How to ensure you give new orthodontic team members a real chance at success

By Roger P. Levin, DDS

Orthodontic practices depend strongly on their teams. When an orthodontic team is good, it’s able to accept high levels of delegation, allowing for a strong volume of patients to be seen daily. This ultimately leads to practice success. Conversely, any breakdown in the dental team slows the process, creates high levels of stress, decreases customer service, and may lower practice production. As practices move into the COVID-19 recovery mode, there may be significant changes to your staff. Some team members may not return to work. Others may need to adjust their hours. This is one of the many unfortunate aspects of running a business during the COVID-19 crisis.

Unfortunately, no matter how good your team is there will be change. Even pre-COVID-19, you could have expected a 50% to 70% turnover in your team every 15 years or so. But you may hit that level in the next 12 to 24 months. So, what can you do about it? Do you wait until someone leaves to begin trying to find the next great team member? Do you streamline your systems after a staff member departs because they took all their knowledge with them? Do you scramble to put people in positions whether they’re truly qualified or not? The answer to these questions takes place in orthodontic practices every day and frequently the result is not what’s best for success.

Here are some suggestions that will have a dynamic impact on bringing new team members into an orthodontic practice and giving them a real chance for success.

1. Document, update, and streamline your systems now.

In addition to preparing the practice for times when team members depart, updating your systems also has the benefit of improving practice production and reducing stress.

2. Document systems that can be easily mastered by all.

Simply writing a bunch of things down with no explanation is insufficient from a training standpoint. When you provide a new team member with documented training which includes explanations and a series of meetings to put everything in perspective, they will excel much faster.

3. Understand your culture.

Every orthodontic practice has a culture. Some are better than others, but there is always a culture. If you don’t want team disruption when you bring in new people, make sure they fit your culture. If you bring in a team member with a super strong work ethic and the rest of the team does just enough to get through the day, then they will bang heads. You’re better off changing your culture than bringing in a team member who simply does not fit your culture.

4. Continually train your staff.

The business of orthodontics is becoming more and more complicated. A treatment coordinator needs to excel in sales, but 98% of orthodontic treatment coordinators have no sales background. Office managers must master areas like delegation, motivation, conflict resolution, hiring, firing, performance reviews, and labor regulations. However, 96% of orthodontic office managers have no management background or formal training. Orthodontic assistants also have a complex job dealing with treatment, patients, and keeping the orthodontist on schedule. And then there is the front desk. Insurance and payment options are more complex than ever before, more people are overdue, and the no-show rate is always climbing. And all of this happens while telephones are ringing, and patients are entering the office. This is no time for baptism by fire. Practices that want to succeed must offer their teams training.

Your team will change over time. People get sick, move, and retire. It’s normal. Some staff members may not like being in your practice and others may love your practice until they don’t. This is natural as well. Staff members are human and human nature has a lot of variables. The key is to do the best job you can from a leadership standpoint to build a great culture and a great team. OP

Roger P. Levin, DDS, is the CEO and founder of Levin Group, a leading practice management consulting firm that has worked with over 30,000 practices to increase production. A recognized expert on dental practice management and marketing, he has written 67 books and over 4,000 articles and regularly presents seminars in the United States and around the world. To contact Levin or to join the 40,000 dental professionals who receive his Practice Production Tip of the Day, visit levingroup.com or email rlevin@levingroup.com