Why Employee Retention is the Key to Sustained Success and Meeting Business Goals

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 Written by: Ralf Tomandl, COO, HR for Health

There is no question about it: Every industry and business struggles with employee turnover. Unfortunately, this is particularly true for the dental industry. Dentistry enjoys 100% employment and has so for years. Anyone qualified that wants a job, can find a job. It is an employee’s market; it has been for a long time, and it will be for a long time to come.

In addition, dentistry has always been relatively immune to the typical boom and bust cycles of the economy: Insurance or not, people get their teeth taken care of — and find a way to pay for it.

Then COVID-19 happened. The pandemic disrupted the industry in a drastic and severe manner. The government-ordered shutdown of dental offices caused over 50% of employees to either get furloughed or terminated. Starting March 15th over 550,000 highly trained and qualified team members lost their jobs.

To make things worse, the vast majority of these employees were asked back only weeks later when it became clear that termination was too drastic a measure. Still, it was too late: These furloughs and firings caused a significant shift in mindset, with many employees wondering, “If my job is not ‘recession-proof,’ and I can be laid off at the first sign of trouble, is this really what I want to do with the rest of my life?”

Employee Shortages Fuel Salary Challenges for Dental Practices

COVID-19 gave employees an entirely new outlook. Between the “forced timeout,” government assistance, and savings many took the chance to take a breather and see what they wanted to do with their lives. This “great recession” spurred a new way of thinking and significantly impacted the healthcare and dentistry fields. The already tight labor market shrunk even further.

In “normal” times, an employee could expect regular pay increases of 3-4% per annum. However, thanks to the massive slew of job openings that became replete in the healthcare industry, the power of negotiations shifted dramatically to employees. As a result of this enhanced power, employees could routinely expect to negotiate a 15-20% salary increase for the same job in a different office.

This was a significant shift for healthcare and dental practices, which suddenly had to be prepared to offer a much more substantial salary increase than they ever had. However, as many practices quickly discovered, salary increases were not the only thing most employees wanted.

Why Are Employees Looking for New Employers?

For your dental practice to navigate these difficult times, it is vital to understand the answer to this fundamental question: Why are employees leaving their offices more frequently?

Pay can undoubtedly contribute to these issues, but the truth is that there is almost always a slew of reasons that fuel an employee’s desire to shift offices or leave the dentistry field entirely. Moreover, according to available research, there are many reasons someone may consider transitioning to a new position.

First, employees often feel underappreciated or ignored by the dentist or practice managers. This commonly occurs when their needs aren’t met, or managers don’t make it clear that they value employee communication and feedback.

Second, an employee may feel disconnected from the practice mission as a whole. As a result, they may not understand the practice’s vision, goals, or long-term plans, including how they fit into the big picture.

Both of these issues are a symptom of a broader problem: The level of communication between the employee and employer is poor. This often happens when an employee isn’t getting regular performance feedback, either positive or negative.

The best example is the annual performance review. If it is either delayed or even skipped, that is a sure-fire way to create an unhappy employee. Employees feel underappreciated and are left to fend for themselves in trying to figure out how to improve their performance.

Furthermore, randomly giving an employee a pay increase without it being grounded in actual performance statistics and general feedback, makes people feel unmoored and insecure. While it’s nice to make more money, they don’t know what it was for and have nothing to work towards to either do it again or what to “shoot for”?

Setting goals, helping an employee achieve those goals and then rewarding an employee for a job well done, is the most effective way to retain an employee and assure their happiness.

So, How Can You Keep Employees from Looking for a New Job in the First Place?

There is no question that you face many pressures in your practice, but at the end of the day, you must put your employees at the center of your business decisions. Remember, any plans you make will not come to fruition without the right people in the right positions. Investing in your employees is the best investment you can make.

As such, you must consider how you are accomplishing the following concrete steps:

  • Communicate company goals with your team and how they will help you achieve these goals.
  • Solicit their feedback, particularly in areas of their expertise, and make them part of the decision-making process.
  • Visibly and publicly praise employees for their participation in efforts to improve their company.
  • Conduct regular and predictable employee reviews, and make sure your employees know they will have regular performance evaluations.
  • Tie a raise to performance and offer actionable steps on how an employee can earn a raise the following year.
  • When it comes to improvement, set clear goals. Document what those goals are and how your team members can achieve them.
  • Learn more about your employees’ needs outside of work and find out if there is a way you can help them fulfill these needs.

As for this last step, this accommodation type can take many forms. For example, an employee may have a child that they have to drop off at school. The scheduling difficulty may cause them to be fifteen minutes late or early for work. Offer to be flexible with start times. This kind of accommodation can go a long way toward employee retention.

Compensation Matters, but Communication Matters More

There is no question that a fair compensation package can make or break an employee’s desire to stay or leave your practice. However, it is far from the most crucial topic. Employees want to know that they are vital to a successful team, which means they should be acknowledged, praised, and communicated with in a manner that reflects their essential roles.

This means that you need to allow employees to participate in improving your practice, meeting practice goals, and better serving your patients. It would help if you also accommodated their needs outside the dental office. By doing so, they will trust that you care about them, are interested in their future, and want to see them be successful. They will repay you with loyalty, and your retention will improve.

How HR for Health Can Help

HR for Health’s all-in-one human resources software has the automated tools you need to help invest in your employees. Outline clear and concise company policies in your dental practice’s employee handbook, conduct performance reviews and monitor growth, send individual and office-wide electronic messages and Kudos nominations to build morale. Our software and team of live HR specialists ensure you stay updated with the latest HR laws while nurturing your team and seeing patients. Contact us today to set up a fifteen-minute HR Consultation and learn more about what we can do for your practice.

About the Author:

Ralf Tomandl is the COO for HR for Health, the leading HR software in the dental industry in the United States. He has decades of experience both managing large teams of employees as well as successfully implementing software solutions in the healthcare industry. His unique insight into thousands of dental offices and DSOs have taught him how to motivate employees to succeed in their chosen field.

About HR for Health:

HR for Health is the only all-in-one HR software solution dedicated to helping practices stay HR compliant year-round. HR for Health makes it easy to manage employees across multiple locations all the while boosting employee performance and avoiding lawsuits. With customizable employee handbooks, e-signature ready documentation, time clock, cloud-based storage, 401(k), and more, we make it easy to manage your team and stay compliant!

For more information go to www.hrforhealth.com


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