The Importance of Proper Training Practices in a Dental Office


High staff turnover is a common occurrence in dental offices all over the country, and tends to bring everything to a standstill. Then, when it comes to hiring, the most common complaint dentists have is that they can’t find competent staff.

Why is this?

Alex Zlatin, author of Responsible Dental Ownership: Balancing Ethics and Business Through Purpose writes that this complaint may stem from “an inability to communicate expectations to staff and of not having clarity of purpose.”

That being said, the question now becomes when should this communication of expectations and purpose happen? The answer is simple: In training.  Proper training is essential to not only keeping staff but ensuring competent staff. Most think that training is just showing new employees what to do and nothing else. But training actually encompasses a lot more than that; it’s about helping the new employee fit in with the office culture, ensuring they understand exactly what is expected of them, and aligning them with your purpose and the larger goals of the practice.

Even before you start hiring, it is important to consider just how crucial proper training practices are to a successful practice and the significant reduction of staff turnover in your office.

Make new employees aware of your purpose

In Zlatin’s book, a lack of purpose can contribute to a lack of staff motivation, so if you are the one training, your new employees need to know exactly what your company stands for and how their position contributes to the overall purpose and the larger goals of your practice. Remember that new employees can’t align with your purpose if you are unsure what that purpose even is. Know your purpose first before you attempt to communicate it to new employees.

If someone else in your office is training the new employees, your expectations and purpose need to be effectively and clearly communicated to that trainer so that they can then effectively and clearly communicate those expectations and purpose to those new employees.

Don’t allow freshly trained employees to train new employees

As a new driver, it is the law that you do not attempt to teach a new driver to drive until you have been driving for at least two years. And I’m betting you wouldn’t want it any other way. Could you imagine the chaos if freshly trained drivers were teaching other new drivers how to drive? Nobody would feel safe on the road. I know I sure wouldn’t.

This goes for employee training, too. Freshly trained employees should not be training new employees. And here’s why:

Just knowing the position and being experienced in the position are two very different concepts. Firstly, knowing is basic. You have basic knowledge of a position the way you have basic knowledge of driving after finishing your road test. Although having that knowledge is good, it’s not enough to be an effective trainer in that field. Why? Your knowledge of the position is too limited. Passing the road test does allow you to start driving, but it doesn’t make you a good driver, experience does.

Just as with an experienced driver, an experienced receptionist or hygienist will have an unlimited pool of examples to draw from and will, therefore, be able to answer tough questions should they come up. Experience allows them to see their position from different angles. It also provides the ability to see beyond the surface of the position to a more in-depth understanding of it. Not only are they able to train properly but they can show a new employee more efficient ways to tackle certain jobs without disturbing the workflow of others.

Freshly trained employees are not able to provide all the tools the new employee needs to grow. This can make it frustrating for both the new team member and the trainer. Asking questions is a fundamental practice in training. The more questions asked the better and more effective the training. So, when preparing to train others, it’s not enough to just know the position, the trainer must be experienced enough in that position to ensure the new employee is trained properly, with the proper tools and knowledge to not just perform but to perform well.

Be prepared

As a trainer, you need to be prepared. For example, when I train a new employee, I type up questions as well as a list of duties related to the position, including any basic information the new employee might need to know. I also make sure that anything they need, such as pens, notepads, even bulletins, are all there for them before they sit down.

The first day is always jammed with a ton of information that most people can’t process right away, hence the question portion of the training. Since I’ve been in my position for more than two years with 17 years of experience, any questions the new employee does have, I am easily able to answer. In addition to communicating the purpose and expectations of the position, it’s also just as important to go over the hierarchy and rules of the company. This includes who they contact when they’re sick or need to swap a shift, and what procedures and guidelines they need to strictly follow.  

Have everything prepared before the new employee comes in. Preparation is always key to proper and effective training.

Don’t take fewer hours for training than you’re going to need

I’m bringing this particular practice up for one reason: many dental professionals tell us that they are unfamiliar with our practice management software and feel that they need more training. Unfortunately, most of the time that is due to those dental professionals not using their allotted training hours in full.

Training requires time and practice. Trust me it’s worth it to take all the available hours you’re offered in order to train or be trained properly. Think of it this way: In order to train or be trained for a job, you are provided with tools. In our case, we give you eight tools. Some only leave with four. The chance that they come back confused and frustrated is very high as ignoring the other four tools means a significant part of the training is also being ignored.

Software training, whether it be ours or someone else’s, is not only essential to a well-run practice, but guarantees reduced stress in the office and a lot fewer calls to support. Take all the tools (hours) provided. 2 or 4 or even 6 of those hours will not be enough to cover everything you need to know. Take your time to get to know the software, the ins, and outs, how to navigate and understand it. And remember, just like training a new employee, a lot of information in a short amount of time is difficult to process so ask lots of questions.

Your new employees will also need to be trained on the software, so make sure they receive the same amount of training that the other employees received. If you have a lot of new employees also new to the software, bring them together for a day (8 hours) of on-site or online training.

After several comments made in our quarterly survey regarding a lack of training or a lack of hours to receive refresher training, our company has come up with a solution: We are now offering FREE Unlimited Online training to all our *dental users currently on a support subscription. If you are not one of our users and you are still in the market for practice management software that fits your practice needs and the needs of your staff, make training a priority and ensure that the practice management software team you choose does the same.       

For more information about Maxident and everything our team has to offer, including our Free Unlimited Online Training, simply click the link below or call our Software Solutions Consultant, Christian at 1-800-663-7199 ext 203.

*This offer only applies to dental practices.

Resources

  1. Zlatin, A. (2018). Responsible Dental Ownership: Balancing Ethics and Business Through Purpose. Charleston, SC: Advantage.

To purchase Alex Zlatin’s book and learn more about the business side of dentistry, click here. For more information about the author, I encourage you to check out his website at https://alexzlatin.com