Emmott On Technology: Hiring and Training Staff for Technology Success

Thursday, November 14, 2013


Dentists sometimes worry about new staff members, “What if I spend a lot of time and money training them and then they leave?”

What if you don’t train them and they stay?

Good technology fully implemented can improve efficiency, reduce costs and quickly pay for itself. The wrong technology poorly implemented will decrease efficiency and increase costs. Often the difference between success and failure is not the technology but the people using it.

With the right technology, dental team members no longer need to pull charts, search for lost charts, mail postcards, call to confirm or wait on hold with an insurer for twenty minutes. The jobs they used to do to add value no longer need to be done. That does not mean that the team member is no longer important or valuable. However, how they add value to your practice changes.

Back in June we took a fun look at the front desk through the eyes of Judy the Juggler working the front desk for Dr. Paperman. Overwhelmed with tasks Judy suggests Dr. Paperman hire another person to help out. If he decides to do it what will it cost the practice?

The cost to hire an employee is far more than their hourly rate. A Rutgers University Graduate School of Business study estimated that the turnover cost for a non-professional position is one and a half times that of the person’s annual salary. Turnover cost for a professional position is as much as two times that person’s salary.

If we assume a modest salary of $15.00 an hour and a standard work week the turnover expense for a dental assistant is between $47,000 and $63,000.

Employers also pay taxes, insurance, unemployment and other costs which usually add around 25% to the base rate. That adds up to a total annual cost of employment of $39,000. Add that to the turnover cost and the new employee Dr. Paperman is considering will cost him at least $86,000.

He could buy a lot of technology for $86,000. However the technology must help Judy do her job more effectively and eliminate the need for an additional staff member. To accomplish that you need the right technology as well as the right people properly trained to use it effectively.

Staffing and turnover have always been an important factor in a dental office. With high tech systems we can argue that it is even more so. There are three possible outcomes to adding technology to the office only one of which is good.

One: The office pays for the installation of a new high tech system then throws team members at it with little or no training and no system in place to implement the technology. This is all too common and almost always results in frustrated staff and wasted money.

Two: An office spends the money to implement a technology system then spends additional time and money training a staff person to use it. The staff person clings to the old way of doing things, fails to implement the system, is the wrong person for the job and either leaves or even worse stays in place like a roadblock preventing things from progressing. The result is again frustrated staff and wasted money.

Three: The dental office buys the system, sets up training, develops protocols to use it effectively and engages team members to use the system, learn and get better. The result is faster better service, decreased costs and happy staff.

Notice the determining factor in our three outcomes is not the technology it is the people using it. It is how they are trained, how the office established the benefits of the technology and helped the staff learn.

There are three steps to making this happen. Hire right, train with purpose and get better.

One: Wouldn’t it be great if there was a sure fire way to get the best person for the job? Businesses big and small struggle with this, and sadly there is no magic formula that works every time. Here are some well-considered thoughts on hiring well:

  • Experience is important but attitude is even more important
  • Check references
  • Have a “working interview” where the prospective team member works part of a day with the rest of the staff and get their feedback
  • First-rate people hire first-rate people; second-rate people hire third-rate people

However, no matter how you try to get it right the first time, sometimes you just need to try out a few people before you find the right one.

Two: All training starts with showing people which icon to click, but training with purpose tells them why they need to push that icon. The final result of training should not be a staff person who simply knows how to use the software, but a staff person who know how using this software will help reach a goal and further the mission of the practice. Sporadic on the job training is not good enough. Workflow and protocols need to be modified and upgraded to support the new technology and the people using it.

Three: You do not have to be sick to get better. As you use your new system, well trained and engaged team members will find new ways of doing things or discover problems that require more training. Training should be ongoing with dedicated training days every year. Excellence is never an accident

Having a great team has always been important. Technology does not reduce that importance, it increases it. The future is coming and it will be amazing!

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