Find Out What Your Employees Want–Or Risk Losing Them!

December 2018 ISSUE December 1, 2018
Practice Management Personnel
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With the unemployment rate at record lows, and employees jumping ship more often, you need to re-double your efforts to keep your best staffers. Otherwise, you may face the costly and time-consuming process of recruiting and training their replacements. Below are 6 strategies to make it happen. 

The Society for Human Resource Management estimates that it costs an average of $4,425—and takes more than a month—to replace one employee. That doesn’t factor in all the intangibles, including lower morale, loss of institutional knowledge, and the hassle of onboarding. And consider this: If you can’t retain your best staff members, you may also lose some of the patients who have come to rely on them. 

To retain employees, you need to know what makes them happy, what motivates them, and what creates loyalty. Competitive compensation—including a robust benefits package—plays an important role, of course, but it’s only one factor. 

Here are 6 other things that you can provide to staffers to keep them engaged, happy, and providing the best customer service for your patients. 

1. Flexibility and work/life balance – Employees—especially younger ones—value flexibility: Mercer’s 2018 Global Talent Trends survey confirmed that. But it’s not just younger ones: older workers are increasingly responsible for caring for an aging spouse and/or parents and value flexible scheduling.

This can be a challenge, but it’s manageable. Flexibility is more nuanced than simply allowing someone to work from home (not usually an option in a dental office) or offering flex time. According to Mercer, flexibility is about “rethinking what work is done, how it’s done, and by whom.”

That opens the door to all sorts of opportunities, including job sharing, staggered schedules, and cross training. And the good news is, that last item dovetails into something else employees want: opportunities for professional development.

2. Opportunities to learn and grow – Your employees want to learn and develop new skills. A Gallup survey found that 59% of millennials say opportunities to learn and grow are extremely important. A large percentage of older workers—44% of Gen Xers and 41% of Baby Boomers—also agreed.

Depending on the size of your staff, you can create mentorship opportunities, provide  cross-training,  and even offer to pay for continuing education each year. Within reason, give them a say in what skills they want to develop. Encourage participating in their professional organizations. Your practice could benefit immensely.

3. Meaning and sense of purpose – One of Mercer’s most interesting findings was this: employees want a higher sense of purpose. As we mentioned in “Grow Your Practice By Giving Back To Your Community” (November, 2018), giving back to the community enhances employee morale and retention.

Your staff also wants the work itself to be meaningful. It’s obvious to you that you are improving your patients’ health and appearance, but does the rest of your team understand how important their work is? Relate patient success stories during staff meetings to cultivate a shared sense of meaning and accomplishment.

4. Recognition and appreciation – Employees want to know they are making a positive impact in the world and on the job. Recognizing a job well done provides positive reinforcement and lets your employee know she is appreciated. Consider upping your game by: 

  • Singing their praises: Praise good work during staff meetings. Be specific. 
  • Writing a note: Did your receptionist do a particularly masterful job handling an angry patient? Did your hygienist rearrange her schedule to accommodate a last minute patient? Handwrite them a thank-you note. 
  • Using bonuses wisely: We discussed this in “Motivate Your Staff With Our 2018 Pay Strategy” (January, 2018), and it bears repeating. Make bonuses merit-based. And—back to the flexibility point earlier—ask staff members in what form they would like to receive their bonus to maximize its perceived value. 
  • Saying “thank you”: Yes, sometimes, it really can be that simple.

5. Tools – You want your staff to work hard and smart. That means they need to have the best tools available. Keeping your instruments, equipment, and technology up-to-date helps you and the whole team. Likewise keep your computer systems up to date, in both the front and back offices. 

6. Respect – When employees are asked what they want, respect, especially from their superiors, often tops the list. Respect fosters loyalty. And yet, according to a recent Harvard Business Review article, lack of respect is a common complaint. 

Respect begins with listening. Create an environment where sharing opinions is encouraged, whether during staff meetings or privately. This has the added benefit of keeping you informed of issues you may not be aware of. 

It’s Good for Business 

Happy staffers are more productive. It’s always been intuitive, but now there’s data to support it. A recent Forbes column (“Promoting Employee Happiness Benefits Everyone”) makes the case quite nicely. Happy employees provide better customer service. Think about it: companies ranked high in customer service often rank high in employee satisfaction (e.g. Costco) as well. The reverse is also true. (Sears Holdings is a timely example; we all know what happened to them). 

“Happy employees, happy patients” isn’t a cliché. Boost employee morale and retention, and you’ll improve customer service—and your bottom line.

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