How to develop your attractivity to recruit and retain the best dental assistant
Reading 10 min
Summary: Getting (and keeping) the best dental assistants isn’t just about offering traditional employee benefits anymore. It’s about embodying a new philosophy of management that gives your employees a sense of purpose at work while maintaining high-quality care for your patients. Learn what it takes to become a caring manager.
Recruitment practices are constantly evolving. Nowadays, dental assistants look beyond the usual criteria of salary, retirement, and vacation benefits to choose the practice they will work for. During the recruitment process, you are choosing your assistants but the interviewees are also choosing the team they want to join. Younger generations in particular put a higher premium on finding meaningful work. A recent study by Hays shows that 74 percent of younger employees would accept a pay cut for a chance to work at their ideal job.
To stand out as a prospective employer, caring management is essential: one that's interested in employee performance and growth as much as diplomas and technical qualifications. This new approach to your role as manager will yield great benefits for the stability and growth of your team as well as your practice. It relies on working on three levers of attractivity based on Maslow's hierarchy of needs: safety, belonging, and pride. Here is what you need to know.
Provide a working environment focused on safety
Maslow’s pyramid describes the different levels of human needs that must be met to reach self-fulfillment. After basic physiological needs, the pyramid teaches us our next most basic need is safety. For a dental practice, this need concerns two different groups of people: your patients and your employees. Dental assistants are key workers if you want to achieve success for both.
As a dental practitioner and health professional, your first duty is to your patients by ensuring excellent quality of care and safety. This can be achieved through risk and pain management processes that guarantee secure conditions and fluid collaboration between you and your assistant.
This means explaining every step of every procedure you perform, attributing specific tasks to each team member involved, and choosing the best equipment for every dental act. A syringe such as the Ultra Safety Plus Twist, for example, with its specific secure design made for dental local anesthesia procedures, will be an asset for risk management. Safety for your employees is safety for your patients.
As a manager, your role is to also provide safety for your team members: providing a fair salary, giving your dental assistants incentives for better performance and employee benefits as well as being mindful of their work-life balance. Having a steady job, where the monetary and organizational benefits correspond to the investment employees put in is paramount to attracting and retaining the best candidates.
Become a caring manager
A safe and stable work environment will ensure you work with a good team. To push your practice further towards a unique standard of care that will get your practice noticed, you'll need to go further and be recognized as a caring manager. Through strong, goal-oriented, and thoughtful leadership, you will develop a culture with which your team members can identify, thus giving them a sense of belonging.
The first step towards caring management is to streamline your onboarding process. Whenever a new dental assistant is hired, make sure you anticipate their first few weeks of work by organizing regular check-ins, making sure the rest of the team is involved in welcoming them, and explaining how all of their work is intertwined to contribute to the quality of care offered to patients. According to DentistryiQ, “companies that use a structured onboarding process experience 50% greater new-hire retention” and “up to 20% of employee turnover occurs during the first 45 days of employment.” It is thus essential to invest time and resources in these fundamental first weeks.
Make yourself available for any questions so that your new assistant feels they are in a trusting environment. Don’t forget to make time for informal moments: in companies where pressure can run high, it’s important to create a comfortable environment where the team can relax.
As you prepare to hire new dental assistance, remember that your vision, values, and sense of empathy for your patients and your team will be major selling points to convince recruits to join you. Therefore, you need to outline what you want your style of management to be and to write down what your ambitions are for your practice. This means answering the following questions:
Why do we exist? How does it affect how we practice dentistry?
Who do we wish to serve?
How do we want to grow: as a team, as a practice?
Create shared documents where these elements can be referred to anytime by your team so they can easily stay engaged with your common goals. Beyond being an anchor for your team’s work ethic and sense of belonging in your practice, having a clear vision will also translate to your patients, who will come and stay with you for your unique vision of care.
To ensure this vision comes to fruition, a culture of transparent communication and clear goal-setting needs to be implemented. Outline your quantitative and qualitative objectives for your business and share your expectations for engagement and performance with each team member. Choose precise and SMART indicators to evaluate performance for you and your team. During yearly reviews, use that data not to police your team members but to collect information that will attest to their growth and open them up to opportunities for more responsibility within the practice. In this process, it is crucial you stay open to receiving feedback from your assistants in the same way they receive it from you.
Focus on a sense of purpose for your employees
The last step towards caring management that will attract and retain the best dental assistants is to foster your employees’ self-realization and to participate in giving their life purpose through work. As a health practice, purpose at work can seem like a given. However, it never hurts to remind your team, and your dental assistants in particular, of the importance of their contribution to the practice’s success and the patients’ well-being. For example, when they assist you in repairing a tooth with Biodentine, they are saving teeth that were once doomed to endo treatment, something patients will be thankful for.
Dental assistants, after all, are pain managers first and foremost. They are the first face patients see in the practice and manage the number one fear dental patients have, which is going to the dentist itself. When patients leave the chair, assistants are the guarantors of patient post-operative care. Simply put, they save teeth: they are a key source of advice for patients and dentists, weighing in on the use of specific products according to their patient’s history and dental habits.
To find purpose at work, dental assistants also need to be given access to professional opportunities to grow. As a manager, you can provide the right tools, training, coaching, and education programs they need for their careers to thrive in your practice. As employees gain experience, you should anticipate their need for new challenges. Their growth reflects positively on you: as a manager, as a dental practitioner, and entrepreneur. For example, programs such as Septodont’s Managing Pain For Your Practice can help your dental assistants deepen their understanding of pain management and allow them to innovate with you in better dental care.
Achieving these three management goals will give your practice a strong office culture which will result in a positive reputation for your business. Teeth are the forefront of health and a strong component of self-confidence for any individual. Make sure your team knows that they are contributing to their patients' personal and professional successes. Putting care first, with the help of a valued and invested team of dental assistants, will put your practice on the map.