People who work for Glidewell tend to stick around. I would know—I’m one of them. I leveraged my master’s degree in organizational psychology along with other valuable multidisciplinary experiences to expand on a culture of excellence built by my predecessor. Now, my passion lies in sharing our success by teaching others how to re-create what has worked so well.
Corporate culture is represented differently throughout an organization. High-level executives, customer service members, janitorial staff, and customers all view the company’s culture in a different light. When organizations can find a way to unite all these perspectives under a common purpose and mindset of growth and positivity, success is bound to follow.
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Creating a legacy
With over 5,000 employees in the Glidewell family, you might ask yourself how such a large and diverse workforce can get along. I’ve learned that a healthy and thriving company culture isn’t something that is built or achieved overnight. The Glidewell culture of today is backed by a foundation of over five decades of experience. Jim Glidewell, the company’s founder and president, believes in more than creating the country’s largest dental lab. He believes in creating the space for people to succeed.
“I always hear people comment on the success of our company,” said Jim. “And I respond by telling them that all people are equal, and it’s our responsibility to help guide them to success.” As a company, Glidewell believes that investing in its employees means they will likely choose to grow within the organization. Jim recognizes that, in an age of constant change, it is important to remain agile, develop new talents, and incentivize existing employees to stay with the company in a multitude of ways.
It’s not only about giving employees the means to succeed; it’s also about believing in them. “Another reason people find success at Glidewell is due to upper management assisting them, establishing clear objectives, and then getting out of their way,” said Jim. Giving your team, and even your customers, the autonomy to utilize their unique strengths ensures they can attribute some of the company’s success to their own efforts. When people have a vested interest in a company that they’ve helped make successful, they have a higher sense of loyalty. This can lead to mentorships of other employees, as well as a desire to ascend to leadership roles. Such beliefs and practices reinforce the cycle of growth for both the organization and employees.
Sustaining success while redefining leadership
That’s why I’m continuing to build on Jim’s legacy. I’ve spent almost two decades immersed in the Glidewell culture, and I’m confident it’s worth sustaining and building upon. Now, as the company’s chief executive officer, I find myself in a unique position to help develop creative ways to cultivate the sense of community that has inspired me since day one. There are three categories that enable me to focus on this goal:
Employee engagement and productivity: A strong corporate culture fosters a sense of belonging and purpose among employees. When individuals feel aligned with the organization’s values and mission, they are more engaged and motivated, which leads to increased productivity and a higher quality of work.
Talent attraction and retention: Culture can act as a magnet for top talent. Potential employees are drawn to organizations with a reputation for a healthy work environment. Creating a satisfying and supportive atmosphere where employees want to stay and grow also helps retain existing talent.
Alignment and decision-making: A well-defined corporate culture provides a framework for making decisions and setting priorities. It ensures that all members of the organization share common values and objectives, which streamlines decision-making processes and promotes consistency in actions and strategies. These shared values and objectives include:
- Defined core values
- Leading by example
- Employee development
- Two-way communication
- Recognition and rewards
- Continuous evaluation
Beyond my internal focus on Glidewell employees, I also seek to help Glidewell customers foster healthy cultures of their own. This focus is more important now than ever, as staffing shortages and high turnover rates continue to affect practices in the wake of COVID-19. Adjusting cultures to compensate for such drastic changes isn’t always intuitive—especially considering dentists aren’t always trained how to handle unprecedented, nonclinical circumstances. That’s why I decided to create initiatives at Glidewell that would provide dentists with the nonclinical education they need to build positive cultures with their staff and with their patients. One of those initiatives is the Guiding Leaders program.
Replicating successful cultures
In 2024, the Guiding Leaders program will return for its fourth year of helping women dentists create successful cultures in their own practices. The six-month program features a hand-selected cohort of about 25 women dentists who are looking to gain new perspectives and expand their practices in healthy, positive ways.
Speaking with Guiding Leaders participants from past programs allows me to gauge how the Glidewell culture might perform outside of the company campus. 2019 Guiding Leaders graduate Dr. Larissa Figari-Goller has implemented certain principles of the Glidewell culture into her Huntington, New York, practice. “We’re inspired by people who have outward mindsets,” said Dr. Figari-Goller. “And when we start to apply that to the groups that we’re speaking to or working with, it’s amazing the difference and the impact that being a part of this program has had. I love talking to my team about what I’ve learned, and it has been nothing but beneficial to my office, to my staff, to the people that I work with, to the patients that I treat, but also to my family. It’s been amazing, and I am so proud to be a part of the Guiding Leaders program.”
After experiencing the Glidewell culture and learning more about practical business strategies and workplace principles, 2022 Guiding Leaders graduate Dr. Noha Nour was able to overcome the difficulties that come with establishing a healthy workplace environment. “I didn’t know where to start,” said Dr. Nour. “Developing a healthy culture for my staff, my patients, and even my family was intimidating. The executive coaches and personal mentoring I received during my time at Glidewell helped me begin. I don’t think anyone is ever truly ‘done’ building a positive culture—it’s something that has to be nurtured continually.”
Dr. Danielle Brown was so enamored with the culture she experienced during the 2023 Guiding Leaders program that she accepted a position as an on-staff clinician at Glidewell shortly thereafter. “My experience with Glidewell as a customer and as a Guiding Leader led me to realize that this company has something unique to offer: hope. Glidewell provides hope for the future of modern dentistry; for the growth of women leaders in the industry; and for me, my own career, and my goals as a clinician. This is a culture I am proud to be a part of.”
Why wait? Improve company culture now
While one style of culture may not fit every practice or business, the goal of building an environment in which people can thrive is universal. By reflecting on what a great company culture entails and implementing the necessary changes, anyone can set up their company for lasting success.
Editor's note: This article appeared in the Janurary 2023 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.
Stephenie Goddard, MS, CEO of Glidewell, is an executive leader with multidisciplinary experience in organizational development, business strategy, change management, customer experience, and digital transformation. She joined Glidewell in 2006 as vice president of human resources, establishing various programs that have contributed to the company’s relentless expansion. In 2019, she established the Guiding Leaders program to empower women dentists around the country. Learn more at guidingleaders.com.