As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold last spring, shutting down non-urgent healthcare services, North American Dental Group (NADG) – along with the rest of the dental industry – was forced to temporarily shutter most of its dental practices and lost much of its anticipated revenue for the first half of the year.
While challenges mounted for the DSO, which supports over 230 practices across 15 states and employs thousands of employees, NADG CEO and co-founder Kenneth Cooper shifted his focus to helping workers cope with the pandemic – switching to remote work as a safety precaution and creating a fund to help others suffering economic hardship.
His servant leadership approach of putting team members first is just one of the reasons why Cooper was named one of the 25 Highest Rated CEOs During the COVID-19 Crisis by Glassdoor, one of the world’s largest job and recruiting sites. Cooper was the only dental industry leader – and one of only three healthcare CEOs – to be featured in the report.
“The fact that this honor comes solely as a result of NADG team members sharing their personal thoughts, beliefs and experiences makes this acknowledgement truly special for me. I have tremendous gratitude for the men and women who make NADG a wonderful place to work,” said Cooper, who helped coin NADG’s familiar maxim, ‘Caring people, caring for people.’
To compile the list, Glassdoor reviewed posts from current and former employees at U.S.-based American companies with a workforce of at least 1,000 employees between March 1 and July 31. In addition, Glassdoor rated CEOs on several leadership characteristics and traits, including how employees rated their overall effectiveness during the pandemic.
According to Glassdoor, common themes from employees of the highest-rated CEOs included respect for work-life balance and showing genuine care for workers. NADG’s culture is grounded in the core values of empathy, compassion and care. Cooper and his fellow NADG leaders were committed to showing those values aren’t just random words in a mission statement—they are words to live by.
“There is no question that this pandemic has created deep challenges for our company. But we never wavered from our servant leadership mindset, our culture and our values. We genuinely care for our patients and teammates. That has been our North Star as we navigate this current crisis.” -Kenneth Cooper, CEO, NADG
To support team members, NADG, led by its board of dentists known as the Professional Dental Alliance, focused on two key pillars that exemplified the company’s values: fostering a caring workplace environment and ensuring the health and safety of NADG team members when they returned to work.
From the onset of the pandemic, Cooper shared frequent and candid communications with NADG team members, sometimes penning a personal message to the team. He recognized it was more important than ever to be both transparent and human, as well as listen and respond to employee needs.
To protect the health and safety of its team members, NADG implemented an innovative “Essential Treatment Only” model and adopted advanced safety and infection control procedures across all supported practices early in the pandemic. Cooper shared these procedures with colleagues across the dental industry, providing guidance and insight to help other dentists navigate the crisis.
When local guidance allowed dental practices to fully reopen, Cooper left it up to individual practices to decide when they were comfortable and prepared to see patients for routine oral care and elective procedures again. Knowing that dentists, hygienists and other dental professionals are among the most vulnerable to coronavirus exposure, it was important that NADG team members choose what was best for themselves and their families. Many were still managing drastic changes in their daily lives, including home-schooling children or supporting elderly and at-risk loved ones.
Cooper helped to support those who were unable to or chose not to return to work by establishing a $340,000 employee relief fund. He also allowed team members to borrow up to two weeks of paid time off against a future balance to minimize economic hardship for NADG team members.
From securing advanced personal protective equipment for team members to introducing COVID-19 screenings for patients prior to appointments, many NADG team members have shared they feel safe in their practices due to these extra measures. Though the long-term impact of the pandemic is still unknown, Cooper will continue to roll up his sleeves to help the NADG team and broader dental industry through this crisis and beyond.
“As many of these employees are navigating major changes during the pandemic,” Glassdoor said in a statement announcing Cooper’s inclusion on the Highest Rated CEOs During the COVID-19 Crisis list, “It’s clear that frequent and transparent communication, as well as making the effort to listen to employees’ needs, is more important than ever.”
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