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Inside Dental Technology
August 2023
Volume 14, Issue 8

Keeping Pace with Today's Recruiting and Retention Trends

Jennifer Wheatley, SHRM-SCP, SPHR

If your dental laboratory is not struggling to find and keep your talent, you are very fortunate.  However, my guess is that every laboratory owner today is either experiencing difficulties or at least thinking of how to avoid them. Operating efficiently is crucial given all the challenges with today's workforce.

As a long-time HR professional, I have seen many changes and have ridden out the highs and lows of unemployment fluctuations and workforce challenges. However, I have never seen the level of difficulty that has developed over the past three years. The COVID-19 pandemic, the Great Resignation (or Great Transition), and "quiet quitting" have resulted in workforce challenges like we have never seen before. Employee expectations are far different. Employers once had the advantage on things like work location, hours, and compensation. Not today—employees expect flexibility and much more from their employers.

As a laboratory owner, you may not like or agree with this shift, but it is a reality, and for an organization to survive, thrive, and compete for the decreasing number of candidates, you must adjust your way of thinking.

There is no magic bullet or single solution that will fix everything. Every organization has its unique attributes and operational structures, but as a laboratory owner, you should begin thinking about how you operate and look for opportunities to change.

Here are four areas for thought as you review your recruiting and retention efforts.

Revamp Hiring Practices to Stay Relevant

First, start by evaluating your requirements for any position carefully. More companies are moving toward a skills-first mindset with more emphasis on competencies and less on college degrees and experience, so consider this when looking to fill a position. Hire for soft skills and potential, not experience or achievements, and embrace a culture of diversity. Diversifying the workforce to include, for example, more women and more cultural backgrounds fosters innovation and diversity of ideas.

Once you have your position's requirements set, consider your hiring process. Speed of hiring will be critical, as candidates will have multiple offers. Automate where you are able, and invest in technology to make the process more efficient, such as an applicant tracking system.

Next, review and update your job postings to reflect your culture and the opportunity. Boring, outdated job postings won't attract the candidate.

Once you have candidates, remember that the candidate experience and first impressions are key. You should be wowing the candidates at every step. 

Offer Hybrid/Remote Work or Flexible Schedules

After compensation and benefits, flexibility is what candidates are looking for. Offer hybrid or remote work where possible, and when it isn't, offer flexibility in scheduling. This is probably the most important thing you can do. Employees need and expect some flexibility in their work schedules to promote work/life integration.

Look at opportunities for flexibility on a role-by-role basis; don't make a blanket statement that remote or hybrid work isn't an option. Look at compressed shifts, flexible shifts, and part-time work. Employees want and need more control over their schedules.

If you can't offer a lot of flexibility, look for other ways to promote work/life integration—avoiding burnout, creating a great culture, providing recognition, and instituting rewards programs. Consider any other ways you can support employees.

Finally, take a look at outdated policies, such as attendance policies, PTO policies, leave policies, volunteer policies, etc. Update these policies to be more in line with the expectations of today's workforce.

Build a Continuous Pipeline

You should always be recruiting. Even if you aren't hiring today, what opportunities could appear tomorrow?  What if you come across that high-potential individual? There are several ways that you can keep a continuous pipeline open for up-and-coming talent.

First, focus on employer branding. Tell your organization's story with an emphasis on values and mission.

Next, connect with high schools and the remaining laboratory programs in higher education to build a potential pipeline after graduation.

Finally, create marketing content that attracts candidates to your industry. Develop a story that promotes what it's like to work in a laboratory. If there are negative perceptions, develop a story that eliminates those perceptions.

Promote Upskilling and Reskilling

Understand and embrace upskilling and reskilling. Upskilling helps employees move up the ladder. Reskilling helps current employees obtain skills to keep them relevant. You should focus on both.

Tap into current employees—lots of talent can go unnoticed and unrealized. Don't make assumptions. Talk to your employees and ask about their aspirations. Employees often want to explore new roles and acquire new skills. One way to motivate employees is through internal growth opportunities.

Choose What Works

Not every tip above will necessarily work for your laboratory, but if you can focus on hiring for soft skills, emphasize your employer branding/values, tap into your internal employees, embrace flexibility, and offer valued employee benefits, you can position your laboratory to manage the challenges of finding and keeping your talent.

Some additional advice for employee retention:

• Watch for and address employee burnout.

• Focus on employee well-being, including both physical and mental health.

• Look at other fun things you can offer. Employees love perks!

• Foster growth and development.

•  Hire for cultural fit. Remember, one bad hire can be detrimental to your culture.

• Hire coaches, not bosses. Managers are key to retention. Invest in manager training and development.

Again, every organization is different, and what works for one won't necessarily work for another. However, to be successful, you must start thinking differently. Take the time to do an honest assessment of your current strategies and processes, and do so through the lens of an employee. I bet you will find opportunities!

About the Author

Jennifer Wheatley, SHRM-SCP, SPHR, is the President of HR Affiliates.


1. Crail C. 15 effective employee retention strategies in 2023. Forbes. April 6, 2023. Accessed June 27, 2023.

2. 12 hiring, recruiting, and talent acquisition trends for 2023. Paychex. Accessed June 27, 2023.

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