Does Your Staff Want Training, Money or Respect?

In a dental practice, as with most other businesses, you should consider all three.


Without a doubt, one of the most daunting tasks in running a business is staffing. That said, your staff is the key to a successful dental practice. They are the bread and butter of your operation and if they aren’t happy, it will show and your clients won’t be happy either. Handing out a paycheck and setting up a basic benefits plan are important but not nearly enough to build a truly great practice.

“No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit for doing it. ~ Andrew Carnegie”

So with that quote in mind, you want staff who are inspired and inspiring, who want to take ownership of their work, show pride in it and get the job done well. How can you make sure that your staff will feel this way? By making sure that you feel this way about them. Remember, they don’t work FOR you, they work WITH you, to build a successful practice.

First step – hire well

Your HR processes need to be defined and followed, without fail. Hiring any warm body to fill in at the front desk because your last assistant was injured in a car accident and will be off for a while can do more harm to your practice than leaving an empty seat there. If you don’t have the time and the energy for this part of the work, you can outsource but keep your ‘oar in’ so to speak and make sure you have the last word on any new hires. If you’re going to respect and support your staff, you have to know them.

While solid skills and experience in a dental practice / dental staffing area is important, personality and attitude is important too. Southwest Airlines, amongst other companies, has an adage they follow: ‘Hire for attitude, train for skill’. If you’re a small practice, it’s ideal to have staff who can hit the ground running when they come on board, but never forget the importance of attitude and how that person will fit in with the rest of the team.

Second step – train well

Your staff can’t take ownership and responsibility in their respective roles if they aren’t adequately trained but rather dropped in with a ‘sink or swim’ mentality. That won’t do anything for morale or the practice. Make sure that they get the training they need to do their jobs effectively, without undue stress.

Training should be an ongoing thing too—not just something that occurs at the beginning. “Continuous training also keeps your employees on the cutting edge of industry developments.” (source) So while they may be missing some work time to engage in training, an overall boost in performance and job satisfaction will be well worth the time away.

Third step – pay well

Stay up to date on the average compensation packages for your geographical area and beyond and make sure that your pay scales, depending on the role, are appropriate. It’s not just about the rate of pay either: vacation time, personal time, benefits… these are all things that matter, above and beyond the salary.

Bonus structures are also important – employees who go above and beyond should be rewarded accordingly.

Fourth step – show them some love

Money is important but so is appreciation and respect and investing in your employees can take many forms. An employee wants to know that their contribution matters, that it is valued by their peers and by you. Showing some loves doesn’t necessarily mean huge bonuses. It’s done in the little things: a bouquet of flowers ‘just because’; a lunch for their birthday; paying attention to what’s going on with them personally.

If one of your staff is having personal issues, they will be more devoted than ever if you care about those issues and try to help them in some way, insofar as it affects their work, instead of ignoring them, expecting them to ‘buck up’ and deal with it.

Some practical things you can do, right away

  1. Get a handle on the environment around the office – a toxic environment can be really destructive. Put a limit on gossiping and remember your own behavior: yelling at your staff won’t get you what you want.
  2. Share your goals for the practice and how you feel each person can contribute to those goals – if they feel they have a stake in the success, they’ll be more inclined to help you get there.
  3. Thank your staff – people who feel appreciated will do more than those who are just receiving a check.

And when it doesn’t go well or someone is simply not a good fit for your practice, you need to fire well. This goes back to the well defined HR processes and procedures I mentioned before. But if you’ve done the first four steps thoroughly and accurately, you shouldn’t have to get to this step too often.


Don’t get stuck stagnating in your practice. There are ways to change and grow, keeping it interesting for you and lucrative too.

Contact the experts at Dental Management Advisors and we’ll help you get back to doing more of what you love.

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