by Dianne Glasscoe Watterson, RDH, BS, MBA
Pretend that someone gave you $1,000 and told you that the money had to be invested in the stock market. How would you know which stocks to pick? Would you spend the total amount on one stock or buy several different stocks? How would you know whether to keep the stock or sell it? What would determine if a particular stock was valuable or not? Would you sell a stock that showed incremental gains in value over time?
One thing that would help you choose a stock is the stock history and past performance. Blue chip stocks are typically more expensive but have a proven track record of growth. You may have a fondness for a particular company stock because you or a family member is or has been employed by the company. You would probably hang onto a stock that performed well over time and increased in value. However, you might pick a stock that loses value or that shows erratic spurts of growth and decline. You would probably be inclined to sell that stock, since it did not make a profit for you.
Now, let’s transfer the analogy to a business — the dental practice. The doctor/owner is the stock investor, and the employees are the stock. Some employees are “blue chip” employees, some are moderate performers, and unfortunately some exhibit decreasing value over time.
What determines an employee’s value
Anytime a doctor hires a staff member, the doctor has an expectation that the new hire will bring value to the practice. The value any staff member brings is determined not only by the job performance, but also the ability to work well with others, dependability, organizational abilities, and interpersonal skills with patients. For the hygienist, the technical ability to perform routine hygiene procedures is not enough. To be valuable to your practice, you must also get along with your coworkers, be dependable, keep your operatory clean and well-organized, and have the necessary communication skills to connect well with patients. If the hygienist is deficient in any of the aforementioned areas, the hygienist’s value to the practice goes down.
An aspect of job performance is the efficiency with which any particular staff member performs the duties of his/her job. Some jobs in the dental office have an efficiency factor that can be assessed by a number. For example, a financial coordinator’s efficiency can be measured by the percentage of collections compared to adjusted production. The industry standard is 98% or better. A scheduling coordinator’s efficiency can be measured by the percentage of downtime units compared to the total available time. The goal to achieve is 5% or less. A hygienist’s efficiency can be measured by several efficiency standards including salary/production ratio and procedure mix. A long-held industry standard is that the hygiene department should produce one-third of the total practice production, and hygienist wages should be about one-third of his/her production. (These are not absolutes but industry standards.) For procedure mix, the industry standard is about one-third of hygiene procedures should be periodontal procedures as evidenced by the codes D4341, D4342, and D4910. (This can vary, especially if the practice has a very small number of new patients.)
Traits of a blue chip employee
I have been privileged to know several blue chip employees. These special people are outstanding for various reasons, but here are the most important considerations:
- They have outstanding work ethics.
- They are steady, emotionally stable, and dependable.
- They are highly interested in their work and are always looking for ways to do things better or more efficiently.
- They like people. They are congenial, warm, and often gregarious.
- They love their work. They love to talk dentistry.
- They are always ready to jump in and help coworkers when they have opportunity.
- Their self-expectations are high.
- They are raving fans of their practices.
Most of us do not like to think about how much value we bring to the practices where we work. We would rather focus on short-term concerns, such as the day-to-day work, staying on schedule, and receiving our next paycheck. We sometimes get sidetracked with petty jealousies or other personality issues that steer our work focus away from the big picture of providing excellent patient care. Some of us balk when asked to track procedures, production, or downtime. We would rather not think about the business aspect.
However, it is time for hygienists to consider the value they bring to the practices where they work. The value of the hygienist should go far beyond the production generated from the chair. Hygienists have the power to be consummate blue chip employees.
You have the power
Given our current national economic lethargy, many staff members are concerned about their job security. Declining demand for dental services has resulted in more open chair time. Open chair time means decreased production, which means decreased revenues. Decreased revenues mean less profit and less financial security for the business. Decreased profits force owners to find ways to cut expenses, which sometimes means reducing salary expense by reducing the workforce.
Doctors vary in their personality styles and “likeability” factors, and there is no doubt that employee performance can fluctuate based on how they are treated in the workplace. However, staff members can significantly affect their own value to the practice by how well they stay focused on the work of taking excellent care of people and taking an active interest in the business itself. When you think about it, the priority should be business first. Without the business, there is no vehicle to take care of people.
What is your value to the practice? What do you bring to the table that makes you special? Are you content to do the minimum and collect your paycheck? George Carlin wrote, “Most people work just hard enough not to get fired and get paid just enough money not to quit.” Unfortunately, this is a reality in some dental practices.
Now is the time to take steps to increase your stock value. Start by being honest with yourself about your attitude toward work. Become a raving fan of your practice. Determine to become a blue chip hygienist. And let’s be optimistic that the economy will soon emerge from its lethargy and be stronger than ever!
About the Author
Dianne Glasscoe Watterson, RDH, BS, MBA, is a professional speaker, writer, and consultant to dental practices across the United States. She is CEO of Professional Dental Management, based in Frederick, Md. To contact Glasscoe Watterson for speaking or consulting, call (301) 874–5240 or e–mail [email protected]. Visit her Web site at www.professionaldentalmgmt.com.
Here are a few things you can do to raise your stock value:
- Take an active interest in your key statistics, particularly production and downtime.
- Become a raving fan of your practice by recommending others to become patients where you work.
- Talk dentistry. Help patients understand the benefits of function, esthetics, and good oral health.
- If the doctor does excellent work, brag on the doctor’s work to your patients.
- Be the ultimate team player by helping your coworkers whenever you have an opportunity.
- Make sure every adult patient has a complete full-mouth periodontal charting and recording once per year with every reading recorded. Chart recession, mobility, furcations, tissue tone and texture, and any abnormalities you see.
- Go the extra mile with patients by showing care and concern; i.e., sending get-well wishes, congratulations when appropriate, and thank-you cards for referrals.
- Be excited about what you can do to help people. Read the journals and keep up with new innovations.
- Be an enthusiastic supporter of your practice. This should be easy when you consider this practice puts food on your table and clothes on your back.
- Never, ever be content with mediocrity from yourself.