One of the single greatest challenges for any dental office today is getting the right people in each role and then retaining them over time. Without the right talent, productivity, patient satisfaction, and even office morale can suffer. If you’re unable to retain key people, that leads to churn, which is incredibly costly, but also drives down overall satisfaction and quality.

What’s a dental office to do? While hiring and retention are definitely challenging, the good news is that these aren’t insurmountable hurdles. Following a few key best practices can help you solve those talent-related challenges, build a solid team, and deliver the best possible patient experience.

The State of Hiring and Retention Today

Before we dive into the best practices your office needs to follow to solve talent challenges, let’s take a quick look at where hiring and retention stand today.

  • The US unemployment rate is just 3.7%, which is almost a historic low, and is the lowest it has been in 40+ years. While that is good news for the economy, it means fewer candidates for hirers and more power for job seekers.
  • 57% of US businesses plan to hire new permanent workers this year, and a significant percentage plan to hire part-time workers, as well.
  • The average turnover rate for a US business is 2.5% and 38% of employees quit within their first year. It costs 33% of an employee’s salary to replace them, not counting the time required to train that replacement.
  • Employees are three times as likely to leave if they don’t feel supported in their role and twice as likely to leave if they don’t receive recognition.

Talent acquisition and retention is a challenging balancing act. The following best practices can give you an edge in identifying individuals best suited for your dental practice and then keeping them engaged and satisfied with their jobs.

Best Practices for Hiring and Retaining Key Talent

Chances are good that your hiring and retention goals are similar to other organizations. You want to identify talented people, get them to contribute to your dental practice and business culture, do great things for your patients, and then stay with you over time. Those are simple, achievable, even laudable goals. The problem is that if your recruiting and retention strategies don’t support them, you can’t achieve them.

It Starts with the Job Description

You need to get the right people in the door first. That begins with the job description.

  • Create an accurate description of the position, including the duties the candidate will perform.
  • List hour/day requirements.
  • List the hourly/salary rate you’re offering.
  • Talk about the practice’s culture.
  • Highlight non-monetary perks (in addition to the salary/pay).

Remember that today’s job seekers are far more empowered than ever before. And, while compensation is a critical consideration in where they apply, they want more than good pay. They also decide based on the environment, brand values, and support offered.

Ditch the Traditional Interview Questions

The first step in reinventing your hiring process is to eliminate those trite interview questions we’re all too familiar with. We’re talking about questions like, “What are your greatest strengths?” and “Give some examples of times you successfully handled a challenge in your previous role”. Sure, everyone uses them but that doesn’t mean they’re worthwhile or that they’ll give you particularly useful information.

Instead, ask questions that dig a bit deeper. You’re not truly looking to test the candidate’s ability to share biographical information. You want to test their knowledge, education, patient service ethic, and knowledge of your practice (to weed out those simply applying everywhere because they need a job).

So, ask them what they know of your practice. This should be easy enough to find if you’ve designed your website well and have a decent history in the area.

Another question to consider is to ask a candidate how they would handle a particular situation they might reasonably expect to encounter in their role within the practice. For instance, if you’re hiring a receptionist, you might ask how they would handle a parent with a rambunctious child in the waiting area. You could also ask them to demonstrate adding a patient appointment to your system, entering patient information into the CMS, and more.

Ensure Your Onboarding Is Supportive and Effective

Onboarding is a crucial process. It initiates the new employee into your practice’s culture, connects them with other employees, and sets the tone for what they can expect moving forward. It’s about far more than completing paperwork or watching compliance training videos. Onboarding is the first step in creating a relationship that could last for decades to come.

What does a positive onboarding experience look like? Focus on ensuring that the employee has a detailed understanding of your practice’s brand and values and that they’re clear on expectations for their role. Offer training and development opportunities and find ways to integrate them into your company culture. Note that your business culture should be one that they want to be part of. Finally, make sure they understand the feedback options available to them and show that decision-makers are open to hearing that feedback.

Offer Flexible Scheduling

Flexibility is one of the most important considerations for today’s workers. Increasingly, people want a good work/life balance, and flexibility in scheduling ensures that they’re able to handle responsibilities outside the workplace easily. You’ll need to decide what “flexibility” means within your practice, but some options include reduced workdays, flexible hours, and no requirement to check email or reply to work texts outside of work hours.

Building a Better Workplace

Ultimately, effective hiring and retention strategies are critical to your practice’s success. Getting the right people in the right positions and then ensuring that they stay with your business over time reduces costs, improves patient satisfaction, and boosts profitability. While taming hiring and retention challenges is not simple, following the best practices outlined here can make it attainable.