I have been working recently alongside our Human Resources Consultant, updating our Associate Handbook to accommodate the seemingly ever-changing provincial employment standards. It has really reinforced for me the importance of having well defined, current policies in place.
The exercise also got me wondering: How many of our dental practice management software users have a handbook for their employees? Regardless of size, every company can benefit from adopting this best practice.
A handbook serves a multitude of purposes, it:
- Documents your well-thought-out policies that should then be applied to all team members equally.
- Helps onboard new employees.
- Serves as a guideline when behaviours need to be addressed and adjusted.
- Provides a foundation for end-of-employment decisions.
- Can help demonstrate your commitment to compliance and consistency to government auditors, lawyers, or Human Rights Tribunals.
In the busy day-to-day of a dental practice, HR matters can easily get pushed to the bottom of the priority list. Well-meaning intentions get brushed aside… right up until a significant event brings your policies – or lack thereof – into the spotlight. It’s then that you might regret not having taken action sooner. Here are a few things you can think about now that might spare you the regret. And the grief. And the legal fees. And the fines…
- The final straw syndrome
It happens all too frequently. A Manager makes the decision that she can no longer tolerate poor job performance or undesirable behaviour and terminates her employee. After the fact, she learns about the risk of wrongful dismissal.
Precaution: establish and follow a progressive discipline process. Make the employee aware of specific issues and give the employee an opportunity to improve. Follow one verbal notice with at least two written notices.
- I’ll get to it later…
It is never easy to have to correct behaviour with reprimands and criticism. What is easier is procrastinating and hoping the situation will improve itself. Chances are good that it will not. After two or three instances, the dates, times and specifics become blurred.
Precaution: Develop an empathetic, professional approach to delivering constructive criticism, and teach it to all supervisory staff. Identify and communicate issues early. People are usually receptive to feedback when it is delivered earnestly and fairly, when it focuses on behaviours rather than attitudes, and when there is benefit to self-improvement. Document your conversations to keep track of details.
- When NOT to be constructive
Sometimes, it can be easier for a Manager to avoid confrontation with an underperforming employee by reassigning them to a junior role, significantly changing their role or work conditions, or simply making their life difficult in the hopes that they will resign. In employment law, this is constructive dismissal.
Precaution: Don’t do that.
- Job creep
This is a common phenomenon in dental practices: You hire an excellent Office Manager who becomes your go-to person worth their weight in gold. Over time, this person takes on more and more responsibility and an ever-increasing variety of functions, and manages to do it all in a 40-hour workweek. When this employee resigns, the practice cannot expect to fill all the ‘hats’ with one hire.
Precaution: Create clear Job Descriptions for every role in your practice. Do not allow any one person to become indispensable; develop succession plans through effective work distribution and cross training. A smart system of checks and balances also helps mitigate fraudulent activity. This is one objective of a built-on software feature like ABELDent’s Authorization Manager.
- When is an employee not an employee?
Engaging Consultants to bring complementary skills, knowledge and talent into your practice is a great way to grow your business. Companies need to be aware, however, of the criteria that differentiate an employee from a contractor. Significant fines apply to an employer – yes, the onus is on the employer – when a misclassification occurs.
Precaution: Consult Canada Revenue Agency for clear definitions.
- Too little, too late
How many employers have regretfully accepted the resignation of a star employee who did not realize how much they were valued, or was unaware that a correction or a promotion was “in the works“?
Precaution: Maintain a connection with each team member. Start today. Whether through annual performance appraisals or informal quarterly chats, enable healthy two-way dialogue.
I apply the advice of our staff HR Consultant in my day-to-day operations and truly champion the foundational philosophies: Hire the right people, focus on the fit. Train and retrain, clearly defining purpose, expectations and performance measurements.
Never underestimate the value of communication in running a business: Praise when earned, thanks when deserved, feedback when warranted. Ask your team for input and ideas, and listen to their perspectives.
If your practice could benefit from more pragmatic advice like this, customized HR solutions and proactive support, give me a call. I know someone who can help!
People management may seem intuitive, but don’t most things with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight?