When labor costs make up the bulk of your overhead costs, a smart business owner knows that ensuring staff is as effective and productive as possible is the key to practice success. How can you facilitate a productive office staff? Can you keep your overhead costs down while still maintaining an effective, welcoming practice? Yes, you can. Here are a few ideas for keeping your staff happy and productive.
Get the right people
No business is successful with the wrong people making up the team. Finding the right staff for your office can take some effort, and you may have to try a few people before you get to those who fit. Many businesses use a 75 or 90-day trial to get a feel for the person before committing fully. This may be a good strategy for you as you work to find someone who fits your office and patients. Not only should your staff be capable of their job duties, they should fit in well with you and your existing staff, along with your patients.
Offer the right level of benefits
This can be tricky as well. We know you want to provide for your staff and take good care of them. But as a small business, it can severely increase your overhead if you overdo your benefits packages! Requirements differ from state to state on retirement, insurance, and more, so be sure to check to understand what you're legally obligated to provide. Also think carefully about your staff, your gross income as a practice, and what is really going to add value to your staff's take-home pay.
Be sure to have the right size of staff
Another area that can take some trial and error is finding the right number of staff members. Both front office and back office needs will fluctuate, so keep that in mind as you gather your team.
Dental Economics recommends that "General dental practices should maintain one full-time equivalent (FTE) staffer for every $170,000 of collections, while specialists should average one FTE for every $200,000 of collections." That's a rule of thumb for back office. Additionally, more practices are relying on part-timers to fill in during high demand times.
Additionally, you can get creative about scheduling office hours, clinical staff, and administrative staff based on treatment days, patient volume, and more.
Set the right goals
When you get hung up on the wrong kinds of goals, you put a lot of undue stress on your staff. While treatment plan closure rates and gross income are important, these should be broken down into metrics that staff can have more control over. Also consider goals like average time in the waiting room, appointment availability, patient reviews and recommendations, and more. All of these "secondary" goals will impact the bigger, overarching goals.
It's effective to include your staff in goal-setting. This gives them a feeling of ownership and is likely to motivate them to reach the goals. Rather than dictating the practice goals to them, let them have input in what and how goals get set and achieved.
Use the right tools
Finally, your staff needs the right tools to do their jobs. From good dental tools to functional chairs and computers, there's a lot to consider. But the less they have to worry about their hardware working, the more time they can spend treating and working with patients. Often, dentists consider their own tools and set-ups, without giving a lot of thought to what their staff is using.
That 10-year-old PC at the front desk that barely works? It's not only slowing down your admin, it's making check-in take 15 minutes longer than necessary. The old desk chairs everyone is using? They have back pain and dread sitting in them all day. Take the time to look around and make sure everyone has what they need to be comfortable and productive.
Of course, this is where we mention software. Anymore, the kind of software you use in your office can make your staff have really great