7 More Suggestions as to How You, the Orthodontic Practice Leader, Can Motivate Your Staff

In her article, “Love your Space: How to Encourage Employees to take Pride in the Workplace” (Business.com, February 22, 2017), Bonnie Dewkett provides more food for thought for those of you dental and orthodontic practice leaders who read our last blog on how to motivate employees. She succeeds in conveying the importance of the issue when she cites the Gallup State of the Workplace 2010-2012 Report, which stated that employee disengagement results in a loss of $450,000 billion in productivity every year. Below are her suggestions, accompanied by some of our own for dental and orthodontic practice leaders:

1)     Coax your employees to peep outside of their silos. Dewkett says that even when employees are superlative at their jobs, they may fall short of their best if they don’t understand the impact of their work on other departments. She suggests that you should “allow employees to visit or shadow other departments, speak with customers if they don’t already do so as part of their regular position, and even test the product or service your company provides.” In addition to improved productivity there is this: “When your employees understand the other positions in the company, you will have a greater chance to fill job openings with internal candidates.” We at iDENTIfy wholeheartedly agree and would add that from our experience, when employees understand the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ they tend to take action with greater confidence and conviction resulting in more enjoyment in their job duties and improved communication with patients and co-workers. In addition, practices report a decrease in patient grievances. This ‘Operational Excellence‘ best practice is a win-win!

2)     Provide feedback on at least a monthly basis. Doing so less often “may allow poor habits to linger too long and the motivating effects of positive feedback to wear off.” iDENTIfy’s pilot study found that supervisors observed staff exhibiting higher enthusiasm and better communication with patients immediately following a training session that explained how poor communication can negatively affect the outcome of treatment. But as weeks went by, the enthusiasm declined, as did the effective communication, especially if the supervisor wasn’t providing continuous feedback and coaching, or was away at another office. This brings our attention to the importance of generating excitement and maintaining it with effective coaching. Trainingcoaching, and continuous feedback are three important components of high-reliability continuous improvement and the ability to sustain growth.

For more information on the subject of feedback and engagement, we encourage you to read one of our previous blogs that introduces dentists to Gallup’s Q12 survey. It emphasizes the importance of supervisors providing regular feedback (we recommend continuous two-way feedback) and a simple and cost-effective solution to help ensure an engaged dental team.

3)     Look for more imaginativeways to recognize topperformers. Dewkett reminds us that employees might need more than a paycheck to motivate them; praise can be sent in the form of emails or letters, or “for a more formal approach, try offering financial bonuses or recognition ceremonies that show your employees you appreciate their efforts.” One of the pilot practices implemented the so-called “Spirit Fund,” to which the practice owner contributed money based on goal accomplishment, and employees collectively decided on what team-building events to spend the money on. Activities included spa visits, dinners, and theatre shows. Orthodontic practice leaders report that the “spirit fund” has proven to be a very successful multi-purpose motivational tool.

4)     Encourage continuing education. Dewkett points out that from internal educational programs, employees can learn ways to improve customer service; from external programs, they can learn about the latest developments in their industry. We at iDENTIfy have found that a good brand is born and nurtured on the basis of the most up-to-date knowledge. Dental practices that never stop learning, including practicing and perfecting sales and communication techniques designed to improve treatment outcomes and answers to the questions and objections patients have, tend be light years ahead of practices which don’t.

Research has shown that orthodontic practice leaders who put training and continuing education on the back-burner, failing to keep pace with the changing environment, fall short in the quality of care they provide. Patients suffer, the doctors and staff suffer, and the brand ultimately suffers. The pilot study revealed that some treatment coordinators were unaware of their sales role, and their poor production numbers and close ratios were a direct reflection of their misguided beliefs. Once they received training to help them understand why it is critical for them to play an active role in the sales process, their performance improved.

Today’s busy orthodontic office environment requires staff to be skilled at performing multiple, complex tasks in an efficient, cost-effective and safe manner. When the actual level of job performance and the expected level of job performance don’t align, training or re-training may be necessary. The best dental practice leaders use their creativity to keep staff and doctors interested in attending training sessions. Lunch-n’-learns or daily huddles are good opportunities for brief training sessions. The industry is flooded with a variety of training courses and delivery options, but sometimes staff and doctors simply need to be reminded rather than trained. Remember, the purpose of every training or continuing education session should be to change behavior in such a way as to add value to every visit by improving the patient experience – and the business.

5)     Build rapport between employees. Dewkett writes: “When employees get to know each other better, your employees will want to do their best for their internal customers. Team building activities are a great way to foster these relationships… One great way to create camaraderie is to have a company service day where your employees volunteer their time in the community. They will feel a sense of pride in what they worked together to accomplish, all while getting to know one another.”

6)     A cleanorderly workplace should be a priority.  Dewkett says that in addition to making the workplace more conducive to productive endeavors, tidying up and organizing the office is in itself an excellent team-building activity, and helps reduce cleaning costs. During our pilot study, we found that supervisors committed to an orderly workspace helped produce a less stressful and more productive environment than those who didn’t. Several years ago, Toyota Production Systems created the 5S system, which is based on the premise that productivity will increase and the employee’s job will become easier if he/she is not faced with constant clutter.  Many organizations currently embracing high-reliability and operational excellence principles utilize the 5S System today, and you can learn more about it at here.

7)     Simply ask employees what will best motivate them. We encourage dental practice leaders to do this sooner than later. You might be surprised by what you hear!

We know that many dental and orthodontic practice leaders find engaging staff to be a challenge, and hope that the ideas found in this blog and its predecessor will be helpful. To read Dewkett’s article in its entirety, please click here.

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-Read our other articles on topics such as Leadership, Operational Excellence and High-Reliability Concepts:

Ten Steps You Can Take Right Away to Improve the Reliability of Your Dental Practice

High-Reliability Concepts: Insights of Value to any organization.

Trude Henderson is the founder of iDENTIfy, Inc., a startup elective dental and medical practice improvement software company. In 2016, she was the first to introduce High-Reliability Organizational Concepts to the dental industry. For questions, contact her directly at Trude@GetIdentify.com. Follow Trude on LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/trudehenderson/ (no email required)

Go to iDENTIfy’s website: www.getidentify.com

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