Don't ignore compensation

Jan. 1, 2002

by Linda L. Miles, CSP, CMC

Staff compensation is important to the dental team, but dentists often disregard it. Ignoring the topic creates confusion, anger, and alienation, resulting in staff turnover and skyrocketing overhead. Here are some solutions.

Dentist — "My biggest obstacle is attracting and hiring good staff."
Staff — "The benefits in dentistry are nonexistent."
Linda — Good employees are not found; they are created! To cultivate an environment conducive to creating a confident staff, the dentist must train, trust, and praise employees. A respected staff will sing the praises of dentistry, which will attract energetic prospective employees.

Dentist — "Work ethics seem less important than salary and benefits."
Staff — "I work hard and put in overtime. I'm worth far more than the small raise I received."
Linda — Work ethics have changed less than most would think. Today's workers seem to expect more benefits and better pay, but in reality, they are just more open about it. This makes it appear that they want immediate gratification and are more interested in a paycheck than performance.

Dentist — "My staff salary percentage should be between 20 and 24 percent, but it is close to 30! Now it's time for evaluations and reviews."
Staff — "Our evaluations have been postponed for six months. The doctor hates to tell us we're doing a good job, because it's close to review time."
Linda — Evaluations are essential for good communication and to keep employees progressing. Give verbal evaluations at the end of each week during the 30-to-60-day trial period: "Your models look better," or "I appreciated the extra attention you gave to Mr. Smith." Negatives tempered with encouragement makes accepting criticism easier. Instead of automatic increases, offer raises at learning tiers.

Dentist — "I know my staff deserves raises, but my accountant says I'm 5 to 10 percent above the norms."
Staff — "If our doctor would quit listening to his accountant, he would realize we are his greatest asset!"
Linda — If salaries are too high, it is an indication that the practice is underproducing. Reducing staff is only a Band-Aid® fix. Many offices are understaffed already. Properly trained hygienists will earn up to four times their salary for the practice in increased production. Assistants or business employees on average generate up to seven times their salary in production increases.

Often, dentists who have high salary costs and are understaffed need to hire more employees. This can increase monthly production $10,000 to $20,000, making salaries drop to 20 to 24 percent of collections.

Dentist — "I lost several key employees to outside big businesses; I can't compete with their benefit packages."
Staff — "Two staff members went to work outside of dentistry for better pay and benefits. I'd leave too, but I love my work."
Linda — New practices cannot always offer the same benefits as well-established ones, but there must be a growth plan that is attractive to employees. Dentistry has the potential to be "big business."

Ask your staff to list benefits they already enjoy and a "dream list" they would like to see added. Estimate the costs and create a graduated plan to increase benefits as the practice grows:

  • "When we average $50,000+ per month in collections, we'll add health-care benefits."
  • "When we average $55,000 per month, we'll add a 401(k) plan."

Recognition and respect must prevail. Valuable staff will leave if not adequately compensated.

The remedy? Improved staff and practice development. Contact consulting firms or dental training centers.

Linda Miles will present "The Value of Staff in Cosmetic Dentistry" on February 14 during the Cosmetic Dentistry 2002 conference in Las Vegas. See related advertisement on page 97.

Linda Miles, founder and CEO of the dental-management consulting firm Miles & Associates, has spent four decades as a dental employee and employer. She instinctively resolves sensitive issues in dental practices that ultimately become triple wins — for the dentist, the staff, and the patients. She believes that happy employees perform at far higher levels than those with hidden issues that are only discussed at lunch without the dentist present. Her third-party, experienced-based opinions are not pro-doctor or pro-staff, but always pro-practice.

Sponsored Recommendations

Clinical Study: OraCare Reduced Probing Depths 4450% Better than Brushing Alone

Good oral hygiene is essential to preserving gum health. In this study the improvements seen were statistically superior at reducing pocket depth than brushing alone (control ...

Clincial Study: OraCare Proven to Improve Gingival Health by 604% in just a 6 Week Period

A new clinical study reveals how OraCare showed improvement in the whole mouth as bleeding, plaque reduction, interproximal sites, and probing depths were all evaluated. All areas...

Chlorine Dioxide Efficacy Against Pathogens and How it Compares to Chlorhexidine

Explore our library of studies to learn about the historical application of chlorine dioxide, efficacy against pathogens, how it compares to chlorhexidine and more.

Enhancing Your Practice Growth with Chairside Milling

When practice growth and predictability matter...Get more output with less input discover chairside milling.