Overcoming Hiring Challenges for Dental Practices

How your practice can stand out in today’s competitive hiring environment

There is at least one thing everyone in the dental industry can agree on—the last few years have been a wild ride. As if the COVID-19 chaos of 2020 and omicron variant of today weren’t enough, practice owners have been challenged with navigating another issue, one that could last well after the virus is contained:

Staffing Scarcity

For the first time since anyone can remember, there are more jobs in the dental industry than people qualified to fill them. With the economy roaring back, the labor shortage doesn’t look to be going away anytime soon. Couple that with a sharp increase in wages that’s creating more turnover and competition than ever, and Cain Watters & Associates sees why the dental industry is facing unprecedented hiring challenges. Now more than ever, dental practice owners need a solid strategy to target, hire and retain top talent.

According to Paul Edwards, CEO and co-founder of long-time CWA partner CEDR HR Solutions, the key to attracting and keeping top talent lies within your own practice, not necessarily your checkbook.

“Almost every practice in every specialty is feeling the staffing squeeze, and competition for good people is high,” says Paul. “That’s why it’s important to make your practice stand out in more ways than salary.”

Retaining Top Talent

At CEDR, Paul makes it a point to ask his client’s long-time employees why they have stayed so long. The overwhelming majority respond with some version of the same answer: “my practice cares and it shows.”

“Practices that operate with empathy and understanding tend to keep their good employees,” says Paul. “They also have an advantage in hiring because their staff will be talking, either in the practice or outside of it.”

Some of the ways practices operate with empathy that make a big impact on employee morale include:

  • Implementing a backup plan for employees who need to care for a sick child.
  • Providing competitive benefits and paying attention to improve them as needed.
  • Proactively hiring temp employees when things get busy, not after.
  • Offering ample time off and encouraging employees to take it.

Paul also counsels his clients to create and implement a well-defined purpose, vision and core values for the practice.

“For your best employees, these are things that really motivate and matter to them,” says Paul. “But you can’t just come up with some values and put them on the wall. You have to live it.”

Involving the entire staff in the creation of the practice’s purpose, vision and values is key to the team adopting and truly living through them. Start the conversation by identifying what the company values internally, then end it with how the practice can extend those values to the community.

Oftentimes staff are already giving back to the community in various ways, and the practice can adopt the cause and empower the employee to do more of it by getting involved.

Even if the practice owner isn’t necessarily the unicorns and butterflies type, Paul says they can still drive the creation of company values with a little leadership at the beginning, then demonstrating the values the team creates going forward.

“When an employee understands the company purpose and values, there’s self-actualization in that,” says Paul. “You will no longer have to engage employees—they get engaged with the job because they’re working toward a collective goal.”

Landing Top Talent

In this ultra-competitive environment, however, Paul says having your house in order might not be enough to land top talent. Practice owners have to be ready to strike when top talent comes calling, because candidates who interview well with you are also interviewing well with the practice up the road.

“Don’t be afraid to make an offer quickly, maybe even on the spot,” says Paul. “Even after an offer is made, practice owners should continue the interview process with second and third place candidates, just in case.”

Another important tactic to ensure you’re attracting the best candidates is one Paul calls the heaviest lifter in hiring, the job description. Whether you’re placing the ad on Glassdoor, ZipRecruiter, Indeed or a local job board, the job description should clearly educate candidates on two things:

  1. The full scope of the tasks, duties and expectations associated with the role.
  2. The purpose/vision/values that make up the culture of the practice.

Job descriptions with clearly defined expectations weed out the weaker candidates, provide good candidates with points to build on in the interview, and give the practice owner a level of underperformance insurance if the candidate doesn’t work out down the road.

Giving candidates a glimpse into the culture of the practice helps ensure the person is also the right fit for the team.

“It gets them excited about the role and the prospect of being part of something bigger and better than where they are now,” says Paul. “Candidates are very interested in knowing or learning about the difference your practice makes in the world and community.”

Paul also encourages owners to get creative with their hiring practices, which often starts with empowering the entire staff to get involved. Incentivizing employees to help in the search can go a long way.

“Just like your eyes are always open, encourage your employees to be on the lookout for talent as well,” says Paul. “They might see someone giving great service at the grocery store, and that can translate to the front desk of a dental practice.”

Bottom line is, in this unprecedented environment, practice owners need to be prepared to step out of their comfort zone to find and retain top talent.

“There’s a direct correlation between profitability and turnover,” says Paul. “But with the right procedures in place and an aggressive mindset during the interview process, there’s no reason a practice can’t survive, and even thrive, in this competitive environment.”

For more strategies on how to navigate today’s staffing shortage, or for any other questions surrounding today’s ever-changing business environment, talk to a CWA advisor. Our team can help you and your practice reach your personal and professional goals.

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