Attracting Peak Performers for Your Private Dental Practice – Part 1

July 3, 2023

Attracting Peak Performers for 21st Century Private Dental Practices.

This is the first in a 2-part series on the subject of attracting and retaining high-performing employees in all roles within your dental practice.

The quality of the team in today’s dental practice constitutes an absolute limitation on the level of achievement for the dentist. It is the team who facilitates productivity, the team who stimulates desire for the finest dentistry. It is the team who promotes confidence in the dentist’s skills and integrity. It is the team who permits the doctor to thrive economically. More than the accountant, banker, or lawyer, it is the team who positively influences the practice’s gross and net. The dentist will gain more economically, clinically, and behaviorally when a talented team is present even with a mediocre dentist than when there is a mediocre team and a talented dentist. 

It is easy for a dentist to say, “I want to find team members who are warm, empathetic, bright, committed, accept responsibilities, are self-motivated, personally mature, and care deeply for people in the practice.” It is not difficult to attract applicants who lean toward these traits. However, it is very difficult to create and maintain an environment that excites and challenges these people. 

After interviewing thousands of auxiliaries, two psychologists from the University of Nebraska found eight common themes present in high performing team members: 

1. Mission. They saw their work having a purpose that went beyond tasks they performed. 

2. Interaction. The quality of their interpersonal exchanges was quite high. 

3. Rapport. They had the ability to create warm, caring relationships. 

4. Gestalt: intuition. This is the ability to see the whole picture when only small pieces are available. 

5. Self Esteem. They genuinely like themselves. 

6. Activation. They are “action” people who get things done. 

7. Empathy. They feel what others feel. 

8. Work Relationships. They can work well with their peers. 

Research indicates that there are two major factors affecting a dentist’s ability to attract people such as these: 

1. The median age of the American population in 1980 was 30. By the year 2000, it was 36.3. The number of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 decreased by 20 percent by 1995. This group provides dentistry with most of their personnel, and the decline is currently exerting upward pressure on compensation for team members. This means that in the future more energy and money will be spent on keeping people employed because replacements will not be easy to come by. 

2. The reasons women work have changed dramatically. The year 1977 was the first time in our country that there were more employed females than employed males. Today women work:

A. To seek out an identity 

B. To become economically self-actualized 

C. As an extension of their individuality 

D. For the same reasons men work 

It only makes sense that a woman who works for these reasons will not feel good in a practice where she perceives the dentist is treating the female employees poorly. 

What is the effect on treatment acceptance by patients in a practice where the team feels they are treated poorly? Although most dentists realize auxiliaries have value greater than “from the wrists down,” it is critically important that they remember this fact: “People go where they are appreciated and stay where they are recognized.” This holds true for the team as well as patients. 

As we seek to keep talented people in dentistry, it is essential that we recognize what we are up against. In a national study, 80 percent of the surveys indicated the following complaints from the team: 

1. Long hours 

2. High stress 

3. Low salary 

4. Low growth and lots of boredom 

5. Poor communication 

Strangely enough, the dentists in these offices indicated the same complaints about their jobs: 

1. Doctors work longer hours than they would like. 

2. They complain of high stress. 

3. They are frequently bored by the routine of dentistry. 

4. There is low growth potential. 

5. They are aware of the poor communication in their offices. 

What is surprising is that four to eight people or more who work together 30-50 hours per week in 600 to 1,400 square feet, in such close proximity that they are often in physical contact with one another, share the same problems, but no one talks about it. 

Today, only two to three percent of what this work team produces is essential. Except for the emergency visit, most of what today’s team produces represents optional procedures. This means that the doctor/patient relationship is becoming even more voluntary in nature.

Much of the time there is no compelling reason for a patient to accept the doctor’s recommendations. Consequently, until someone voluntarily comes into the office and says, “let’s do it,” the dentist does not have the opportunity to use the full complement of his or her diagnostic and technical skills.

This is why a practice with a high-performance team has a potent marketing advantage today. The single most distinctive characteristic of a successful dental practice is its ability to have people want fine dentistry. This is the responsibility of the team, not solely the doctor. 

Part 2 of this blog will focus on motivators to help attract and retain a high-performing team for your private dental practice.