Change Your Employees’ Tune
Embracing new things will help the laboratory thrive
Change is inevitable and may even be scary for some people who fear it will have adverse effects. However, change also has consistency; it is driven by either the avoidance of pain or the potential for gain. We cannot live in the past, so denying that change will occur only complicates things.
Undoubtedly, change is affecting the practice of dentistry and the process of creating restorations and prostheses. What many may not realize is that the rate of change is increasing. This means that the time it takes new technologies to have a demonstrable impact on our lives and how we work is getting shorter. Consider that popular innovations such as the microwave oven, GPS, and the Internet were invented many years before they were widely adopted. Compare this to the explosion in the use of products such as the iPhone and social-media platforms. A decade ago, CAD/CAM-milled restorations comprised on average approximately 4% of crown and bridge work. Now this figure is about 50%.
Most change isn’t of the catastrophic variety that catches business owners by surprise. Rather, the process is often a gradual but inventible shift in buyer behavior or the introduction of disruptive technologies that slowly gain acceptance.
Consider the advent and proliferation of dental laboratory scanners and mills. One can’t pick up a dental laboratory industry publication without seeing various new suppliers advertising the latest and greatest scanning, subtractive, and additive technology and a plethora of materials even though many of them weren’t even in this business a year or two ago, On the clinical side, intraoral scanners used to capture digital impressions have been available for years. Although slow to adopt their use, dentists have now embraced it. Today an estimated 25,000 dentists in the U.S. employ this technology, and its growth is predicted to explode in the next several years as prices drop and the technology becomes more user friendly. These scanners could even become like service agreements for mobile phones, in essence costing little as long as the end user commits to using the laboratory that provides it. What are laboratories without a scanner going to do when, not if, their accounts start taking digital impressions? The model-less crown is already a reality. Although many older dentists and technicians tend to be slow to embrace this approach, recent tech-savvy dental-school graduates are starting to make the purchase decisions.
The Leader in a Changing Organization
Effective leadership means managing change. In today’s fast-paced and highly competitive marketplace, organizations must be nimble to accommodate change and yet remain profitable. Change management has always been an issue. The primary question is: How can employers create suitable conditions for a successful change process, and what can employees do to get through it? In order to take preventive measures, business leaders must recognize the stages of change and anticipate the impact:
Denial: Change has been announced. Employees fight it and strive to defend the status quo and their turf.
Anger: Employees realize they can’t avoid the organizational change taking place. Insecurity, lack of self-esteem, and chaos are common.
Dejection: By now, employees have realized they can’t revert to the old ways and have no choice but to let go of them. Anger becomes remorse and despair.
Acceptance: Employees finally acknowledge that change is imminent. They are now starting to reflect on the new ways of working and are removing hurdles.
Learning and development: Workers finally realize that this change could actually improve their job and career prospects and decide to embrace opportunities to learn and grow as they actively support implementation. This applies to leaders, too. You may well be in your comfort zone and doing very well there. But if you don’t challenge yourself in pursuit of further growth and continuously move forward, you may lose your equilibrium sooner than expected.
Communicating With Your Employees
Tell them why and how processes are changing and how important embracing change is for the organization’s health and sustainability.
Explain the change process and its stages. Keep in mind that the faster your people accept change, the more promising the future will look for your laboratory. During the transition expect a fair amount of leaving the old ways behind and adopting the new ways. This can be stressful.
Maintain open communication channels. Share details regularly about the process, progress, and challenges that arise.
Be transparent about your progress. Dealing with the unknown is often daunting. Make the picture as clear as possible.
Assess yourself. Change is when confidence about one’s skills and capabilities becomes shaky. Recognize your strengths and where you could bring them into play. At the same time, stay aware of your developing areas and work on improving those.
Encourage everyone to remain flexible enough to look at the different angles of the change and see where they can apply existing skills and knowledge, and what new skills they need to acquire. Then help them achieve these goals.
Urge staff to stay optimistic and keep a positive attitude. Tell them: “Don’t let yourself drown in uncertainty; feel free to ask questions.”
Have a vision as it pertains to your business, and formulate a clear strategy and timeline for reaching your goal, against which you can regularly benchmark and measure the business. Share this information with your employees and get them onboard ASAP. Continuous learning, personal development, and self-improvement is a necessity, not a luxury. Keep abreast of the latest trends, tools, and technologies in your field, so that you don’t risk losing ground to competitors. The transition should be viewed as a journey that will take you and your team to a better place. Embrace it and provide the leadership and assurance that it will work.
Frank Manfre is Technical Key Account Manager for Ivoclar Vivadent, Inc.