The dental industry is constantly battling against its public image, both in attracting patients, and attracting staff. This article looks at the special circumstances faced by the industry in attracting staff, and makes some suggestions for owners and managers of dental practices.
The Dental Industry
Over a long period of time, all across Australia, the dental industry has struggled to find good support staff (i.e. dental assistants, front office coordinators, practice managers). It seems that people don’t even apply for the roles no matter how appealing the ads try to make them sound. Or, applications will come from people who are totally unsuited to the role but who have set up automatic responses in their Seek profiles.
It’s also extremely common that, even if they do apply, they often don’t turn up to the interview or get offered role and don’t turn up to the first day.
There have been a number of anecdotal stories of situations where people leave the practice in their first week of work, saying they’re just going out for lunch, but never coming back.
There is no magic answer to either of these challenges.
Recruitment of support staff in the dental space is challenging.
Statistics from the People2People 2022 Report Employment Salary and Trends (People2People, 2022) show:
- 36% of job seekers are looking for a job right now
- 63% rate a supportive work environment as an important factor to perform
- Healthcare in general is on of the top hiring industries
- 43% of employers saw a significant increase in rejected job offers
- 69% of employers have seen a decrease in the number of applications overall
1. Hiring Systems
Having excellent hiring systems can make a great impression. Part of it involves making the job ad sound as exciting as possible and showing why the practice is a great place to work. Having it sound appealing (e.g. its location, its environment, its lovely patients, its friendly team) is a must if it is to stand out from other practices, or other job options. It’s also smart to mention if the practice pays above-award wages and offers excellent training.
No-shows to interviews can be reduced by having a team member contact the candidate before the interview, doing a telephone screening to ensure the candidate is appropriate, and “selling” the role over the phone. It’s smart to have SMS reminders for the candidate, too. The candidate might still not attend, so it’s a smart move to have a back-up plan for what the team can do with that time (e.g. if the candidate doesn’t show, do some training or catch up on calls to patients).
2. The Dentist Appeal – some ideas
The bigger question is whether or not dentists as a profession can make the industry more appealing to young people who might never have considered it. It may behove the profession to start attending careers days at school to challenge the perception that dentistry is horrible and to capture the attention of young people. It might work for individual practices to run career nights for potential support staff, maybe advertising them through social media (e.g. local community Facebook pages).
If that occurs, the next step will be ensuring practices have good enough on-the-job training that they can take raw young people and train them into great dental assistants. Relying on Cert III through the TAFE sector may not have the desired effect; more structured training in the practice is essential.
For good training systems to be effective, practices will need to be permanently a bit over-staffed; it’s a lot easier to train raw candidates when there are spare staff members. Practice owners should always be planning ahead to ensure that staffing levels are high.
3. Staff Retention
Staff retention is the next issue.
Statistics from the People2People 2022 Report Employment Salary and Trends (People2People, 2022) show some of the challenges facing employers regarding retention:
- 43% said low pay was a motivator for leaving
- 35% said stressful working conditions
- 24% said work life balance issues
- 24% said management problems
- 18% said the lack of career opportunities
Practices need to ensure that regular, effective performance reviews are occurring to keep the team satisfied and fulfilled, and to show them how they can grow in their career paths within the practice.
Dental practices may need to consider investing in the roles to make them as attractive as possible. For example, practice owners could:
- ensure that the practice can pay above award
- investigate options for ongoing training and development even in small practices where careers paths may not be obvious
- ensure that everything that can be delegated to the team is delegated, in order to keep them interested and engaged
- look for ways to make the practice fun, even in a serious environment like dentistry
- give staff members access to dentistry so that they can have the smile of their dreams
Obviously business growth is essential if the practice is to be investing in staff. This means keeping an eye on practice production, but well-hired, well-trained support staff can and should actually help increase production quite quickly anyway (e.g. by ensuring that patients are rebooking and not cancelling, ensuring efficient stock control etc).
4. Legal Obligations
As part of the hiring process fundamental documents should be in place. Failure to do so, will inherently lead to problems around:
- unfair dismissal claims
- general protections claims
- an increase in workers compensation claims
- an increase in complaints
- breach of contract issues
- performance management problems
- workplace bullying accusations
A way to mitigate your risk and liability is to have properly constructed employment contracts in place namely the following clauses need to be considered:
- notice provisions
- termination of employment/cessation of employment
- flexibility terms
- individual flexibility agreements
- policy compliance (but not a policy inserted into the contract to create an unnecessary contractual obligation)
- confidential information
- Award obligations
- Enterprise Agreement obligations (if required)
Momentum Management can be reached on https://momentummanagement.com.au/
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Dr Toni Surace – Graduating from Melbourne University in Dental Science in 1995, Dr. Surace immersed herself in Dentistry before opening her own practice, Smile Style Dental in 2000.
She took her practice through the Momentum Management Program in 2008 and loved what it did for her team and her practice growth so much that she bought the company! Toni has owned Momentum since 2012 and has developed and grown the content to work in dental practices today. She has used her further studies in Digital Marketing, Positive Psychology and Emotional Intelligence to expand the curriculum and to give practices the knowledge they need to thrive in the dental profession today.
She is a mother of three, Practice Owner, Managing Director of Momentum Management, Mentor, Coach, Trainer, and International Presenter thus, she has truly mastered the art of managing her businesses remotely!
Jonathan Mamaril leads a team of handpicked experts in the areas of employment law and commercial law who focus on educating clients to avoid headaches, provide advice on issues before they fester and when action needs to be taken and there is a problem mitigate risk and liability. With a core value of helping first and providing practical advice, Jonathan is a sought after advisor to a number of Employers and as a speaker for forums and seminars where his expertise is invaluable as a leader in this area as a lawyer for employers.
 Found at page 25, 45 and 46
 Found at page 25, 45 and 46