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May 2024
Volume 45, Issue 5

The Changing World of Dental Staffing

Roger P. Levin, DDS

Dentistry, like many industries, is facing staffing challenges, even crises. Whether a practice is recruiting new staff members or working to build a stronger team, these challenges can have a direct effect on practice production and performance and create frustration and stress. While there are no guaranteed solutions to the staffing challenges dental practices face today, the following strategies can be taken to foster positive results when it comes to recruiting and retaining an excellent team.

Recruiting. The practice should identify where to place advertising and then create the right advertisement for each placement. Online sites are often good places to advertise, but many ads are dull and boring. The job advertisement should be more than a statement that says you're looking to fill a certain position. The ad should be unique and create the right impression in the mind of the job seeker. In addition to a paycheck, staff members today typically want a work environment where they have a sense of purpose, feel that the leadership cares about them, can develop collegiate relationships with coworkers, and have the opportunity to grow and develop. The ad should offer an upbeat, interesting narrative that describes an exciting culture-a high-performing practice that offers excellent customer service in a team-based supportive environment with opportunities to learn and develop new skill sets, and the chance to make a difference in patients' lives.

Phone screening. A phone screening interview helps to determine whether the practice wants to offer a candidate a live interview. The phone screening is an opportunity to politely filter out candidates who either are unqualified or don't seem to be a right fit for the practice. It also allows the practice to gather key information about a candidate in preparation for a potential live interview.

Live interview. During the live interview, let the candidate do most of the talking. The initial part of the interview should include questions that encourage the candidate to express themself. This will help you get to know the person and whether or not they'll fit well in the practice. Be prepared to present an offer at the first interview by considering the following: Would you want to work with this person? Do they bring energy, enthusiasm, and excitement to the interview? Do they have the skill set that is required for the job? Are they growth oriented? In the past, jobs often were offered only after two or three interviews, but in today's environment, practices don't have the luxury of waiting to offer a candidate the position only to watch them accept a job in another practice.

Onboarding a new hire. New hires will need to understand and be indoctrinated into the practice's culture. One innovative concept is to identify a staff member who will partner with the new hire for the first 6 months to answer questions, be of help, and act as a mentor. This can help the new person feel welcome and eliminate any resistance to the new hire from other staff members. Having a team member help onboard the new hire can promote better teamwork and collegiality.

Creating an environment where people want to stay. There are many things a practice can do to create an enjoyable environment for its employees, like filling the staff room refrigerator with goodies, bringing in lunch, going out to dinners, having gift card giveaways, or offering extra time off. The practice could also design bonus systems that include "stay" bonuses. An incentive for employees to "stay" with the practice, such bonuses can be paid at intervals of 1, 3, 5, 10, 15, and 20 years with escalating amounts. While stay bonuses may sound expensive, the cost of a stay bonus is far less than the cost of replacing a team member. In fact, the author's firm estimates that the loss of a team member can cost a practice $50,000 to $100,000 in lost production. Maintaining a happy team long-term is beneficial for long-term high production.

Leadership. In corresponding with experienced dental consultants, the author has found that today's dental team members generally want a fun and enjoyable work environment, the opportunity to gain experience and develop their skills, the feeling that they are contributing, and coworkers that they think of as friends. In one example of the importance of leadership, a senior doctor of a practice that was exceptionally productive, efficient, and enjoyable, retired and sold his practice to a new doctor. Unfortunately, this relatively young doctor had poor leadership skills, and, within a brief time, half the staff resigned. The new doctor was uninterested in continuing the good leadership practices of the previous doctor, cut all staff activities to reduce overhead, and made several other leadership blunders.

It is important to remember that no one is perfect, and this applies to the next person you hire. Great leaders work every day to build their team to be just a little bit better day after day after day. Following the recommendations outlined above will go a long way toward building an exceptional team.

About the Author

Roger P. Levin, DDS
CEO and Founder, Levin Group, Inc. (, a practice management consulting firm that has worked with more than 30,000 dental practices

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