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What's a "unique employment proposition"—and do you have one?

Nov. 20, 2021
Competitive wages and benefits are essential, but it takes more to attract and retain a quality team. Your practice needs to set itself apart from the practice down the street, and that’s where UEP—unique employment proposition—comes into play.

Can you articulate your “unique selling proposition” (USP)? Of course you can. USP is a well-known concept, and most business professionals can quickly identify what (hopefully) separates them from the office down the street. You have no doubt spent many hours planning, strategizing, researching, clarifying, refining, and articulating your USP.

What about your UEP—your “unique employment proposition”? What separates your employment culture from the office down the street? Why would someone come to work for you, or what makes working for you different from the practice down the street?

Sadly, very little time, energy, and money are focused on UEP, while inordinate amounts of time, energy, and money (principally through marketing) are spent on USP. When you think about it, that’s kind of backward.

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How critical are your employees to your success? How negatively impactful is turnover to your success? And bottom line: what is your reputation as an employer?

COVID-19 has compressed the labor market to unbearable levels. Amazing, qualified, experienced, and delightful employees are in painfully short supply. Pickings are slim, ghosting is rampant, and no one expects it to improve anytime soon.

Anyone can pay a decent wage; anyone can provide paid holidays and a couple weeks of vacation. These are not unique benefits. This doesn’t mean they are trivial. Indeed, competitive wages and benefits are essential. However, they are not the end; they are just the beginning.

Let’s say you are conducting an interview with a potential dream dental assistant candidate. She has a perfect smile, a can-do attitude, a passion for dentistry, 15 years of expanded-function chairside experience at high-performing offices, and just moved to the area with her family. She is ready to sink her roots in the community. She will be interviewing at several offices in town, so the logical questions are: Why should she choose your practice over all the others? What do you offer that stands out in return for the incredible value she could bring to your business?

Beyond the obvious (healthy wage and competitive benefits), can you articulate what sets you and your team apart? What makes you stand out as an employer and a place to work? How is your organizational culture going to potentially “click” with her?

Here are a few ideas to ponder:

  • A positive and supportive team of coworkers: No competition, backstabbing, gossiping, or a sink-or-swim approach to training. If this is what happens in your practice, you have work to do.
  • CE and career training: No one likes to do the same things over and over for years. Do you regularly invest in your team and provide ways to learn, grow, and expand expertise, techniques, and/or skills? This is about engaging the brain and fostering personal and professional growth. If you are asking, “What if I pay for training and the employee quits?” ask yourself instead, “What if I never invest in my team, and the person stays?”
  • Regular displays of appreciation and/or recognition: If someone confidentially polled each of your employees and asked, “What does your doctor think of you and your performance?” what would be said? Successful practices with a clear UEP can point to everyday actions that communicate team appreciation, including recognition of employee birthdays and work anniversaries. What about paying for some team lunches, cocktail hours, wellness benefits, office parties, or activities involving employee spouses and kids? It’s a small price when you compare it to the insidious emotional and financial costs of turnover. What about putting the “human” in human resources?

Imagine hearing that dental assistant candidate’s question: “Why should I choose your practice over the one down the street?” and being able to articulate (verbally and in writing) your UEP. Something like: “At our practice we recognize we wouldn’t exist without our employees. We walk the talk with family-friendly time-off policies. We all foster a culture of support; we back each other up. In addition to above-average salaries and benefits, we show our appreciation every day, and here’s how . . . ”

Long-term success is more about your UEP than your USP. Flip the paradigm and your priorities, and you will find an easier path to employee success. 

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

Tim Twigg is president and Alan Twigg is vice president of Bent Ericksen & Associates. For more than 30 years, the company has been a leading authority in human resources and personnel issues, helping dentists successfully deal with ever-changing and complex labor laws. To receive a complimentary copy of the company’s quarterly newsletter or to learn more, call (800) 679-2760 or visit bentericksen.com.

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