To maintain the orthodontic practice’s culture and a positive environment, it’s important to ensure new and old staff members integrate successfully
By Roger P. Levin, DDS
The number one challenge facing dentistry today is staffing. There are other challenges such as inflation, maintaining and increasing referrals, rising overhead, etc. But in the recent Orthodontic Products/Levin Group Annual Orthodontic Practice Survey the challenge identified as number one by most orthodontists was staffing.
In the face of a staffing challenge (crisis for some) many practices will be bringing in new staff members. In some cases, these new staff members join a team of stable, long-term staff. In this instance we must make sure that the old guard and the new guard come together to maintain the culture of the practice and a positive environment. This can be a challenge.
Change is not easy, and change is disruptive. Normally, when we talk about change, we are talking about an individual team member’s response to practice change. Are they flexible? Are they resilient? But when we talk about bringing in new staff members, we are talking about more than a slight change. In many cases, especially if it is more than one new staff member being brought on board at once, we are talking about upheaval because this type of change impacts everything. New people come with their own background and experience, their own way of doing things, their own opinions both about orthodontic practice and on external topics such as politics.
So, what are some of the recommendations to successfully blend the new hires with existing team members?
- Be sure all new hires understand the mission and values of the practice. Some practices are so desperate to hire that they will bring people on board without any form of orientation. Orientation helps new employees to understand the mission of the practice and what it means to have a purpose and come to work every day. It also helps them understand and acknowledge the core values of the practice.
- The welcoming of the new hire. The first day everyone on the team should welcome the new hire and embrace the fact that they have joined the team. Flowers, candy, bringing in lunch so everyone can meet and spend time with the new hire are ways to welcome this person on board. At this point, the old guard will still be checking out the new person, but a welcoming process goes a long way to making the new hire feel part of the team.
- Assign a mentor to the new hire. Every new hire should be assigned a mentor for the first 6 months. Someone they can go to with any question at any time for help. Typically, clinical mentors would be appropriate for clinical new hires and administrative mentors for administrative new hires. It isn’t important to match people of similar chronological age. It is not about older/younger. The idea is to give new team members someone from the old guard that they can learn to trust.
- Don’t shut down a new hire when they express opinions, ideas or other ways of doing things. Telling new people that they must do things exactly the way the practice has always done it will alienate a newly hired team member. Instead, why not listen to the new hire and evaluate any recommendations or ideas. Be open, welcoming, and considerate.
- Let the new hire know that every 30 days for the first 6 months you will sit down one-to-one for a conversation just to check in. It is not a performance review, improvement meeting, discussion of what’s right or wrong or how things are done. If the new hire brings up topics than that’s fine. The main job is to listen and ask if there’s anything that can be done that would allow the new hire to do the job better. You’ll be amazed at some of the great ideas you will hear.
- Encourage the new hire to participate in practice social events. We suggest a quarterly activity outside of the office that does not involve orthodontics such as continuing education. Dinners and fun activities bring the team together and bring the new guard closer to the old guard faster.
In a time of staffing challenges many practices will be hiring new team members. The way it is managed can be the difference in whether the practice is strengthened or fragmented. Practices that have a persistent old guard/new guard mentality will have increasing conflict, stress, fatigue, and customer service breakdown. Work hard to bring the new guard properly into the practice and help the old guard to embrace them. OP
Roger P. Levin, DDS, is the CEO and founder of Levin Group, a leading practice management consulting firm that has worked with over 30,000 practices to increase production. A recognized expert on orthodontic practice management and marketing, he has written 67 books and over 4,000 articles and regularly presents seminars in the United States and around the world. To contact Levin or to join the 40,000 dental professionals who receive his Ortho Practice Production Tip of the Day, visit levingroup.com or email [email protected].