Improving Dental Practice Employee Culture + Onboarding During Hiring Scarcity
Like most industries across the nation, the dental industry is currently experiencing a staffing shortage. According to the ADA Health Policy Institute, over a third of dentists are planning to hire new team members. For dental practices, the standard for hiring is critical to recovering from pandemic disruptions, and simply to thrive in general. Protecting your business and patient experience depends on thoughtful hiring practices and onboarding. Identifying and communicating the culture of your practice to prospective new team members has never been more critical for positive patient experiences, patient retention, and case acceptance.
Why Culture Matters
Culture sets practices apart from one another and is often why new patients are referred. Culture can be considered your “brand,” and how your practice is experienced outwardly. It may seem the exercise of defining your brand is a luxury, but it can be a small investment of time and effort which significantly impacts the practice’s long-term success. In the hiring process, detailing the culture should be as important as outlining desired skills. Practice owners who establish their office culture can then hire for culture fit. Team member turnover due to lack of fit can be costly, time-consuming, disruptive to the patient experience, and stressful to the current team.
To begin defining the culture of your practice, first establish why you do what you do, and how you do it. This is also known as determining the mission and vision for your practice. As Simon Sinek, the best-selling author, speaker, and professional business coach states, “start with why.” As an example, his company vision says, “We imagine a world in which the vast majority of people wake up inspired, feel safe wherever they are, and end the day fulfilled by the work they do.”
Integrating Culture and Practice
Once you have your mission and vision, calibrate your team. There should be a clear understanding among your team regarding what the culture of customer service and the patient experience means in your practice. Benefits to the team include greater harmony and equality, increased ease in the onboarding process, and better communication. The result is that your patients will experience more consistent treatment plans and care, while also building trust in your practice when they hear consistent messages and language, leading to more confident referrals to your practice.
After calibrating customer service and the patient experience, establish clear expectations and protocols that your team can use to carry out your vision and mission. Including your established team’s input in these guidelines contributes to team buy-in—consider a team meeting to outline what customer services mean in your practice. Discuss the “why” behind protocols, so the culture is easily demonstrated to patients and new team members.
Use your perio program as an example of a protocol to establish. What guidelines exist for your hygiene team to implement an effective program that aligns with your culture? Some questions to review are:
- What consistent language will the team use with patients?
- Will the terminology used be gum measurements, perio charting, or probing? How will this procedure be calibrated among clinicians?
- How are findings communicated to the doctor in the exam as part of the treatment planning process?
- How technical will communications be with patients in describing the disease process and planned treatment?
- What criteria will be used for treatment planning for full and localized quadrant therapy?
- What will be the consistent clinical approach during a therapy visit, e.g., ultrasonic, irrigation, home care aides, and instructions?
- How is the treatment fee discussed, and who is responsible for the discussion? What financial arrangements will be included in these discussions?
Protocols about how the practice operates should be part of your handbook for the practice. Consider outlining the new patient experience, periodontal protocols, task priorities, and customer service. Protocols and procedures help guide team-member decision-making and assist in more efficient onboarding.
Managing Your Practice with Aldrich
Defining and communicating your culture contributes to more positive patient experiences, greater patient retention, increased case acceptance, and greater ease in onboarding new team members. If you have questions about integrating organizational culture to improve onboarding, or establishing protocols within your practice, contact Karen Burnett.
Meet the Author
Dental Practice Consultant
Karen Burnett, RDH, MA
Aldrich CPAs + Advisors LLP
For Karen Burnett, enthusiasm for dentistry includes over 30 years of experience ranging from dental assisting and dental hygiene to more than 18 years of experience in dental practice coaching. She takes pride in providing results-oriented business solutions, using a tailored approach for the growth of individuals and teams. She is skilled in internal and... Read more Karen Burnett, RDH, MA
- Dental business management
- Hygiene program profitability and analysis
- Treatment presentation and incomplete treatment follow-up
- New patient recruitment and retention
- Practice administration