The COVID-19 pandemic changed the dental industry. For many dental practices, there were significant staffing shortages pre-COVID. Today, it’s getting even worse. A May 2020 poll by the American Dental Association (ADA) found that 35.8 percent of owner dentists are actively recruiting dental assistants, 28.8 percent hygienists, 26.5 percent administrative staff, and 13.1 percent associate dentists.
This is all to say that there are significant staffing shortages in the dental industry. Many businesses shut down or continue to struggle to stay afloat, and this is the first time in our history that companies offer limited hours due to staffing shortages. So, how do we combat this and convince workers to come back into the office?
It’s a new year. Let’s discuss new hiring strategies.
Retention over Recruitment
In a recent webinar by Becker’s Dental, Priyanki Amroliwala, senior manager of talent acquisition at 42 North Dental, shared this about the current job market: “Employees today call the shots. Every company is hiring. Many employers are reshuffling or resigning. This is challenging for the employer as we’re bleeding talent.” She’s right. For the first time in decades, employers are at the mercy of their employees. They have the power to control their salaries, arrangements, and workplace destiny. Let’s discuss why this is the case.
When the pandemic hit, many workers had to go home. While many employers thought the end of stimulus checks and national lockdowns would bring them back to the office, it hasn’t. Instead, employees have discovered that working from home is actually preferred. And they’re either demanding a shift in their schedule to work hybrid or from home or resigning altogether.
Like Priyanki mentioned, employers are also bleeding talent. This is because young talent sees this shift as an opportunity to come in, reap the organization’s benefits, and simultaneously keep their eyes open to other options that pay more and offer increased flexibility and additional benefits. Ultimately, they’re jumping ship. And the cycle continues.
It’s plain to see that the first issue here is not recruitment: It’s retention. After all, you can only expand your staff and become successful if your current team members are happy and thriving. You need leaders to grow, and they’re not born overnight—they’re developed over many years. Employers are finding that they must be creative to retain their current staff with this new perspective from the pandemic. Thankfully, there are many ways to do this.
Create an Exceptional Practice
The question we must start with is “What makes an exceptional practice?”
Think about this for a minute. Is it the culture? The benefits? Customers? Salaries? The truth is that it’s all of these things and more. It comes down to your team and what matters to them.
How do we know what matters to them? Easy: Ask.
A simple way to do this is to create an anonymous survey for your staff. Ask them if they’re happy, engaged, and satisfied with the current work environment and their role. Employees want to be heard, understood, and supported. They also want to be comfortable sharing their opinions and ideas. The anonymous survey will allow them the necessary space to do so. Remember, this isn’t where your job ends: This is where it begins.
Once you gather information from your employees, it’s time to act. Look for trends amongst your data and work on the consistent themes, common answers, and complaints. For example, if four of your employees mention the company’s sick time policy, this likely needs to be updated to reflect their current wants and needs. Implement strategies to make things better for your employees. This real-time adjustment and quick action will also garner profound respect from your team. This is because leaders who listen are highly effective. Create more touch-points and foster honest, direct communication with your employees as you move forward. This will create a positive lasting change. Employers can solve most problems in the workplace if they only listen.
Look Beyond the Dental Industry
Now that we understand the importance of retention, let’s shift gears to recruitment in the dental industry. Priyanki shares this: “For recruitment, we need to stop, stop, stop hiring from within the dental industry. We’re all just recycling the same talent. In 2021, some of our most successful hires were outside of the dental industry. Yes, there was a huge learning curve, but investing in your employees is always, always worth it.”
She makes some excellent points. It’s challenging in any industry to hire when there are slim pickings. What happens is individuals bounce from company to company, practice to practice, and the cycle continues. The same talent is passed around without ever really making an impact and fulfilling their destiny. How do we combat this?
Think back to the start of your career. How skilled were you? Did you have any areas that needed improvement? If you think about this honestly, you’re likely nodding your head. New employees almost always require some level of instruction and guidance. Take this as an opportunity to develop the best employees for your practice. Find young, energetic personalities that are good with people, eager to learn, and willing to put in the work. Invest in your employees, and they’ll remember it forever. Odds are, they’ll also remain loyal.
The bottom line is that retention in any industry comes before recruitment. You must ensure your existing employees are happy and thriving before bringing in additional staff. When recruiting, look outside dentistry and don’t be afraid to invest in new talent. You’ll find this is worth it every time as you garner respect and build stronger relationships with your employees.