Last updated on September 21st, 2019 at 12:50 pm

For this Q&A post, I thought I’d do something a little different. Normally, someone sends me a specific question and I answer it.

For this post, I wanted to answer a question I get asked… a lot. And while the wording may change slightly from time to time, the question is the same.  It is:

QUESTION: “Why Can’t I Find or Hire Good Staff?”

Chances are you may have asked this same question at one point or another yourself!

So, let’s answer it!  Here goes!


Now, before I get into specifics, I’m providing links to a few articles which discuss some of the “how-to’s” of hiring dental staff. They are: The Do’s and Don’ts of Hiring Dental Office Staff, 4 Tips for Hiring Great Front Office Staff, Where to Find New Dental Office Staff and Hiring a Front Desk Employee with No Prior Dental Experience.  They are all fairly comprehensive and have a ton of great information.

All right, to provide a concise answer to our question, let’s look at the primary barriers (and their respective solutions) that the average dentist will run into when trying to add productive team members to their dental practice.

(Related: The 4 Most Common Mistakes in Hiring Employees)

1. Lack of applications: The office isn’t getting enough suitable applicants to fill the position.

World population is at an all-time high. There are people everywhere! Unless you live in a virtually uninhabited area, there will always be people looking for a job. Think about it, if you live in the Greater New York Area – you’re surrounded by millions of people.  I live in the Tampa Bay Area – the 19th largest city in the US.  Not even in the top ten.  Population? Close to 3 Million people!

Let’s take a small city.  Say, Fargo, North Dakota.  Beautiful state by the way.  What’s the population of that metro area? Close to a quarter of a million people.

So, yes, there are people EVERYWHERE.

So, if you’re thinking, “there’s nobody to hire,” that’s just not true.

(Related: Improving Staff Initiative in the Dental Office)

If you believe you are a good boss and have a great opportunity for people, there would be plenty of people that would love to come work for you. So, when I see “lack of applicants” as a problem, the usual culprit is the office is not leveraging an adequate number of sources to find people. For example, if you’ve been using Indeed every time you try to hire someone, and it’s not getting much, then you need to start looking for more websites or more ways to get it known that you’re hiring. Instead of using just one website, use three and accept and interview more applicants.

You may think it’s expensive to advertise on multiple websites, but how much is it costing you to leave that position unfilled? Chances are, you’re losing more by having the position unfilled than you could ever reasonably expect to spend on personnel advertising. In these cases, you might want to spend a little more advertising the position and fill it quickly than to have it open for months.

But if you really don’t want to spend the extra money, there are still other ways to get the word out; think outside the box a little bit! You might consider:

  • Who do you know? Family friends, acquaintances, etc. who are looking for a job and may qualify for your position. You might even have a few patients that would be viable candidates. Reach out to those people.
  • Where do you go? Are they places where your ideal candidate might go or frequent? If so, see if you can advertise there, such as putting up flyers.
  • Who do your staff know? Ask your staff if they know of anyone who’s looking for a job, or if they could post about the job on their Facebook.

(Related: Addressing “Office Drama” in a Dental Practice)

At MGE, we have an employee referral game. When we are filling a position, we ask our team to get the word out through Facebook, friends, their church group, etc. If a current employee refers someone that works out, we give them a $100 bonus. You could implement something similar in your practice and makes a nice win-win for everyone! If your staff aren’t willing to refer, then you might want to have a look at why. If you have employees walking about thinking: “I hate my job, why would I ask someone else to work here?”  I think I would safely say that you don’t have a healthy working environment… So, you might want to fix this.  The problem might be the office, or how you run things – or it might be that employee. In any event, if your staff aren’t willing to refer their friends, it’s important to find out what’s happening and fix it.

Another idea: put a sign on the front desk saying you’re looking to fill X position (might be more than one) and you’re looking for (use whatever adjective you like) happy, friendly people to add to your team. Have them ask for the office manager. Your patients might inquire or they may know someone who’s looking. Lastly, there are people you see regularly that know a lot of people:  Your supply rep, hairdresser, etc., So, talk to them and get the word out to them!

The bottom line is that you need to get the word out that you’re hiring. You can’t expect to just post something on the internet and wait for the phone to ring. Your hygienists usually know other hygienists; your associate doctor(s) will know other dentists that might be looking, etc.

(Related: 6 Tips to Finding and Compensating a Great Hygienist)

Best story I ever heard about a client that was looking for an associate? After exhausting the normal avenues (the newspaper, Career Builder, etc.), her Office Manager grabbed the yellow pages (yes this was a few years ago) and began calling dental offices in their area. By “C” I think he found a doctor that had a friend who was looking and they hired them.

So, the moral of the story is: Get a little creative and you’ll find plenty of applicants in no time!  Which brings us to “Barrier” number two:

2. The doctor has trouble with training new personnel.

Once someone’s hired, you can’t expect them to just “know what to do.”

That said…I get it. Training new personnel up to the point where they are productive, familiar with the practice, software, the way things are done in your office, etc. is a job all in itself! Who has the time?

(Related: 7 Steps to a Well-Trained Staff)

Despite all of this, someone has to take responsibility for it and invest the needed time into training new employees so that they become functional and productive. Whether that’s you or your Office Manager or someone else, it needs to be done.

If your new employees are trained correctly, three things happen:

  1. Your office will be more productive,
  2. You’ll improve staff morale and retention (and reduce turnover) and
  3. You’ll find (quickly) who isn’t a good fit for your office and be able to take action fast – as opposed to “living with” the situation for six months, only to later fire the employee (or see them quit) and have to go through the whole process all over again.

Something to keep in mind: If you put someone on the job without good training, you’ll find that many excellent applicants will appear to be not a “good fit.” Why? They have no idea what they are doing!

(Related: Should You Hire a Full-Time Scheduling Coordinator?)

People learn at different speeds and in different ways. If you don’t currently have manuals in your practice, I highly recommend using our online training platform, DDS Success. That is one of the reasons we created DDS Success; we found many dentists who came to us would hire someone and throw them right into the job, and of course it didn’t work out! With over 220 lessons by some of the top practice management professionals in the dental industry, your employees can get proper training in the comfort of your own office. You can schedule a free demo of DDS Success here.

Staff trained by another employee

If you decide to have someone in the office train your new employee, make sure the person training them is a productive, successful employee! And by that, I mean they do a good job and have a verifiable track record of productivity in your office. We’ve seen plenty of instances where the person training new staff member is negative and hard to work with. In two words: Not. Good. This will drive new staff away faster than you might imagine!

I hope this helps.  Keep in mind, “Can’t Find Good Staff” is a fairly generalized statement and usually boils back to: 1) Not using all potential methods to get enough applicants, and 2) Not training the ones you do get.  Of course, there much more to this that we cover on the MGE Power Program, which I’m happy to speak with you about.  You can reach me via email to set up an appointment at sabrib@mgeonline.com or phone at (800) 640-1140 – ask for Ashley. You might also want to check out DDS Success.  It’s simple, go to the website www.ddssuccess.com and click the button “Schedule a Free Demo.” You can pick a time right there, and we’ll walk you though the platform and show you how DDS Success training can help your team.


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