes,” she explains. “I’m not going to change my schedule for a dental assistant who isn’t skilled or has poor manual dexterity.”

Effective integration of new hires, Gorczyca sums up, can have a positive bottom line impact on a dental practice and how it functions.

“The number one thing that will have a positive impact is whether or not you hire a performer,” she says. “It’s all about the work ethic.”