Dentist As Human Resource Manager

In a dental practice human resources contribute significantly to a competitive advantage. If you believe that your business competes for the discretionary dollar based on implementing innovative ideas, delivering remarkable customer service or providing relationship-based care then having exceptional employees is not only important, it is a requirement.

Unfortunately, however, dentists receive no training in human resource management while in dental school and whatever they do learn is through trial and error. It is not uncommon for dentists to feel that managing people is a lot of trouble and they take a lot of time. “If only I could just fix teeth or treat my patients, everything would be fine!”

Human Resource issues and challenges occur in every dental practice whether large or small. Regrettably, most dental offices, by their very nature, are small organizations and the active and on-the-go dentist has less time to deal with HR challenges because the doctor is doing everything else. Dentists wear many hats. Sadly, not all of them fit perfectly.

Human resource management in any business involves the design of formal systems to ensure effective and efficient use of human talent to accomplish the organization’s goals. Despite the obvious differences between large multi-national companies and small businesses such as a dental practice, the same HR challenges must be managed.

There are several HR activities that the dentist needs to consider and manage. Designing systems to effectively manage your team with their needs, expectations, quirks, legal rights and high potential is a challenge. In every sense, in every dental office, the owner dentist is a HR manager.

Consider the following seven areas of HR management that will impact the success and effectiveness your dental practice.

1. Human resource planning and analysis: Individuals on your team can become a practice core competency. When your team receives training and they have the ability to make innovative decisions in ways that your competitors cannot easily imitate, your team can set your practice apart from the rest. This requires planning on your part for the future supply and demand for motivated and capable employees.

2. Equal employment opportunity: Simply stated, all team members must receive equal treatment in all employment-related actions. Regardless, of the size of an organization it is illegal to discriminate based on race, sex (sexual harassment), age (people over 40 are a protected class), or disabilities. While many of the federal laws apply to organizations with 15-20 or more employees, employers of all sizes must be familiar with EEO laws and regulations and be certain that their business practices are non-discriminatory.

3. Staffing: The aim of the dentist HR director is to provide an adequate supply of qualified team members to fill the jobs in the practice. This involves knowing exactly what each employee is to do, describing the job specifications with measurable outcomes as well as successful recruiting. Selecting qualified candidates becomes a critical element of your practice HR management.

4. HR development starts with the orientation of the new employee in addition to job skill training. Also, an integral element of HR development is performance management or assessing how employees perform their jobs.

5. Compensation and benefits involves how the dentist rewards team members for performance through pay, incentives and benefits. It is important to develop and refine the base wage and incentive program for the practice.

6. Health, safety and security. This includes the traditional concern for employee safety to eliminate accidents and injuries at work. Additionally, health promotion programs that encourage healthy employee lifestyles and workplace security have grown in importance.

7. Employee relations: It is critical to develop, communicate and update HR policies so the dentist and the team know what is expected. Defining policies, rules and disciplines are a must for the dentist if he/she is to manage human resources.

For dentists, there exist significant workforce shortages. It’s not that there are too few people rather there are too few people with the skills being required by the ever-changing demands of the modern day dental practice. Consequently, the dental CEO is faced with greater pressures to recruit, retain and train auxiliaries.

If you believe that human resources is one of your core competencies take the following steps to make your dental practice a “practice of choice”.

1. Create a practice culture where your values and beliefs are shared by your team. This will positively affect the attraction and retention of competent employees.

2. Establish productivity standards and measure the quality and quantity of the work done. The more productive you and your team are the better your competitive advantage and the higher your team’s standard of living.

3. Make quality and service a HR-based strategy. High quality care and outstanding patient service can become a strategic competitive advantage. Design your service delivery so that it emphasizes interaction with patients, with the ultimate goal of meeting their needs.

4. Develop your own HR Plan. Set aside time to anticipate and manage the demand and supply of human resources ahead of time to avert a crisis. Now is the time to locate talent because it is critical to anticipate and identify specific needs before the actual staffing is needed. Do an analysis of all current jobs to provide a basis for forecasting what jobs will be needed.

Regardless of the size of the dental practice, the owner-doctor is a human resource manager. When the dentist devotes time to HR planning by identifying and communicating the culture, the values and the vision of the practice he/she can create and develop the core competency of the practice….it’s people. The result is that you will attract better qualified applicants for open positions and you will retain employees longer while elevating practice and personal profitability.

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