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Invest in who you have: Building your own dental dream team

Sept. 13, 2022
Dental practice owners lose a lot of money each time they have to hire a new employee. An option is to invest in current employees, which could eventually lead to that elusive “dream team.”

Is there such a thing as the perfect employee? You know, the one you’re always searching for, always wishing you had, always hoping you’ll find, and yet rarely do.

These days, it seems like good employees get harder and harder to find. This challenge is becoming greater as the improved economy leads to a tighter labor market. Fewer people are unemployed, and those who are unemployed don’t seem to be the “good” employees.

There is also a gap between who is available for jobs and who is actually qualified. An applicant might have the skills but not have the right attitude. Or, an applicant might have the right attitude but not the right skills or training.

What do you trade off? Attitude? Skills? Education? Experience? Truth be told, even if there were thousands of people readily available for work, this does not mean any of them would have all of these qualities. In fact, odds are pretty good they wouldn’t.

This all adds up to the fact that it’s tough for dentists to put together the right team so the practice can run smoothly on all cylinders. The long-term, most effective solution for dentists is to invest in their current employees, or in an imperfect applicant, to create and develop their own perfect employees.

How to invest in who you have

Investing in current employees seems to be the road less traveled by employers. But what is the alternative? Continuing to beat your head against the wall while trying to find perfect employees, and experiencing turnover when a new hire doesn’t work out?

Turnover is not cheap, as you are well aware. It has been stated that the cost of turnover can be as much as one or two times the annual salary of the person you’re trying to replace.1 Yikes! If it’s a hygienist who makes $60,000 per year, that’s a significant cost. Wouldn’t you be better served taking that amount of money (or less) and spending it toward something more positive, such as the investment in someone’s future in your organization?

Perhaps your dental assistant, who has an amazing personality and work ethic, has an interest in becoming a hygienist. What if the only thing preventing her from doing that is someone investing the time, energy, and money into her future? Imagine taking this great employee and investing in her so she can become your future amazing hygienist.

Of course, this means investing time, energy, and money into this employee, a cost that can actually be less than the cost of turnover. While not guaranteed, what about the benefit of commitment, appreciation, and loyalty that you may well receive from this employee in return?

Investing in your employees and developing your own perfect employees doesn’t necessarily require a lot of money. What about investing in your employees by providing continuing education in the form of classes, webinars, or coaching? Compared to turnover, this is money well spent.

Yes, doing this has some risk. What if a person takes your investment opportunity and quits to go somewhere else? No doubt, there will be those individuals who do that. But the reason for their doing so could be something beyond their control, such as their spouse relocating. Or it could be something in their control, such as being ungrateful and taking advantage of others. Or it could be any number of reasons in between. In truth, everything is a risk, whether it’s hiring someone off the street and hoping for the best, or investing in a current employee’s growth and future.

It really comes down to where you want to take the risk and how good the reward can be if everything falls into place. Our experience is that building relationships with your employees and authentically investing in their futures creates strong relationships, lowers the risk of being burned, and has better rewards in the long run than continually recruiting people off the street and hoping things will work out.

Finding and keeping the right employees for the long term is not easy. There is no perfect solution, at least none that we’ve seen. The future is about getting outside of the box, doing something new, and trying a new path forward with your team. Investing in your team, however that looks for each person, may be a great step and just the one that will allow you to create, not find, that elusive perfect employee.

Editor's note: Originally posted in 2018 and updated regularly


1. Merhar C. Employee retention—The real cost of losing an employee. Zanebenefits website. https://www.zanebenefits.com/blog/bid/312123/employee-retention-the-real-cost-of-losing-an-employee. Published February 4, 2016. Accessed January 24, 2018.

About the Author

Rebecca Boartfield and Tim Twigg

Rebecca Boartfield is HR compliance consultant and Tim Twigg is 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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