Last updated on August 7th, 2020 at 05:54 pm

“Hiring” is not most dentists’ favorite word. It can be one of the more stressful aspects of owning and managing a dental practice.  And it becomes a lot more stressful when new employees make costly mistakes.

I’ve seen just about every mistake that can be made, including silly ones, like:

  • Inputting insurance incorrectly,
  • Forgetting to take a payment before the patient leaves,
  • Entering the wrong code for an insurance submission,
  • Scheduling a procedure in the wrong time slot,
  • Answering the phone incorrectly or forgetting to get the patients’ name/phone number,
  • Sending a patient the wrong bill,
  • Messing up lab cases,
  • And many more.

These mistakes can upset patients, create extra work for the rest of the team, and negatively affect the practice financially.

With that in mind, here are four things you can that can help to avoid these “rookie mistakes” and minimize potential damage when hiring a new employee.

1. Just because someone has lots of “experience,” don’t assume they know how to do things in your dental practice!

I’ve heard this a lot: “I don’t get it! They have all this experience, but they do everything wrong!”

(Related: Don’t Make These 3 Mistakes When Hiring Dental Staff)

My advice: run every new employee through all of your initial training as if they’d never worked in a dental office before—no matter how much experience they have. Someone with lots of experience may go through this much faster, but at least going to touch on each of the points and make sure they know how to do things the way they are supposed to be done in your practice.

You (or your Office Manager or other staff member that is training them), would just let them know ahead of time, “I’m sure you’re already familiar with a lot of this, but I’m going to just go through it with you to make sure we’re all on the same page. We may do some things differently than you did in your last office.”

Give them a tour of the office, introduce them to the staff, have them read the manuals and policies relevant to the job, and then go through job training that I’ll cover in the next point below.

And keep in mind, one of the most important things to look for with a  new hire is:

Are they willing and able to learn new skills?

For most positions (except the doctor, RDH, RDA, EFDA, etc, that require a degree or certification) I really couldn’t care less whether they have prior experience or not. Their willingness to learn and ability to gain new skill is much more important.

If someone refuses to learn because they “already know everything,” that’s not a good sign. Someone like that is much more likely to continue making mistakes because they won’t be teachable.

2. Teach them one task at a time, and don’t move on to the next until they’ve mastered it.

Almost everybody needs some practice before they can do something perfectly. And nobody will remember every single detail if you explain a bunch of job duties to them at once and then just send them off to do it.

So, take it one at a time and do some practice.

Let’s say the first thing you’re teaching the new employee is how to call a patient to confirm an appointment. Here’s how the sequence would go:

  1. Explain to them how to do it (including why you do it that way).
  2. Make a call yourself while they watch you.
  3. Do some practice runs with them where you pretend to be the patient.
  4. They call to confirm patients while you watch them.
  5. They begin calling on their own while you’re nearby in case they get stuck and need to grab you.
  6. If they make a mistake, find out what they didn’t understand and get it corrected (see the next section of this post for more on that)
  7. Once you’re both satisfied they can do it well without making mistakes, move onto the next task.

You do each step above until they’re comfortable and confident with it before moving onto the next.

(Related: Hiring a Front Desk Employee with No Prior Dental Experience)

Then you can go on to other tasks, like scheduling patients, accepting payments, filing insurance, etc.

With our online training platform, DDS Success, we do most of the explaining part for you (i.e. how to do each task, why each task is done that way, how to overcome problems that may arise, etc.) but it’s also set up to include time for you to do practice drills with them and oversee them until they’re doing it well and not making any mistakes. That part can never be fully replaced by having them read a book or watch a video.

3. When they make a mistake—find out what happened and why.

When someone makes a mistake, here’s the WRONG way to handle it:

“So I know we’ve gone over this before. I want to go over it with you again.” *Show them how to do it.* “Do you have any questions? …Okay. Make sure you don’t make this mistake again.”

This doesn’t work because there is a reason they made the mistake. There’s something they didn’t “get,” and unless you address that, they’ll keep making mistakes.

(Related: 7 Steps to Well Trained Staff)

The RIGHT way is to find out why the made the mistake and address that. Most commonly it’s one of these things:

  1. There’s some detail they don’t understand—e.g., a code, procedure name, part of the software, etc.
  2. They did it differently in their old office and assume it should be fine here, too.
  3. They don’t understand WHY you do it this way. (For example, they don’t understand why you can’t double book two root canals at the same time as the doctor is required in both places…)
  4. Someone else in the office told them to do it differently.
  5. They’re being careless.

4. Determine if they are a good fit for your office.

The key thing to watch is: Do they make improvements?

If they want to improve and show that by becoming more productive and efficient over time—then you probably want to continue training them.

But if you’ve honestly done the three points above but they still keep making the same mistakes, perform poorly and show no improvement, they may not be a good fit for your practice.

The important thing to remember is that you need to provide good training and give them a way to improve. If you don’t have good organizational systems and you don’t take the time to train the employees, you’ll never know if the employee is the problem or if your office is the problem.

I’ve seen many dentists throw a brand-new employee on the job with very little training, watch them fail, and decide “it wasn’t a good fit.” Honestly, the employee never had the opportunity to show that they were a good employee, because they were never given the chance to succeed.

So first you need to improve your organizational structure, get solid systems in place, and provide good training. In the past, you may have been able coast along with sloppy organization, but now in the aftermath of the pandemic, you can’t afford inefficiencies like this. You need to get everyone on top of their game.

We help you do that here at MGE. Attend one of our free virtual seminars here or check out our on-demand video training platform here.

And you can always reach us at (800) 640-1140 for a free consultation.

I hope this helps!


One Response to “Having Trouble with New Employees? Try This!”

  1. Dave Shannon

    I just hired a new dental assistant post covid. I’m using this system and this is the first time in my career I’m noticing the assistant is calm is working within her comfort zone and at the same time she’s learning how and why I want things done a certain way. Even my lead assistant of 7 years is getting why I want things a certain way and she’s adjusting too. So simple thank you for this streamlined article to give me mire focus Monday morning.


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