Reducing Employee Turnover in Your Dental Practice

February 20, 2018 4:30 pm Published by Leave your thoughts


One of the most difficult things a dentist faces is high employee turnover. While it’s easy to blame job-hopping millennials or just say that it’s hard to find good help these days, a practice that can’t keep team members in the long term is going to hurt financially and lose the trust of patients.

We recently worked with a dentist who seemed to have it all. He’s a pleasant guy, the practice had flourished for years, and he had a great corner on the market. Then the hemorrhaging began.

What had been a large and busy practice began losing team members left and right. Up front, dental assistants, and hygienists—they were losing people faster than they could be replaced!

It’s important to note that retention problems often start up top. In this case the issue was not the owner of the practice, but an associate dentist. Sometimes all it takes is one individual to poison the well, creating havoc in your dental practice’s culture.

How much does it cost to find a new employee? The average cost to replace a team member is around $4,000 without even factoring in indirect costs. Training takes time, and it takes most new team members around five months before they reach full productivity.

Investing that much into a new employee is tough if your revolving door means you’ll have to fill that position again next year. And there’s a hidden cost: turnover can damage the confidence of both other team members and your patients.

Tips for Improving Retention in Your Dental Practice

Hire the right people…

While easier said than done, it’s better to invest a little more time and money to find a hire who fits the needs of your practice and can blossom within your practice’s culture. Don’t roll the dice on someone you’re unsure of just because you want to fill the position as soon as possible. This is just kicking the can down the road.

...and fire the wrong people.

One of the toughest things for a dentist is having to let a team member go. Whether it’s their job performance or the effect they have on the rest of the team, don’t let a single individual pull down your practice. We once had to let a young woman named Megan go. Megan was actually very effective in her professional capacity, and she had become a close friend over time. However, she was passing her extreme pessimism on to the rest of the team. After multiple attempts to help her correct it, we had to cut her loose because of the negative influence she had on company culture.

Compensate fairly

This is a tough one to swallow, but many practices that have high turnover simply don’t pay enough. Many times, someone will accept a position that compensates poorly in the hopes that once they have their foot in the door, they’ll receive a fair wage. If this doesn’t happen, you can’t blame them for moving on. It’s tough out there, and failing to provide even an annual cost-of-living adjustment (around 3 percent) means you’re likely to face retention problems.

Recognize and respect good work

A culture of kindness and praise goes a long way toward keeping the team happy. A kind word following a success or a good effort lets a person know you appreciate and respect them. Even small acts of gratitude and generosity from an employer can inspire loyalty from an employee. That is how you retain your A-team, and when you have occasional bumps in the road you can be sure they’ll stick by you.

Give them purpose

Employees who see no opportunities before them will eventually seek those opportunities elsewhere. Remember that your team members are an investment, one that you should continue to develop. Learning new skills, gaining your trust, and being empowered with new responsibilities helps them feel connected to the practice, giving them a purpose rather than feeling like a cog in a wheel.

Know their needs

Team members, particularly new ones, might be hesitant to express what they need from you, which in and of itself indicates a cultural problem. For example, one of the most important needs of the current generation is a flexible schedule to promote a healthy work/life balance. If being accommodating with realistic work arrangements helps you keep your best team members, it’s worth it.

It All Starts at the Top

Generating loyalty from team members is a process that starts at the top. Those in positions of authority, no matter how small, drive the culture, behavior, and performance of those who report to them. If your dental practice is having problems with employee turnover, Sunrise Dental Solutions can help you uncover the issue and set you back on course.


~Linda O’Grady

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