DEBRA MILLER | DIRECTOR OF COACHING
Keep the team running smoothly, performing at a high level, and helping the practice to grow requires a steady and focused approach to training. A team trained to the highest professional standards becomes your greatest asset and practice building. Teams that fall short of the mark can limit your success. Here’s some training tips that every practice can use:
Usually when you hire new people, you look for someone with previous dental (or preferably, endo) experience. You count on them coming with a set of skills that lets them integrate quickly and productively with your office.
What you don’t count on, and often overlook, is that they also come with the habits, values and mindsets of their previous practice. It can be a big gamble whether those things are aligned to your office. Many times, a new team member is thrown into the mix and it can be a big surprise down the road when you realize they’re in conflict with your goals.
Every new team member needs one-on-one training, which is often the responsibility of your office manager (for the administrative team) or your clinical lead (for dental assistants). Part of that training needs to be focused on finding the things that need to be untrained. Your team leader, when training and showing job responsibilities to the new team member, should be asking, “How is this different from the way you did it in your previous practice?”
By asking that question and highlighting differences, you create awareness for the new team member of the aspects of their job that they should not be relying on their “default” knowledge nor assuming your practice is the same.
Retraining isn’t about learning again how to do something; it’s about learning how to do something better. In that light, retraining is actually an ongoing process, because dental teams should always be striving to improve.
Every time something good happens, it challenges you to ask what can be done to keep the good times rolling. Every time something negative happens, it always challenges you to look for ways to improve so it doesn’t happen again.
But adapting to these challenging questions is a challenge in itself because often the answer isn’t definitive. Sometimes you are asking team members to be creative and try new things. That’s when you often experience resistance from your team … maybe not open disagreement, but the harder-to-detect “lack of genuine effort”. Team members get attached to doing things in a certain way, they become good at that, and they are often reluctant to step out on a limb when there is no clear benchmark for success.
In retraining, mindset matters more than anything. You have to create a culture that values learning and growth, accepts there are going to be bumps on the road to anything new, and rewards people who fully engage with the process. It’s groupthink, and progressive encouraging leadership that reinforces vision and goals is vital.
Everyone on the practice team plays a vital role. As long as everyone is there, in their lane and performing at a great level, every day can run smoothly. But what happens when something is out of place or goes wrong? A team member is absent, or an emergency (or more) needs to be scheduled into an already full day, or you have an equipment failure that slows everything down.
When these situations happen, it’s important that everyone who is on deck is capable of pitching in as much as possible to handle the flow. That’s where cross-training is so important.
There are certain tasks normally done by dental assistants that administrators can learn how to do. For example, turning over an operatory between appointments, or instrument sterilization. Be mindful of state regulations that may require licensure and a formal training program in infection control. Likewise, assistants should know how to cover certain tasks of the administrative team. For example, answering the phone, scheduling a patient, or processing a payment.
When you have team members who can adapt and be where they are most needed (even if it’s outside their normal role), you create a lot of flexibility. That gives you “court sense” on the fly to direct the team optimally as the schedule flow warrants.