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Human capital: Your most valuable asset (part 1)

Dec. 2, 2021
The dental practice’s biggest asset is its people. In part one of this two-part series, Jay Geier discusses how to retain good employees and recruit new talent.
Jay Geier, Founder, Scheduling Institute

Human capital is the single biggest competitive advantage of any business, and yet many practice owners overlook it. Doctors tend to be consumed with seeing patients, believing their clinical expertise is the only determining factor of their success. But it’s not. Even a highly automated manufacturing company relies on the caliber of its people to maintain product quality, deliver a customer experience that generates repeat business and referrals, and make decisions that drive profitable business growth.

That’s why human capital is often referred to as an intangible asset on a company’s balance sheet. Savvy business leaders are always finding ways to elevate the value of their human capital, just as they do every asset. They do this by using several essential strategies of talent management—the same ones you should be using in your practice:

Retain good people.

Recruit strong talent.

Create a high-performing, patient-centric, growth-oriented culture.

Increase the value of human capital through training and development.

This month I’ll talk about the first two strategies, and next month I’ll explain why the last two underpin your ability to retain and recruit great people capable of delivering a patient experience that leads to retention and recruitment of patients, so you have a thriving, growing practice.

Retention

Nearly three years ago, we began advising clients that a human capital crisis was coming, and they needed to do more to retain their best employees. And then came a pandemic. Those who already had effective retention strategies in place and continued to demonstrate genuine care and concern during the industry shutdown were the quickest to recover. Those who ignored our advice are still struggling because they lost valuable employees and are unable to attract good replacements.

If your retention has been high, you’re undoubtedly doing many of the following strategies. If not, you need to put these into place immediately:

Competitive compensation. This is the ideal time to review employee salaries as well as your total compensation package and the benefits you do (or don’t) offer. Money isn’t everything to talented people, but if you’re not paying competitively in your market, you risk losing even loyal team members in today’s economic environment. Be preemptive by giving raises to those who deserve them, and offer opportunities to boost total compensation with performance-based incentives that are a win-win for the practice and the employee.

Communicate. Get back to holding team meetings and ramp communications back up. Reinstill your vision, and rebuild that sense of teamwork that has you all working together to achieve clearly defined and well-communicated practice goals.

Reward and recognize. Make sure your people know you appreciate all they do for you and your patients, for being great team players, and for anything else they bring to the table. Let them know you’re thankful to have them on your team.

Replace low performers. Retention of underperforming people is nothing to feel good about. Talented individuals want to be part of a high-performing team and will go elsewhere if you are tolerant of (or oblivious to) poor team players and low performers who bring the entire team down and negatively affect patients and the practice. 

More by this author: 

Case acceptance: The forgotten starting point

The "F" word that keeps your practice from growing

7 proven steps to grow your dental practice

Recruitment

The pandemic drove many resignations, requiring most practices to ramp up recruitment efforts. If your mindset is that you can’t get good people, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You inadvertently project a defeatist attitude that says you lack confidence in your own practice as a good place to work.

Change the narrative in your own head. High-performing organizations hire talent, not just bodies. They find people who are trainable and coachable. And they do that by putting someone in charge of recruitment who’s in a position to do it well, which is rarely the doctor.

No matter how small your office is, human resources (HR) needs to be a function. If you don’t have a system for ongoing recruitment, you’re likely to be constantly understaffed, which will limit your ability to grow revenue and profits. Here are some effective recruitment strategies you should be employing:

Delegate the HR function. Choose and incentivize someone on the team who’s likely to be the best at it—a self-confident high performer with a great attitude. Then build their skill set with training so they learn interviewing techniques that cut through the facade and can assess a candidate’s coachability factor. And, of course, give them the time needed to place ads, schedule and conduct interviews, and do background and reference checks—all of which lead to selection of the best candidates.

Offer a referral bonus. Incentivize your existing team members with a bonus for referring other good team members. Your best people will be especially motivated to find people they know will be great additions to the team.

Recruit through patients. Via a newsletter, email, or simply by asking, let patients know you’re looking for more outstanding team members whom they would be happy to see work there.

Invest in the process. Inconsistent or haphazard recruitment efforts are typically fruitless. Have a focused plan, and invest some marketing dollars in it. Instead of posting job ads only on free sites, pay for more targeted searches, especially for revenue generators such as hygienists, assistants, and even front desk team members on whom you depend to drive new-patient growth.

I read somewhere, “You are either in crisis, coming out of crisis, or going into crisis (you just don’t know it yet).” The biggest challenge is the unknown of the crisis in front of you. Even your best, most loyal team member could have a family crisis or life change that requires them to leave with minimal notice. Proactive retention and recruitment strategies will keep you and your team prepared for whatever you are forced to face.

Next month I’ll discuss how your culture and a commitment to training and development will supercharge those efforts and drive up the value of your biggest intangible asset—your human capital.

Editor's note: This article appeared in the November 2021 print edition of Dental Economics.

Jay Geier is the founder of the Scheduling Institute and creator of the world-renowned five-star telephone training program that has revolutionized the way dentists attract new patients to their practices.

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