By: Trude Henderson
In two other blogs (on June 12th and June 27th,), we called attention to articles dealing with what dental practice leaders should know about Millennials as patients and as mothers of patients, respectively. Today we are focusing on a piece regarding Millennials as dental employees. Sally Mckenzie, in an article last February 8th in Dentistry IQ (“What you should know about your millennial dental team members”), discusses the distinctive mindset of the millennials working in practices today. She maintains that as members of this generation comprise the future of your practice, and given your desire to make your organization effective and productive, it is vital to understand six of their most important characteristics. Accompanied by our reactions, you can find them below.
Below are 6 things that dental practice leaders should consider regarding millennials as employees.
1. Millennials are self-confident, perhaps excessively so. Many of the people in this demographic have been raised by parents who made a priority of building their self-esteem. As a result, especially when they’re new to your dental practice, they may not be the most detail-oriented employees. The writer says that you can address this by providing “detailed job descriptions, performance measurements, and continual feedback.” From our experience, if not properly addressed, the behavior of any overly- confident employee can turn your dental practice upside-down, leaving dental supervisors and practice owners wondering who is really in charge.
We have all had to cope with people like this and I recently coached a practice manager with such an employee. It was quite common for the latter to engage in untimely and needless chatter that contributed to prolonging huddles and depleted productivity and engagement. The solution that we chose was one that established clear expectations behind closed doors, including a discussion about the proper chain-of-command, a review of the job description and meeting etiquette, and the need for two-way feedback.
In situations like this, I recommend that dental supervisors get to know their employees better. It is ironic, but quite common, for dental employees like these to keep their distance without sharing much personal information. They crave your attention, but what they say too often comes across as complaints or requests regarding work. Exchanging stories about things you are interested in outside of work, or things you have in common, can be effective for expressing empathy and building rapport and trust. Gently slip in a few stories regarding life lessons or valuable experiences. Regardless of your strategy, stay positive yourself, document everything and keep communications consistent and open, so that your yearly performance review doesn’t turn out as a surprise or a ‘gotcha’ session.
2. They are fast learners. This generation is, of course, highly tech-savvy and exhilarated by new technologies. McKenzie’s suggestion: try to identify the things that excite them and integrate them into their job duties— for example, provide them with continuing education or send them to trade shows. We would add that a good brand is born and nurtured using the most up-to-date knowledge, whether you’re educating your patients, staff or doctors.
We at Identify view this as a huge opportunity for dental practices. Many consultants agree that having a good brand and a well-trained team are critical to long-term success. Dental practices that never stop learning, including practicing and perfecting sales and communication techniques designed to improve treatment outcomes, provide a customer experience and bottom-line vastly superior to those that don’t—not to mention, a happier, more engaged dental team!
As a low-cost solution, we recommend identifying employees who love to teach others new things and channel their energy to impart their knowledge during weekly or monthly meetings. Furthermore, we agree with Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton, authors of Now, Discover Your Strengths, in that strengths can often lie dormant and/or be overlooked. By encouraging employees to mentor others, you not only empower them to use their talents, you encourage the exercise of teamwork and ownership in the entire team. The authors said, when referring to the best organizations, “It must watch for clues to each employee’s natural talents and then position and develop each employee so that his or her talents are transformed into bona fide strengths.”
We recommend that you look for employees who are 1) good at a particular task (exhibit attention to detail, a high-reliability behavior) and 2) enjoy performing the task. This method can help you identify someone with a real talent or strength who can likely be a good role model and teacher. For example, if you have someone on your team who you have noticed is enthusiastic about and very good at communicating with insurance companies, they likely have a natural flair for communication. It might be worth asking them to share their tricks-of-the-trade with a small group. Keep in mind, though, that not all individuals like team interactions, particularly those of an introverted personality.
3. Millennials demand a work/life balance. They are reluctant to stay past 5 p.m., which can be off-putting to many boomers, who are used to working long hours to advance their careers. The best response: allow them flexible hours, but, says the writer, “just remember to hold them accountable.” We recommend focusing on results – more specifically, high-reliability behaviors that help determine whether your practice is “winning or losing” at any given moment. Examples of such behaviors: attention to detail, sustained focus, an emphasis on quality and integrity, communication (includes customer service) and teamwork.We recommend that dental practice leaders address customer service concerns immediately, which sets a good example for staff and doctors by signifying that problem-solving is a high priority. In addition, on-the-spot coaching can be useful in addressing the shortcomings noted from person-to-person, team-to- team, and office-to-office, as well as those identified in patient feedback surveys. Prompt but tactful reactions, in the form of positive coaching, can result in enhanced staff accountability and faster results.
During daily huddles, be sure to utilize objective information contained in practice metrics, social media reviews and feedback surveys to assess effectiveness, but don’t allow a surfeit of information to intimidate or confuse them, or stop paying attention but remain on the clock. Get dental team members involved in the solution if the numbers aren’t on track to meet your goals. Their ideas might surprise you because they do love a good challenge. Bottom-line: dental practice managers must have a healthy respect for millennial work/life balance if they want to have employees who are present in both mind and body.
4. Millennials don’t hesitate to quit when they’re dissatisfied. Whatever the cause – too many hours, inadequate compensation – millennials are more prepared than members of earlier generations to resign and look for another job, leaving you with the burden of finding a replacement. The writer suggests that to avoid this scenario, you should “talk with them about their expectations and let them know yours. Give them the direction they need while also taking the time to understand their working style and goals.” Like customers, employees need to see value. Neil Patel, who Forbes has praised as a “top 10 marketer” and the Wall Street Journal as a “top influencer on the web” has said: “Get to know your customers, respond to their needs, and give them the best value possible. You won’t just keep your customers – you’ll have happier customers.” Now, we suggest reading the sentence again, replacing the word “customers” with “employees.”
5. Millennials crave feedback. The writer suggests providing all employees with continual feedback and detailed job descriptions. We would add that feedback between dental team members, as well as supervisor-to-employee feedback (and vice versa), is critical for a healthy culture dedicated to continuous improvement. Our pilot study found that supervisors who made giving and receiving frequent feedback a principle-based behavior, as opposed, for example, to something that only takes place in response to an incident or a performance review process, helped solve more problems, promoted higher team engagement and resulted in less turnover, than those who did not.
One of the most noticeable differences was the absence of drama experienced by the team as a whole. A likely explanation: the team was focused more on problem-solving and winning as a team, rather than on encouraging individuals to preen themselves on being ‘right.’ The challenge here is one confronting the dental practice manager, who is the one responsible for consistently modeling these principle-based behaviors, such as in the example given here, and then holding the entire organization accountable.
6. They insist on being paid what they are worth. Many millennials even feel that they should receive the same compensation as their more senior colleagues. McKenzie’s advice: “make sure millennials, as well as everyone else on your team, understand under what circumstances raises will be discussed and how promotions will be awarded.” We couldn’t agree more, as we are thoroughly familiar with what goes into the exhaustive compensation process. It’s simply not something that most dental practice managers take lightly, and for good reason. With this said, you can imagine what a hassle it can be when multiple employees in a large practice begin asking sporadically for raises throughout the year. Moreover, some state laws complicate the issue by restricting employers from asking employees not to discuss salary with each other. Regardless, we agree with McKenzie’s advice that you should present clear expectations upfront. Please remember that once you give in to one employee, others are likely to hear about it through the grapevine, setting off a chain reaction.
Any dental practice manager who wishes to maximize what team members of the millennial generation have to offer his/her organization should take these 6 attributes into account.
You can find the original article HERE
For more information about High Reliability Organizational concepts, read our previous blogs:
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