In my line of work, I am often asked about the challenges of running a dental practice. Dentistry is a wonderful profession, but let’s face it – no field is without its unique set of hurdles. Running a successful practice is part art, part science and part skill. But no matter how gifted or skilled a dentist might be, his or her practice is made up of people.
And so, one of the biggest challenges of running a great practice is understanding those people, and their behaviours.
ABELDent’s dental software program has easy to use features such as our appointment scheduler and automated patient communication. Although they help keep dental schedules organized and patients informed, keeping your staff effective and motivated requires strategies and actions that elicit the responses you desire.
Workplace behaviour is a growing topic of conversation in dentistry, and every year there is more and more emphasis on implementing positive change. Changing behaviour patterns in any workplace can be tough, but with the right attitude, even the most pervasive negative behaviours can be curbed.
Let’s take a look at 3 common behaviour issues common to many dental clinics – and then let’s consider how to turn the problems around.
1. Smartphone Use
You might be frustrated when your staff are constantly distracted by their smartphones, and wondering how to fix the issue. Smartphones aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, but there are ways to curb use in the office.
One solution is to limit use to certain windows of time, such as on breaks or during lunch. You might also put a ban on cellphones in meetings, at reception, in restrooms or in high-traffic areas. Whatever limitations you impose, a written policy that employees have to read and sign is the best way to curb the problem, as that leaves little room for misinterpretation.
When your employees follow these rules, acknowledge their improvement. Identifying and broadcasting good news is a great way to foster positive change. While disciplinary action may be required if someone repeatedly refuses to put their phone away, rewarding staff who do comply will go a long way. A great reward might be to reduce the smartphone limitations over time, allowing for more liberal use once the staff has shown initial discipline.
2. Negative Attitudes
This one can’t always be helped – some people just have bad days. The important thing to reinforce to your staff is that negativity is contagious, and that a bad attitude will affect everyone, including the patients.
When you notice positive workplace behaviour, it’s important to recognize, acknowledge, and even reward it. On the other hand, when you see undesirable behaviour, be sure to address it right away. If someone’s bad mood is having a noticeable effect, it’s important to deal with and confront this type of negative workplace behaviour head-on.
Don’t be afraid to sympathize with the person if they are dealing with a real problem – but also don’t be afraid to remind them to be professional and leave their personal issues at home.
3. Lazy Management
If you want your staff to be engaged and to offer the best possible patient experience, you need to ensure that your management team is equally engaged. Helping improve workplace behaviour takes effort, and your management team will need to take an active role.
It’s imperative that your staff feel empowered to succeed. Providing top down feedback is great, but when management actually takes the time to coach their staff, there is much more room for improvement. Management should set distinct goals and deliverables and then acknowledge and reward staff as they reach various benchmarks, not simply when the larger goal is reached.
Also, consider scheduling customer service training from a third party that has experience working with dental offices. They can provide an objective validation of the customer experience you wish to achieve as well as offer the expertise necessary for successful implementation of your office policies. The training sessions can also serve as a great team building experience and ensure everyone is on the same page.
When your staff feel that management wants them to succeed, they will embrace the pride and satisfaction that often comes along with facing new and exciting challenges.
I completely understand the desire to see positive change happen quickly. But in reality, as research shows, you’re more likely to see success when you take it slow. Set smaller benchmarks to success, and reward staff that make a real effort.
Behavioural theory suggests that there are a variety of stages associated with embracing change, so make sure that your employees have the time they need to go through the stages. This kind of focus and care will result in positive, permanent changes that will be noticeable to everyone at your practice.
If you are clear about the issues while also allowing your employees the time to slowly turn it around, you might be surprised at how many people will fall into the new system. It just takes time.
It’s been said that positive verbal praise and feedback stimulate the same parts of the brain that receiving money stimulates. When positive behaviour is cultivated and shared, it’s more likely to be repeated – and it doesn’t cost a penny!