Given the general shortage of dental staff today, there’s a great deal of fear and anxiety over losing staff members. Many articles have been written on how to increase staff longevity and build a culture that’s satisfying and rewarding for the staff, and this should allow for a more stable staff scenario.
Suggested strategies range from signing bonuses to longevity bonuses to increased compensation to gas allowances to hygiene commissions to overall practice production bonuses. Bonuses and compensation have become more creative than ever as dentists and office managers scramble to find ways to retain their team.
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Is there a limit when compensating?
Yes. A top business school professor said, “Any job is only worth so much.” We have definitely seen jobs in dentistry become worth more. A shortage always drives compensation higher, whether it’s salary, bonuses, commissions, or other financial or nonfinancial benefits. This is normal.
But keep in mind that the staffing shortage has now stabilized. It may not have improved much, but it’s not worsening. Early indicators are that more staff members who quit or retired during the pandemic are coming back to dentistry. Their excess discretionary savings have begun to run out and their credit card debt is growing. Either way, there’s a point where a practice needs to set a limit for compensation.
It's important to compensate staff competitively, fairly, and proactively. It’s also important not to panic and go into an “at all costs” mentality of not losing staff. We have the privilege of meeting with many practices and we’ve yet to meet one that’s gone bankrupt because they couldn’t find any staff. We’ve seen challenges in hiring, challenges in retaining, and challenges in training current and new staff, but those challenges have always been present. They have merely been exacerbated today.
The key is to know where the limit is and to be clear with team members that you’re not going beyond that. Let them know there’s an opportunity for growth as the practice grows, to increase compensation year by year due to inflation, and to demonstrate compassion, but there is a line for compensation that you will not cross.
This is a very sound business principal and one that every practice should give serious thought to. Having a clear budget, knowing your profit and loss goals, and tracking these carefully will contribute to a financially healthy practice. You may be surprised when your staff stays with you, even if you don’t go past your compensation line.
This article originally appeared in DE Weekend, the newsletter that will elevate your Sunday mornings with practical and innovative practice management and clinical content from experts across the field. Subscribe here.