Workplace culture: it’s one of those terms that seems vague, but actually plays an incredibly important role in the job satisfaction and work experiences of dental practice employees.
Where a workplace culture is healthy and vibrant employees enjoy coming to work, are friendly with their colleagues and rally around each other in trying times to face challenges together. A toxic workplace culture, on the other hand, makes employees feel isolated and belittled and saps productivity.
Workplace culture is especially important in the healthcare industry. Workers at a dental clinic are under a lot of stress even at the best of times, so maintaining good teamwork is essential for the effective delivery of patient care and their positive perception.
Even for offices that don’t suffer from passive aggressiveness and team sabotage, hallmarks of a toxic workplace, it is still worth considering whether your clinic could be more effective if employees felt better integrated and more supported. And, the good news about workplace environments, as Glenn Rolfsen explains in this TEDx video, is that they can be changed:
If you believe your dental clinic culture could be improved, and you want to explore some practical ways of doing so, here are five strategies that I have found to work well.
1. Foster a Culture of Appreciation
Everyone likes to feel their work has been noticed and appreciated and you might be surprised to learn just how much negativity comes from workers who believe their contributions are not being recognized.
Encouraging your employees to become more appreciative of each other starts at the top, so the best way to foster a culture of appreciation is to intentionally make a point of regularly thanking every member of your staff. Something as small as a cheerful “thanks!” after being handed a folder, when repeated daily, can go a long way.
2. Break Down Workplace Silos
Nothing encourages a distrustful workplace like silos, and in a dental clinic, the problem can become prevalent especially between employees working in the front end of operations and those working in the clinical area.
Workplace silos form when particular departments or sectors do not wish to share information with other departments or sectors. Many employees become frustrated with their company when they identify issues, but can’t do anything about it because the problem starts in another department. Using dental practice management software that integrates administrative and clinical functions well can facilitate better communication between team members.
3. Invest in Better Communications
Simply having good software tools at your disposal isn’t enough: making sure your employees have been trained to use them effectively is an important step toward ensuring your workplace is more interconnected and your workers more communicative with each other.
A team that doesn’t communicate well will quickly become a team that won’t communicate at all so it is important to make sure that channels to help employees collaborate and share information with each other are open and accessible.
Holding regular team meetings that give front and back end staff opportunities to talk about what is working and what isn’t is a good way to ensure that negative feelings can be processed in healthy ways, rather than festering into resentment.
Of course, this means that as a leader you will have to make the time to train your staff.
Peter Capelli, the director of The Wharton Schools Center for Human Resources, notes that companies are interested more than ever in workers they don’t have to educate. But his research also proved that when employers don’t put aside the time to train young workers on new software, workflow will suffer.
4. Reward Worker Efficiency
In order for a dental clinic to run well, you need to devote time to problem solve with your team. It is a good practice to present different scenarios and ask team members to collectively recommend the appropriate course of action. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page and is equipped to handle different and difficult situations as they arise. This won’t just make for more effective patient care, but will also make employees feel more like members of a team.
As I have written before making sure you have a good team is vital and keeping the team engaged is just as important. Rewarding your workers for looking ahead and using their own critical thinking skills to make operations run more efficiently is a great way to build employee loyalty and a healthy workplace at the same time.
5. Encourage Work-Life Balance
Work-life balance is one of those terms used so frequently that its now a cliché. “Yes, of course,” you want to say, “I know that being a workaholic isn’t healthy. I take time for self-care and I encourage my employees to do the same.”
Management attitudes – and especially perceived management attitudes – toward work-life balance has a major impact on your overall workplace culture.
Do more than just let your employees know that they can take time off when they need to; concretely foster work-life balance by discouraging working after hours or on weekends when it isn’t absolutely necessary.
A healthy workplace culture is one of those things that can be difficult to define but it is one that is immediately recognizable.
Patients notice when workers are happy and feel supported and making your workers feel valued and appreciated will pay off in other ways as well. Employees that really feel part of a team are much more likely to cheerfully go the extra mile for the clinic.