Episode 141: Building Your Ideal Dental Team

Carrie Webber, Owner, The Jameson Group

Below, we’ve compiled the key points discussed in the Jameson Files Episode 141. To enjoy the full conversation, you can watch on YouTube or listen to our podcast on iTunes, Google Play, or Spotify

What we want to talk about today are what are the trends that were consuming your minds and your time this summer in your dental practices? And I’m going to focus on one very specific trend that was consuming most of the practices that we have been speaking with all summer long. And that’s team hiring. 

Hiring New Team Members and Maximizing the Dental Staff You Have

Many of you continue the search for team members to fill the different roles in your practices, and are struggling to find those superstars to step into those positions. And that has not only been a frustrating part of your summer. The struggle that goes hand-in-hand with that is the maximization of a minimal team, and how to continue to move forward and keep running smoothly. So let’s talk about that trend and discuss some ways to plan for success in it.

How can you gain more attention for open positions while at the same time continuing to build a healthy work environment? 

As our founder, Kathy Jameson, would say, “How do we keep our team engaged, motivated, and doing the good hard work?” The risk of being understaffed is that your team starts to burn out because they have trouble seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. And, as leaders, you have to continue to encourage them. 

The state of the dental industry is that we have lost a lot of hygienists out of the workforce. Studies show that 8-9% of the hygienists have left the workforce altogether, so it’s no wonder there’s a struggle to find hygienists for our practices. But what we’ve heard here at Jameson is that you’re also struggling to find great business team members, great assistants, and even struggling to find associates to bring into the practice. So what can you do differently to get better results? 

A. Successful Strategies for Recruiting Talent

Well, first a word of encouragement. Don’t give up. Be persistent about finding the right person. If you start to compromise on what excellence looks like in your team members and just hire anyone, you’re ultimately sacrificing your vision for the sake of filling that seat on the bus. And what I want you to continue to do is seek out the right people while also taking a look at what you could do differently in the job search to perhaps get a better result.

Remember, this issue exists nationwide. There are five to seven other practices in your community looking for every available employee. So it’s definitely the employee’s market at this point, in terms of where they choose to land and call their new work home. When you get frustrated and say, “Oh, we had all these applications and then none of them were showing up for their interviews,” well, the fact of the matter is that they probably took another job already. 

1. Refine your ads.

So you need to be very intentional in terms of the messaging of your job posts. Be very intentional about your interview process. And be very intentional about your online presence online, especially the content of your ads.

If you’re having trouble getting great candidates to submit applications for your position, take a look at your ad. If I looked at your ad right now, wherever you’re posting it, does it look exactly like an ad for that position in 27 other practices? If the answer is yes, why would I ever differentiate you as the place I want to work for compared to anybody else? 

Remember your vision. That’s the DNA of your practice. So take a look at the content you’re posting and refine, refine, refine. Create content that is specifically focused on your practice. Rewrite your ad from the perspective of your dream employee. What is it about your practice that they can expect? What are they stepping into? What is it that makes you special? What is it that you ultimately want in terms of the characteristics of that person? As you put your practice values into the message, someone who embraces those values is going to be attracted to your job post.

2. Review your online presence.

Just like your potential patients are looking at your online presence to decide if they want to be patients in your practice, so are your potential employee candidates. They’re looking at your website, they’re looking at your reviews, they’re looking at your social media presence. And if it’s lackluster, why again, would I want to come and work for a practice that seems less than what my values are in my professional career? 

So make your external presence represent the ideal vision of your practice, both for your patients and for your team. And if you’re not using your own social media, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn pages to post your job opportunities, what are you waiting for? What are you afraid of? Be intentional and proactive. And if your team is willing, have them share and spread the word. We want some people that are gonna be just as emotionally invested in your practice as you all are joining your team. So get the word out in those places if you haven’t done so already. We often depend upon things like Indeed to bring us our magical candidate. But when that doesn’t work, you really have to start doing a few things on your own to help increase the probability of finding that rockstar employee. 

3. Conduct a professional interview.

Let’s talk about the interview process. And remember, if I’m a potential candidate interviewing with your practice, chances are I’m interviewing for three others, right? So how are you representing your practice in the interview process? If you have an expectation of a team member’s performance or what you want their experience to be like in your workforce, then that needs to be reflected in the interview process.

How professionally are you representing your practice, from the first telephone call with a candidate to how you’re scheduling time to interview them, to how you’re taking them through an application process, to how you are leading through the interview experience? You are building a perception of value from the very beginning. 

And make sure you’re not only asking them the right questions. The process of hiring starts by asking yourself the right questions long before this person ever walks through the door. What are the things that you want to make sure you learn about them? What do you hope to hear from them when they’re with you face to face? What traits are you looking for? Carefully consider these things if you want to make your interview and hiring process efficient and effective.

Ask the right questions and represent your practice in the right way because you are setting expectations of professionalism and behavior from that very first interaction with you. So start things off on the right foot, and if you’re looking for superstars, they are determining with every experience they have with you, whether or not this is a place for them to grow. 

B. Streamlining Operations To Ease the Burden on Existing Team Members

But no matter how well you’ve refined your hiring process, finding a new team member isn’t something that happens tomorrow or overnight. So what do you do in the meantime? Let’s talk about working to create a desirable work environment. With the employee deficit, you’re going to have to do cross-training, and it’s more important than ever to have consistent communication. You’ll find yourself repeatedly refining the skills and processes that your team does every day, because more than likely everyone is carrying an extra load.

1. Cross-training

Let me tell you, cross-training your team is never a bad idea. It’s always a good idea because we want everyone on the team to understand the different systems, roles, and responsibilities. That way each team member not only understands where their role fits into those processes, but should a day come when someone is sick, or if someone leaves and you’re short staffed, everyone can help pick up that slack and do it well. This requires team meetings to train through your processes and continuously develop your systems and workflows.

Also, in those meetings, you need to report on the state of hiring and let the team know where things are and that you as leaders are continuing the search for that new person to join the team. And be sure to boost your team’s morale with the fact that while this is a season, this is not a forever season, even if it may be taking longer than expected. 

2. Communicating Consistently

The presence and the communication of leadership can help a team continue to rally and fill in the voids that a missing person has left so you can continue on together with as little stress as possible. So make sure you’re having those team meetings. Don’t do away with those because you’re too busy or overwhelmed. You need them now more than ever to communicate with each other, to troubleshoot and identify the needs you have, and to determine how to do things better in this interim time.

3. Refining Processes

You may have the opportunity at a time like this to look at ways your reorganizing with a minimal team could actually benefit your practice moving forward. Maybe this is an opportunity to do things differently, to do things better. 

Remember at Jameson, the model of success is this: See fewer patients in a day. Do more treatment per patient when and where it’s appropriate. Remember, time is a big motivator or demotivator for patients to come to see the dentist, so finding ways to see them for fewer appointments when and where possible benefits them and you. 

When I encourage you to maximize a minimal team, I’m not saying go fire people. What I am saying is that there may be an opportunity here to refine and further clarify roles in your practice. When you have only the amount of team members you ultimately need, you become more productive and more profitable. You can then share the reward of that work well done across your team members.

Another key goal of refining your systems and processes is to reduce stress. So where in those steps to refine your efforts can you more effectively support your patients and your team? Should you be in the hiring process now? Are you hiring for the right roles that you actually need in the practice? That’s where the clarification of roles and responsibilities becomes very important. Are you, in the interim, cross-training and communicating in positive ways that keep everyone encouraged and motivated to keep going? 

4. Managing Patient Scheduling

Now I want to talk about capacity. What we see happening is that many understaffed practices are finding themselves booking further and further out, and that’s starting to become a stress.

What can happen in this state is we, as leaders, often allow ourselves to go into victim mode and start going over the excuses of: it’s because we don’t have enough team, It’s because we’re so booked, etc. What we can’t control is our pace and the time it’s taking for us to find that new team member, right? So you really have to go back to, what’s the vision?

What’s the vision of your practice? How close are you to your ideal practice vision right now? Are you living the dream? Or are you very far from what ideal looks like? This could be an opportunity for you to reset your course to be more reflective of what ideal is for you. 

And does the entire team know your vision? Especially if you’ve hired new team members, do they clearly understand what your vision is, and what their role in the process is? Are they on board for that? Have you trained them how to be successful in their role of pursuing that vision? 

Another obvious question arises. Are you honoring best practices for effective scheduling? Or are you starting to plug people in whenever and whenever possible? If so, the next thing you know, you’re three or four months down the line, churning like crazy, reaching the end of a day completely exhausted.

a. Take the course.

Do not let go of the essentials of scheduling! And if you don’t remember what the essentials of scheduling are, I encourage you to go onto the Grow online learning platform by Jameson and go through our Essentials of Scheduling learning pathway and refresh your memory so that you can see what you are continuing to honor in this scheduling system, and what you may have allowed to fall through the cracks. Remember, it’s okay for a system to be able to flex, but when you allow flexing to become the norm, you no longer have a system.

Maybe it’s time to audit the insurance plans you’re in network with. This could be a great opportunity for you to review those plans and determine how much you are working for no return. What would happen if you removed one or two plans?

b. Review who you’re in network with.

If you have more patients coming in than you have the capacity to even take care of, are you bringing in the right types of patients that ultimately want the kind of treatment you provide? This could be a great time to reset who you’re in network with. Perhaps it’s time to look more into external marketing and stop using insurance plans as a marketing solution. (If you ask me, it’s a pretty expensive marketing solution anyway!) So think about this, audit your insurance plans and decide if it’s time to make a change for the better of your patients and your practice.

c. Audit new patient flow.

And along with that, you’ll need to be auditing your new patient flow. How many new patients are you getting per month, and where are they coming from? What are your primary new patient channels? And if the large majority are not coming by way of referrals, then there’s a wide-open opportunity for you to have more highly-qualified patients who will see the value you offer and trust you much earlier on. If they’re coming to you via an insurance plan, they have no relationship with you. You’re on a list, and you and your team have a great deal of work ahead of you to build trust, urgency, and value in your relationship with them.

As dentists, we wanna make sure that we are doing good work and delivering excellence for every single patient every single time. And if we continue to be over capacity, that becomes very difficult. You may still need to find a great new team member, but in the meantime, you must continue to honor excellence in patient care.

So gather as a team, have a team meeting, review what’s working well, review where you’re struggling. Talk about how you can do those things differently, and how to best refine your search for a new team member. 

Closing Encouragement for Dental Team Builders

And in the meantime, think about Serena Williams with over 20 years of excellence in her career in tennis, coming to a close possibly, as we speak, as she finishes out the U.S. open. Serena Williams wasn’t able to be competitive for 25 years in tennis because she just sort of showed up and did a few things every once in a while. She consistently put in the work. She continuously sharpened her skills so that she delivered excellence every time she stepped on the court. And your dental practice is your court. So what are you doing today to deliver excellence so that when you come to the end, you can say work well done and that it was all worth it. 

Don’t let these seasons deter you from your ideal vision of excellence. Continue on the path, continue to do the good work, and the right team is going to find you. So look forward to celebrating those new team members with you when they come!

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