Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Attitude. Attendance. Awareness.

I think we’ve boiled it down to the basics: Attendance. Attitude. Awareness.

I have tell you, the hiring and firing of dental assistants is definitely not something they taught us in school. I know we may have more turnover than the norm, being a large, multi-location group practice, but still. We run a fair operation where we pay well, are nice (most days), and have a relatively healthy work environment.

And still, we have trouble getting our three basic requirements we look for in assistants — and our other support staff — out of many hires. Is it just us? Are these requirements too much to ask for?

There’s certainly a science to this whole thing. I find it rather amusing living in a small city where most assistants on a job search have worked for, been fired by, and/or got tired of one of our peers. A phone call to Dr. Jones reveals that, “Sarah, while a reliable worker, just didn’t have the necessary skills,” “She’s just too green,” or the ever-telling “Good luck, mate”! And still, we take the plunge. We see enough promise and a nice-enough attitude on the eight-hour working interview to sign the job candidate up.

And begins the merry-go-round. It’s one that we’re currently riding at my practice, so it’s fresh in my brain, and you all are my best outlet!

We clearly haven’t figured it out. Are 18-year vets better than fresh-out-of-high school/assisting program newbies? There’s something to be said for both sides of the coin, but man, have we been disappointed lately. We’ve tried using headhunter-type groups, temp agencies, and good ol’ Craigslist — boy, do we get some interesting responses from that! Nothing seems to pan out.

My dad always told me: “There’s always going to be a ninth hitter.” If you don’t understand the baseball analogy, normally the last hitter in the lineup — the ninth position in the batting order — is the worst hitter on the team. The idea is that the first couple of batters will get more plate appearances and, thus, a greater chance of getting hits and scoring runs than those at the end of the order. It’s why the pitcher is often the ninth hitter. They stink at hitting!

I understand the idea completely, but I’m not OK with it in my own practice. Why can’t we have nine all-stars? There’s got to be offices out there like that … or are there? What’s everyone’s experience with this? I think what makes it tough is when you have a pretty darn good team of ballplayers surrounding the ninth hitter. He or she sticks out more and often has a negative attitude and poor attendance and is completely unaware. The majority of our stress related to staff issues is pointed in his or her direction.

Cheers to those dealing with a poorly hitting, needs to change teams, stressing you out at night and as soon as you get to work ninth hitter. For now, I guess we live with the lineup we have. Or do we? The grass is greener on the other side, right?

Attendance. Attitude. Awareness. This can’t be too much to ask. And if it is, so be it. Because it’s what I’ll continue to ask for of all my batters, leadoff man to the ninth hitter. This is a team sport.

Donald Murry III, DMD


Anonymous said...

I've found that the one key ingredient is HEALTH INSURANCE. It is so darn expensive that most offices do everything to avoid providing it. And yet, it is becoming critical to today's employees, especially the midddle aged-older ones. If you have an employee who is truly good, after a predetermined period of time, offer some variation of a health insurance package (if you have that option in your office plan). In the end, this will keep them working longer for you than any raise IMHO.

Adam said...

I have noticed this as well. Here is the thing that is hard to understand, if you talk to anyone outside of the dental industry they have a comment that goes something like this, "your employees get paid HOW MUCH?". They are amazed at the rates that we pay some of our employees. However, we still find great levels of dissatisfaction despite working very hard to keep our employees happy. If anyone has the solution I would love to hear it!


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