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Inside Dental Technology
August 2023
Volume 14, Issue 8

Finding Strength in Employee Engagement

Brian Forman

With the vast changes in the labor market over the last few years, employee engagement has become even more crucial in the dental laboratory space. There are many benefits to having a robust plan in place. It increases productivity, builds better employee and customer relationships, improves work culture, reduces turnover, and most importantly gains employees' trust. The greater need for employee engagement centers around the growth of a more competitive labor market than we have witnessed in the last 40 years. While the labor market is beginning to tighten, it is still an employee-driven market.

Dental laboratories need to think outside the box when it comes to planning and designing engagement events that are suitable for employees. The first step before you execute a plan is to take the pulse of the employees. This will allow you to determine what types of engagement events will benefit the employees the most. Lunch-and-learn events are a great way to stimulate the mind and collaborate. Recognition programs are an excellent way to highlight high-performing employees and demonstrate that you take the time to recognize value. Team building events, biometric screenings, and workplace parties are other activities that can be used to strengthen employee engagement.

There are three main types of employee engagement. The first is emotional. This involves having a real emotional connection to an employee's work. In effect, the goal is for the employee to not just "show up for work" but to be fully engaged with their colleagues and tasks, to genuinely care about the quality of their work and the wellbeing of their team. The second type of engagement is cognitive. When employees are cognitively engaged, they are more committed to their jobs. This metric is essential because it filters through the bottom line. The final type is physical. When employees are physically engaged, they are invested in their work. Being physically active has been shown to improve brain health, reduce the risk of ailments, and improve the overall ability to perform daily activities. Encouraging employees to maintain their health both physically and mentally will improve their performance both individually and collectively.

Building a strong dental laboratory culture requires time and thought about how best to serve your employees. To keep employees actively engaged on a daily basis, utilize communication in conjunction with engagement events hosted throughout the year. This makes a big difference in how employees perceive the culture. You can measure various engagement metrics with bi-annual anonymous surveys. Not only does this measure how positively or negatively employees view the dental laboratory, but it also provides information through the participation level. It is just as important to get full participation as it is to analyze the results. A good set of questions would focus on how well employees and departments collaborate, if they feel they are part of a team, how comfortable employees are in expressing their opinions, if they learn from their mistakes, if they are proud of where they work, and how motivated they are to contribute more than they do. Level of engagement can be measured by asking the employees to respond within a range from strongly disagree to strongly agree. These survey results can reveal what areas need to be improved for future engagement events or what the dental laboratory can do better to increase morale.

Engaged employees understand that their work is appreciated and valued. In today's labor market, there are more opportunities than ever for employees to select where and for whom they are going to work. Even during traditional labor market conditions, employee engagement should be prioritized because once someone becomes disengaged, this leads to higher turnover, absenteeism, and unhappy employees who become less productive and begin to impact the business. Employee engagement is an affordable investment into your most important asset—your employees. If you do not make the necessary investment into employee engagement, you will take on greater business risks. A dental laboratory business is only as strong as the employees who work for it.

About the Author

Brian Forman is a Benefits and Compensation Manager with pladis Global.

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