Many dentists around the country are facing significant staff changes due to the pandemic. Some team members might not have come back to work after the quarantine due to health concerns or caretaker responsibilities. Some employees may not be the right fit for your office anymore. With so much change in these intense few months, it’s ok if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the possibility of needing to hire to fill a vacant position, or to fire a staff member who no longer fits your needs. The times have changed and it’s ok to acknowledge that your staff needs might have changed. Your practice is evolving and changing.
This is a good time to assess what your practice fundamentally needs right now. Evaluate what you are missing. Discover what new needs and expectations your patients might have as they step through your doors and the changes you need to make to accommodate those needs. In this new environment, dentists can look at hiring through a creative lens. Step back and look at all the options you have. Maybe you do need to hire to fill those new gaps in the care that you offer. But maybe there’s someone already in your office whom you can put in a different position in order to fill the need you have.
As you are looking to hire, be mindful that there are many capable and eager candidates who may be outside of the dental industry. Someone with experience in the service industry or in education may have many of the character traits that you are looking for in a staff member. Examine also what type of person you are looking for, beyond their physical skills. Specifically, an employee who is adaptable will be able to adjust easily to the frequent changes in their work environment that has been characteristic of this pandemic.
Hiring requires a bit more thoughtfulness these days, because dentists are still adjusting to a practice that looks quite different than it did a few months ago. A strong leader can acknowledge when their business has changed and step back and examine each moving piece in their team and practice in order to gain perspective. You might be amazed at the creative solutions you come up with.
Full Transcript Below
Hey, so this is Shawn and Allison with the authentic dentist podcast. And we are excited today to talk about recreating your team, uh, post quarantine during this pandemic, because let’s face it. There has just been so many shifts. Um, we’ve talked about it, there’s just changes and it seems like they just continue, but a lot of practices are back to work and they’re open. And I think what they might be experiencing, which is probably similar to you is that, um, their team may not be the same. Some of the people that were there aren’t there anymore. Um, some people don’t want to be in dentistry anymore. Um, there’s just been, yeah, there’s just been a lot of changes.
My practice is really struggling with this. We had a team member leave recently and that’s just always a hard thing. No matter why, if you made the decision or if they made the decision, it just always hard to have a team member leave and figure out what is this new culture? What does this new team need to look like? And I am discovering that my team needs to look different than it did last year. At this time. There’s a lot more, I won’t say touch because we can’t touch people, but a lot more TLC that needs to be given. And so I need to, to change the culture of my office again.
I mean, that’s really interesting to think about it’s like the new normal, um, is, is different. It’s different because of what patients are going through. It’s different because of the, again, how, when they show up, like you’re saying are, what, what fears do they have now that they didn’t have 12 months ago they were coming in for a cleaning. They weren’t thinking about it now there’s all these screens up now. There’s, you know, depending on where you live, uh, people have to wear masks everywhere that are going, and maybe they don’t know a lot about how the pandemic spreads. And they’re scared that maybe your practice, like it’s just a whole different, yeah. I mean, I was joking about the other day because one of my kids in my car, they hung up a mask, um, where you normally hang up, um, like dry cleaning right there in the back.
Like almost as if like the sun’s going to disinfect the mask, it’s a level three. So it’s, it’s not supposed to be used again. But I was like, it’s funny that a lot of people use to hang stuff by their mirrors, um, in their car, which is never a good idea anyway, but like necklaces or something, that means something to them, you know, like the dice or whatever. And now I just think it’d be funny. It’s like, what kind of mask are you supporting? You know, is it level three? Is it a K and 95? Is it a designer? One with like, like the fact that that’s now culturally just normal, everyone wears masks. I mean, it just shows how different things are. Again, you go back 12 months ago. If I saw a mask hanging from someone’s car mirror, I’d be like, what is going on? Like, did they just come back from the hospital? It’s just, but things are different.
And I think we need to be, be kind to ourselves and, and recognize the amount of change that we’ve been through. I mean, it’s been a huge amount of change in the last 12 months, mostly in the last four months. And some team members are not comfortable anymore. Some team members didn’t come back and maybe some team members just aren’t the right fit for your office anymore. And you have to make a decision and all of those are, are just changing. And for me, anyway, I’m, I’m getting tired of change. You know, I really would like some consistency somewhere and that’s just not happening.
Um, I mean, especially with dentistry, you know, a lot of the other industries there’s been massive layoffs, so there’s a lot of candidates that are just looking for work. But ironically, that’s not the case in dentistry. I mean, why, why do you think that is? Is it because a lot of employees, because of the close nature of working with close to patients and aerosols really are scared for their own safety and that’s why they don’t want to be in dentistry anymore?
Well, I think there’s a multitude of things that have happened here last year. Um, I’m on the council for dental practice and we were talking about workforce and we don’t have as many people coming into the dental workforce that are in the assistant and, um, dental office manager, hygienist roles. We just, there just aren’t as many people
Supply wise, it’s down,
It’s down. And this year it’s going to be difficult for someone to graduate from a hygiene program or an assistant program, just because it’s such a hands on thing that you do. So there’s, there’s that piece that you have a change in the market. And then there’s just the fear. You do have some assistance in some hygienists that are afraid to come in with that close contact with patients. It’s always been dangerous. I don’t want, I don’t ever want to say it wasn’t, but it does feel more dangerous right now. And so I do get, if you had some immune issues that you would be scared to come back and practice, so we’ve lost some more people that way will the market workout. It always does. It will, but not today.
Well, and I guess just the way that, that know leaves dentistry is that it’s just, it’s interesting because you don’t know, um, like I said, whatever type of changes happen in your practice, if you’ve, you know, all of a sudden don’t have that assistant hygienist anymore, or someone in the front office doesn’t want to come back, some roles might be easier to fill. Um, and other roles you might be in a waiting list and not be able to find someone for that. And then it’s like, the decision is, okay, well, what positions do I need to fill them? Or can we just pivot and change how we we serve? Um, like for example, you were thinking, wow, because of the way patients are needing. Now you need to change the culture a little bit more so that maybe you get someone that can really express that care can really communicate to a patient that might be a little more timid, uh, might, might need more reassuring and that’s changed the way that you’re thinking even about hiring. So instead of just replacing a position that may be as vacant, it’s maybe creating a new position.
And, and I really think that it’s important that we as dentists step back and quit trying to push that square peg through that round hole. Cause we do, and we’re so detail oriented. We really want to, but if you step back and say, Oh, okay, the, the whole is different. The culture is different. What do I actually need right now? Instead of, well, I heard this person, I need somebody. Who’s a dental assistant. Just like the one I had before. Maybe you don’t, maybe, maybe you’re going to work with less patients. Maybe you don’t want to replace them at all. You want to use some artificial intelligence. There’s a lot out there that can answer the phones for you and schedule patients. And I mean, there’s things out there that you can use that don’t have to be another person. And is it, if you’re slow, maybe there’s an opportunity to train somebody who hasn’t been in dentistry before, because like you said, there’s a lot of people in the hospitality industry that are not working. That would be amazing in our practices. If we had the opportunity to spend time training them, which maybe we do. I don’t know. I’m trying to really think out of the box. What does my practice need to look like now?
I mean, that’s just a great connection. You just made though, the hospitality industry who’s traveling, where can you travel? I just tried to book a flight to why did I think I could do that? The borders are closed. And if for some reason I was family or, you know, some condition that was allowed, I would have to quarantine myself two weeks when I arrived there. And two weeks coming back, I wanted to go on a weekend ship, not a month long. You know? So like travel is not, I don’t know when that’s going to normalize. We, we just don’t know. So you’re right. Hospitality industry, main line hotels, the way they train their employees service. Oh my gosh. Not, not just to, not just to take care of guests, but to anticipate needs, like I’m talking about like body language that they’re able to read every sort of satisfaction score that could be out there.
Like if someone looks like, Oh my God, like where are my car keys? You know, they’re there. I mean, especially like the Ritz Carlton, they’re just the best. So you have some highly trained individuals out there and you’re right. They might be looking for a job and they may not be thinking like, where do my dentistry, where do my skills translate? And if you’re just as if dentists, the way that you’re saying are looking for that same exact peg to fit it in, you’re going to miss that opportunity. But there could be a large opportunity there.
The other ones I keep thinking about our educators. I think that some educators aren’t going to go back now and they’re not going back because perhaps that situation is not safe. Well, even in our hazardous setting, we’re so safe. I mean, the protocols that we have are so safe to put somebody in who is an educator again, to teach people would be an opportunity. So it’s time to really just start thinking out of the box when there’s a will, there’s a way, what is this practice need to look like? What are you missing? What do patients need from you and who can you hire? And, and that’s really what I’m trying to figure out right now, as I’ve lost this team member. And it was a pretty important one. And there’s also this emotional piece when you lose a team member, because you love them. Even if they weren’t doing the job you needed them to, or it wasn’t the right fit anymore. You still love them. You want them to have the best, but the relationship is almost broken. So you can’t express it anymore.
Well, especially if it was one of the core roles, you know, someone that’s been with you over two years, even, I think, I mean, you can get close to someone much sooner than that, but, you know, we had an employee that was with us six years and it was like practically family, just looking back on the photos of all the birthdays that we celebrated together as a family, all the different milestones and what we went through, um, at work and just that individual was part of all of it. And now all of a sudden, it’s like, they’re not, they’re not with you writing the story anymore. They’re with you in the journey. It’s very difficult. Um,
It’s almost like you’re supposed to be angry, but you can’t be. I mean, it’s, it was time. There’s always a beginning and an ending of a relationship and it was time. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t wish them well. And that’s, that’s a hard piece to come to grips with. I’m not going to see them every day. We’re not going to celebrate holidays together anymore. They’re not part of my team anymore, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want the best for them. And it doesn’t mean that I want to hire somebody just like them because the practice is evolving. I mean, we’re, we’re different and that’s okay. It’s okay. That things are changing.
I just think you put it so well. It’s like, that’s the tendency again, someone moved on, well, we probably need to find someone like that, or this was the role they filled. So we probably need to fill that exact role instead of saying, okay, well, um, that, that specific individual, or that specific role, where were we wanting that to even be expanded? You know, if we were thinking in the next two, three years, we were really going to invest in that individual to grow in these skills. Well, let’s hire for those skills now. And maybe re-imagine, um, overall, that fits where we’re at now. And I, I think that’s great. Like, so right now our business, um, we’re, we’re hiring and two really great candidates came by. And I think when I was trying to think of like evaluating which one, um, you know, we’re actually going to do like a working interview too.
Cause I was like, you know what, when you hire someone, it is a massive investment. Not financially, it’s a massive, like, it’s not because of what you’re paying them when you’re training them. It’s just because of that training. You’re training them for months. And then all of a sudden, if after that six months of training, they’re like, you know what? This isn’t a fit. And I don’t like it. Oh my gosh. Like the opportunity costs of what you lost to have someone that it’s ready to just crush it with your company. You’re already, you’re more than six months gone. Um, so yeah, it’s a big, it’s a big deal to hire wrong. So that’s what we’re thinking with these employees. We’re like, Hm, which one can we see really contributing and growing with us to where we’re going to be in five, 10 years.
It’s hard to think that far out cause your, your immediate need is right now. I’m short a dental assistant. I’ve got to have somebody sitting across from me, suctioning. I really need this person now. And that’s true. But at the same time, that role is a huge role in interacting with patients and reflecting your brand and being the culture that you want. So you can’t just hire anyone to sit in that chair.
So how common is that in dentistry for you guys to conduct almost like working type interviews where there’s like an evaluation basis? I always do. Okay. I never hire someone
Without a working interview because I made that mistake. I’ve made them all. It’s been trial by fire last 20 years,
But that’s the thing like the faster you can get through those, the further you’ll get. I think so many people are still afraid to just make the mistakes. So they don’t actually step out.
You just, you just make a mistake and you’re going to make more. It’s just the way it is. And I make mistakes now that I never dreamed existed. 20 years ago. It’s always entertaining. I’ll hire somebody who has computer skills and 18 years ago, when you said computer skills, that meant you could work in Eaglesoft or my software. Well, today that means I need you to be able to work on Facebook. I need you to be able to write, I need you to do all these other things because we have that marketing piece, computer skills. This is not the word that you use.
I had someone close to me the other day, get frustrated because they’re working email, wasn’t working. And they’re like, okay, I guess I have a Gmail account. How do I access that? Cause it’s not on my computer. And I was like, I didn’t even know what to say. I was like, you go to gmail.com, but not to, not to show like a lack of understanding. It’s just that it shows like things are moving fast, incredibly fast when it comes to the digital world, especially with social media, I don’t know what’s going on in tick-tock. I don’t know what’s happening with some of these new platforms. It’s not my generation. We’re not on there, but,
But if you’re going to serve a generation that looks at tick talk, then you probably need to have some information there.
Totally, totally. Um, so yeah, I think, I think when it comes to hiring one of the things, um, just that we want to, again, reemphasize is you don’t need to think about filling that exact role. Just take a step back and reimagine. What is it that is needed in your practice right now, based off of the way that what what’s going on with your patients, what’s going on with your team, the new dynamics, and don’t, don’t rush to something there’s no bigger catastrophe than rushing into a higher, you know, I think they always say hire slow, fire fast. And it’s true. It’s true because it’s someone that is going to grow with your company. If someone is going to be part of that family, and it’s a big deal because they really represent your brand to the patient. So if all of a sudden it’s someone that’s frontline, especially if they’re frontline and you have a potential patient calling and right off the bat on the phone, the person’s quick, you know, and, and frustrated. And I’m in the middle of things, you know, like you do not want that person representing that to a potential patient.
It’s funny that you say that because I always come back to the right people on the bus and the right positions. And we are very meticulous people. And so I like to hire people that are very meticulous and detail oriented, but that may not be the most flexible person. And today’s dental office has to be very flexible because every time I turn around, I’ve got to implement something different, change this. So finding someone that’s flexible to is important, you gotta really think about, I know this person needs to be detailed, but what are the other qualities? And are there people in my office right now that could take a different role because that’s always a possibility. My hygienist, isn’t very busy right now. It’s been weird. So we were slammed in June, double hygiene, crazy. And then last week everybody said, Nope, we’re not coming in. And we’re scared. Okay. So my hygienist is incredibly detailed, but she’s been flexible. And so I’ve put her on some marketing and she’s done wonderful. So can you pay people that are already in your office to do things? If they’re not working, you’ve got to just think out of the box. It’s, it’s hard, but step back and look at all the opportunities here. Cause there are
So that’s another, just last nugget is like when you’re doing interviews, if it’s for a specific position that you know, what they’re going to is, are going to be required of them. Don’t be afraid to list other skills and ask them what other skills do you have or other things you’re passionate about. So for example, we’re hiring right now for something that’s like order entry, customer service and some partial warehouse, but we said, let us know, what is it you’re passionate about? What is it you care about? Because we want to know what, like, if they’re adaptable, what other things that they could be used for, because it was amazing that you just said that and super insightful, Alison adaptability has become one of the skills that is now incredibly important and got revealed through this pandemic, those practices on a whole they’re adaptable. They’re going to make it individuals and leaders that are adaptable. They’re going to make it. But those that want are more resistant and reluctant to change and want to go back to the way things were. They’re going to find it more difficult.
We’re not going back or just going forward. So our closing is really look at the team you have right now. Can you put people in different positions in order to fill what you need? Look outside the industry for people. And when you’re hiring, look for people that are adaptable. That’s my little insight here.
Thank you for listening to the authentic dentist podcast. Join Alison and Sean on this journey. Hit the subscribe button to never miss an episode. Here’s to your success. Express yourself fully [inaudible].
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