Nathan Poole FCCA
Nathan Poole FCCA

With recruitment of dental practice staff representing a major challenge, practice-owners should understand what their loyal team members appreciate about their job. Some practice owners assume that providing extra benefits will help retention when the reason for staff staying loyal might be completely different.

Over the years, several clients have welcomed the opportunity for a discussion around staffing issues. We are objective and we understand the challenges involved with dental staff retention.

We recently supported a client with a team member who was skilled at asking for pay increases!  She had enjoyed several raises but was still not fully delivering. Our client did not want to take her to task because he believed she was indispensable to him. If she left, how would he replace her?

Our advice to the client was to sit down with the team member and revisit the job description and performance standards to pin-point objectives and priorities to be met before any further increases might be on the table.  Use constructive feedback techniques to keep the discussions focused on the practice.

It’s worth being aware that in the future, when you want to retire from your practice, buyers won’t be impressed if they feel that the staff are overpaid for the role they perform. Insult will be added to injury if you struggle to manage demands for pay increases and at the same time deter future buyers.  In extreme cases you may be required to make the individual redundant before sale, and that can be expensive.

Dental staff retention involves time and effort but if you can keep your best team members, it will pay dividends.

  • Tip 1: When you give a team member a new role and pay grade you are entitled to expect them to take on additional responsibilities. This will not be achieved unless both parties are clear about the expectations of the role and appropriate training given.

  • Tip 2: We advise against getting too close to your staff.  You need to maintain respect and that usually means keeping a distance between you and them.

  • Tip 3: We urge practice owners to review systems to ensure they are not open to fraudulent activity.  You should trust your staff but not give them the opportunity to disappoint you.

We recommend segregation of duties to ensure that sole responsibility for collecting fees and reconciling the banking at the end of the day involves more than one person.  Albeit unusual, we have come across instances of theft by staff.  The big risk used to be “cash”.  That is rare now, but we have come across a card refund being directed to a team member’s bank account.

Any refunds should be separately authorised by the practice manager or principal.  We recommend that practice owners take an interest in, and show awareness of, practice financial performance in order to deter such activity.

Your team will flourish if you have robust leadership in place and everyone is clear about their responsibilities to the practice and your patients. With the right rewards, you can help promote staff retention, in everyone’s interests.