Q: I’m having a hard time keeping good employees in my practice. How can I minimize staff turnover?

A: Thank you for your question! Especially in today’s labor market with more job-hopping than ever, this is an important topic.

In any business, regardless of what that business is, you are always going to have some amount of staff turnover. The most important thing you can do is be prepared for it. I myself am always looking for good candidates even if we don’t need to hire at the moment, so that I’m not caught flat-footed when I suddenly need someone. I never stop the looking/hiring process.

Having said that, though, staff turnover is annoying. It is disruptive and creates extra work for your team. So even if it is unavoidable to some degree, you don’t want to be actively creating it.

So, what are the things you’re doing that are making turnover worse?

5 Things that Will Make Turnover Worse in Your Practice:

1. Keeping new hires too long when they aren’t a good fit.

Counterintuitively, trying too hard to hold on to employees can actually create more turnover.

Unless you have a magic crystal ball, it is impossible to guarantee someone will be the perfect fit for your office ahead of time. You don’t truly know until you’ve hired them and they’re on the job.

But once they are on the job, you can usually tell if they’re a bad fit within about a week. This is the time to make a decision. If they’re not the right fit, no problem. Let them find a new position where they’ll be happy, and you just keep looking. But if you wait for months, it’ll make replacing them a bigger hassle for everyone involved.

It may feel like you’re being kind by giving them a chance to stay on, but you’re actually not doing them (or yourself) any favors. For an employee, it’s better to know quickly if you need to move on, before you’ve built your life around the job and then will have to start the job hunt all over again from scratch. And as the dental practice owner or manager, you’re wasting training time and losing production by having an underperforming employee.

So, you’re better off making the decision quickly and continuing your search to find the right person.

Just one caveat: this is true assuming that you have good training. If you don’t train your new hires properly, then they will all look bad in the first week. So take point #2 below into consideration with this.

2. Not providing structured staff training.

If you don’t tell your staff exactly what you need and want from them, then they are going to invent what they think you want them to do.

And trust me, what they come up with is usually not going to make you happy.

This isn’t a matter of being a bad staff member. It’s a matter of poor leadership and training. Even a very bright person with plenty of prior experience will never intuitively know exactly how you want things to run in your practice. It’s unreasonable to expect them to.

Even if this new team member has already done scheduling for years—there are a million different ways to schedule. What if you’re a fee-for-service practice and they come from a Medicaid office?

What if their old doctor liked to do things differently or didn’t put a priority on practice growth?

You need to give them a clear and detailed outline of exactly what you want them to do, along with training on how to execute these functions and quantifiable expectations for their level of production.

By the way, if you don’t already have sufficient manuals and training materials that cover all the details of each job function in your office, check out DDS Success. This is our on-demand video training platform that walks your team through every aspect of their jobs and includes downloadable forms, policies, etc, to make this much easier for you. Schedule a free demo here.

3. Not giving regular guidance and correction.

Dental practice management tips - MGE management experts blogMost dentists I speak with are ordinarily more unhappy with the front office than the back. There also tends to be much more turnover up front. Why? Usually, it’s because there is very little supervision of the front office.

In the back, there is constant supervision because you’re working with them all the time. If they do something wrong, you see it immediately and address it with them. But the front office…they’re kind of left on their own to figure things out. Especially if you’re not holding regular team meetings or checking in to provide assistance—it feels like they are in a completely separate business than the back.

If you just let them do their own thing, then guess what…they’ll just do their own thing! It takes quite a talented and motivated individual to keep doing a good job and figure everything out themselves when they’re not really part of the team.

4. Allowing a bad apple to remain in your group.

If someone isn’t performing or has a bad attitude toward their job, other team members can react in a couple ways: a) start acting the same way because apparently that’s just the way it goes here, or b) be constantly frustrated because they’re working hard while this other person isn’t helping or is actively worsening things.

This is how you end up with staff drama. This is how you end up with a non-productive group. This is how you end up with good employees leaving while the bad one(s) stays.

If you keep a bad apple, they will drive away your good staff.

So if you have an employee you know isn’t working out or is causing problems, don’t procrastinate on making a decision. Talk to them now, and either they shape up or you move on. In many cases, it’s better to leave the position empty for a while than to keep someone there that is actively harming the practice.

One word of warning, though: be careful before you decide someone is a “bad apple.” Don’t go by rumor or what another employee said about them. And just because someone is loud or occasionally abrasive, that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t be a good team member. The only way to truly determine that is by their personal production. This means you need to have a way to measure their production using statistics (which we teach on the MGE Power Program). You don’t want to fire a highly productive and contributing team member because another lower-producing employee got in an argument with them or complains about them, unless they are so difficult that nobody else can work with them.

5. Don’t create a dead-end job.

Just like you, most people want to have a nice life and have the opportunity to improve their life. But in dentistry, many jobs end up being dead-end jobs people just do because they need some kind of work before they start their real career. It doesn’t have to be that way!

I have three pieces of advice for providing a real career that people can be passionate about:

a. Put a good bonus plan in place. When the practice wins, your team should win, too.

b. Share your mission with your team. Dentistry is a fantastic industry to be in because you are truly helping people become healthy. Many dental staff don’t know the connection between oral and systemic health and how much it helps people. They also don’t always see the results. You probably see amazing transformations and teary-eyed stories from patients that are so happy and grateful that they can finally smile again. Share that with your whole team regularly so they can feel like they’re achieving a worthwhile purpose.

c. Give your team members the opportunity to move up in the organization. If your practice is growing steadily, there will always be opportunities for employees to take on more responsibility, manage more people below them, and increase their salary. But if your practice isn’t expanding, there will never really be good career prospects for your team. So make sure you’re growing, and if you’re not, contact us now for a free consultation.

So there you have it, my top five pieces of advice for reducing turnover. There is, of course, a lot more that can be said about this topic! It involves the way you hire, manage your team, implement organizational structure, and more—which we teach on the MGE Power Program. If you’re serious about improving your practice and creating a better life for yourself and your team, schedule a free consultation to see if we can help.


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