Of course employees should turn up on time and complete their work, but employee engagement goes above and beyond that. It’s invaluable in difficult times and can be the difference that takes your business to the next level.
But it doesn’t have to involve team-bonding with paintball or expensive dinners out. Employee engagement is knowing personal strengths and interests, sharing the progress and challenges of the practice and not taking people for granted. It doesn’t come naturally to every employee or manager, but you can easily develop it in your business.
Your team is engaged when they’re committed, passionate and loyal. These are the employees who are in early to get organised for a busy day, or stay later when a patient has a dental emergency. They’re also proactive when organising what needs to be done if they’re taking holidays or an urgent break.
Engaged employees are team players who help others with work issues. They’re interested in how the practice is going and will suggest solutions to problems, some of which you might not have even noticed. They are the staff who are friendly and helpful with your patients.They are people you want to keep in your practice. The best managers realise it’s not a one-way street and will also help employees when they need flexibility.
Employee engagement makes work more pleasant every day because engaged staff go the extra mile to keep things running smoothly and prevent small issues from becoming big problems.
While all this is nice day to day, it is vital when your practice is under stress. Sooner or later you’re down a popular dentist or an experienced receptionist, another practice sets up shop nearby, or the economy is flat. That’s when a team who wants your practice to succeed can make a big difference. The time to build engagement is before it’s really needed.
Most of these are ideas are free or inexpensive, and they’ll make a big difference to your staff engagement.
· Have an on-boarding program so each new person has an overview and a full understanding of their work responsibilities, whether they’re a new dental assistant or a senior dentist. Keep an updated list of all basic tasks as well as who is responsible for particular equipment or office supplies. Introduce them around and give them the appropriate numbers to contact people, ask questions or deal with an emergency notification.
· Get to know your team and their individual situations. Is a new dentist also caring for a parent, or a dental hygienist coping with long commutes? Is your receptionist very community-minded, or does someone volunteer for a special cause? Who plays team sport or is training for a fun run? If you’re aware of different situations you can gain from their outside connections and other skills. Knowing people means your thanks and small rewards are appropriate and more appreciated – milk chocolates are no good for vegans, and a bouquet could just mean hay fever for someone with sensitive sinuses.
· Involve your team in your practice’s business goals. Outline what you hope to achieve over the year and share both successes and failures regularly. Be open to suggestions for improvements. Staff often have specific insights from their daily work. Acknowledge when someone has gone the extra mile and thank them for it. Let your team know you see and appreciate their efforts.
· Don’t micromanage. It wastes your time and makes people feel you don’t trust they can do their job. Discuss outcomes and check progress, but let your staff have some control. They may even have better ideas for doing things.
· Look for ways to develop people in the dental industry; it’s cheaper than finding new staff. Can some work be rotated so people gain extra skills, are there training courses you could offer? Are there pathways to promotion for a keen receptionist or would having more flexible employment help retain a good dentist with a young family?
· Be available to employees with work problems. Sometimes it’s a personality clash, sometimes it’s more serious but you need to know before others take sides. And don’t make promises you can’t keep to calm things down. Not every issue is simple to resolve but your team wants to know you’re trying.
· Build in some fun occasionally. Encourage people to dress up for Dental Health Week or fundraising occasions. Have a potluck lunch table or bring morning tea items every so often. Create a fun-run team or volunteer for something outside of work hours as a group. Don’t pressure people who may already be fully committed, but look for opportunities for staff to learn about each other’s interests.
· Thoughtfully organised team drinks or dinners can also be a good way to thank the team for their efforts and give people a chance to relax with their colleagues. Make sure there are appropriate food options for any dietary issues and plenty of non-alcoholic choices for those not wanting to drink. Inclusive planning makes everyone feel a part of the team and builds employee engagement.
The dental industry is transforming rapidly. Once upon a time, the average dentist in Australia was male, middle-aged and married to his dental assistant or practice manager.
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