• October 18, 2017

Show your staff you value them, their contributions

Does your practice spend a little time or effort to do something special for your hard-working staff, or is it an idea that is too often abandoned because of busy schedules?

With a little planning, you can do more than pay lip service to a “staff appreciation day” and instead make the most of this chance to boost morale and show your team how valuable they are to you.

Some offices plan food, music and perhaps a massage or pedicure for a half-day when the office is closed. Others combine the fun with the practical: dental treatment, like cleanings and updated x-rays, that too often busy staff members put off. Other offices use the opportunity to bring in a speaker as part of a professional growth workshop, another form of “staff appreciation,” according to Sally McKenzie, a California dental management consultant.

“When they are under your roof,” she said in her blog, “you need them focused on delivering the best dentistry and service to your patients.  You want them to want to be there. You want your office to be a place where they feel valued, appreciated and genuinely invested in delivering excellence.”

Kimberly Morgan, a registered dental hygienist in Austin, Texas, said she loved “staff day” at her practice but found the follow-up through frustrating.

“Since our staff day became extinct, I found myself buying Groupon dental cleanings and getting my teeth cleaned by other dental offices. This was easier than waiting for our staff day to become a reality again.”

“So, my question is, why are we too busy for each other?” Morgan asked. “Staff day really helps to build positive workplace relationships. Don’t we want to take care of each other, and more importantly, don’t you want to be taken care of?”

The extra value to staff days that include dental treatment is a reawakening of what patients experience at the hands of the team, Morgan said.

“I forget how awful it feels to become numb, or how I feel like I’m choking on the small amount of saliva near the back of my throat when I get a cleaning, or why there is so much gritty prophy paste in my mouth,” she explained. “After I get any kind of dental procedure, I’m keener on my patient’s sensitivities to paste, saliva, and numbness. I am certainly a better clinician after my appointment.”

Whether you plan a staff day every quarter or once a year, make sure you plan it well in advance, ideally a lead time of two to three months so that the staff can check their calendars and commit to the date. 

Staffers who are on their feet all day and bending over patients would no doubt be grateful for a massage therapist on staff day; another special treat might be a manicurist. It may be that a current patient who provides these services may be interested in bartering.

Catering or bringing in food will help keep the mood light and happy. Aim to keep the day fun and relaxing.

Other ideas, including these generated from an informal poll of hygienists, are simple too: a heartfelt thank you, a cash bonus or a gift card.  A lunch on and with the boss also demonstrates appreciation for the front-line troops in the office.

You know how important your staff is to your office and your success, but taking steps to show just how much you value them will boost their job satisfaction and loyalty. It’s a small price to pay.

The views expressed in this column are those of the writer and not necessarily the opinions of the Chicago Dental Society. CDS presents Front Desk, a column addressing problems dentists and staff members experience in the office. Front Desk is prepared by Stephanie Sisk, a freelance journalist. Suggestions? 
Email topics you wish to be covered to the Chicago Dental Society.