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Indispensable Employee Management Tools for a Dental Practice

by Hema Gopal, M.B.A. and D.M.D.

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Published on this site: November 28th, 2009 - See more articles from this month

Many dentists are not equipped to deal with employee performance issues. Managing performance requires a systematic approach in which the employee clearly understands what is expected of him or her, with a process in place to monitor performance.

In managing employee performance, you need to consider four separate issues:

  1. Innate ability or talent
  2. Skill
  3. Motivation
  4. Attitude

If lack of skill is the main obstacle for an employee, it is a training issue, and there is an excellent opportunity to work with the employee and improve their performance. Their innate ability will determine how quickly they learn.

If motivation is an issue despite competitive pay and a bonus incentive, you need to meet with the employee to find out why he or she is not motivated. If money does not motivate the employee, it could be that he or she is not suited for that particular job or needs increased responsibility, more challenging assignments, or recognition of some other type. In general, motivation is an internal trait, and cheerleading and rah-rah speeches rarely produce sustainable results.

Attitude is by far the most difficult one to resolve. Your recruiting process should focus heavily on screening candidates for proper attitude. Recruit for attitude, train for skill.

Employee Management Tools and How to Use Them:

The following tools are essential for managing performance. Make sure you have them and use them in your practice.

  1. Human Resources Manual: This contains detailed policies regarding absenteeism, uniforms, professional behavior, performance reviews, vacations and benefits. All new employees should be given a human resources manual so that they are aware of "how things work" within your office. All employees should read and sign the last page of the manual.

  2. Job Expectations / Descriptions for Every Position: Each employee position requires a specific, detailed explanation of work responsibilities. In your dental office, this would entail written descriptions for all assistants, hygienists, and business office personnel.

  3. Job Review Sheet: The review sheet is a form on which all responsibilities can be reviewed and graded from a range of Excellent to Good to Poor to Unacceptable. The job review sheet involves a two-step process, with both the employee and you assessing the employee's contributions.

  4. Job Performance Meetings: Once the job review sheet has been filled out, you should meet with the employee to discuss performance. Do not view performance evaluation as a once-a-year event. It is a process that begins the moment an employee is hired and continues throughout the employee's tenure with your practice. It involves clear communications of expectations and standards; development of specific, measurable goals; and ongoing feedback. New employees require more frequent feedback.

  5. Timely Feedback for Interim Performance Issues: Between job performance meetings, be sure to address issues that surface in a timely manner.

The health of your practice hinges heavily on your ability to build and maintain a productive team. Non-performing staff members present one of the biggest impediments to success and growth. Often, a single difficult employee can completely sabotage and hinder progress, or cause dissension and unhealthy conflict within a practice. On the other hand, the doctor who figures out how to get employees to work in harmony and be productive will experience less stress, see a higher income, and enjoy dentistry.

Hema Gopal, M.B.A., D.M.D., and her husband Peter Gopal, Ph.D., consult with dentists who are intent on building a more profitable practice. Whether you are leaving money on the table due to broken patient appointments, improper scheduling, poor case acceptance, low hygienist productivity, excessive verhead, or unnecessary reliance on PPOs, they can pinpoint your weaknesses and prescribe remedies. Receive a free, realistic assessment of the earning potential of your dental practice by going to:

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