THERE IS HOPE
With the great resignation that has come to light in the last 2 or 3 years, employers are struggling. Laypeople are struggling too. It’s become difficult to find someone in the trades for a home project. The quote I’d gotten for replacing the boards and railing on a small 12 x 16 deck at my house has almost tripled to $18,000; It’s hard to get someone to fix a leak in the roof or plumbing in the office; I’ve been waiting 4 weeks now to have a light fixture changed out in the office; and it’s not due to the materials skyrocketing, it’s due to the overwhelming demand for said workforce.
Everyone seems to be scrambling. The Target in my neighborhood is the most disorganized than I’d ever seen. Restaurants haven’t just cut their hours, they sometimes close with no notice due to the missing labor force. Where has everyone gone? Will they come back? How soon? The answers to these questions I leave to the economists.
What I can help with is a review of a system I’d put into place to attract, to hire, and to keep not just great employees, but lifelong team members. A very important distinction to keep in mind here. There are still potential employees in our profession who are looking to switch jobs. They may be looking to capitalize on the increasing demand and increasing rate of pay.
There are also employees out there who may be willing to venture into the dental profession with an appropriate growth mindset.
The pool of potential employees is greater than we may at first consider, that I can promise you. Within the next few paragraphs, I can show you how to materialize on that promise.
I often share on social media the fact that we, as a practice, are looking to hire great talent. I share this on my personal facebook page and on our practice one. I also share on social media, in the professional dental groups, that I have received a slew of applicants, when many practice owners have gotten none. The two times I had ran an ad titled “A love letter to my dental hygienist,” I hit close to 600 views each time. I have been told that the ad had been posted and reposted on hygiene specific social media outlets in an exemplary fashion.
Each one of my indeed posts in 2022 had received at least 12 hygiene applicants very much worth considering. And thus, I have colleagues, whom I know IRL and those who I’d never met, reach out to me asking to share the ad that holds so much potential. They want to know what special sauce I’m using to attract a great applicant, or sometimes just any applicant.
In the past, I had let them know that I do not share my ad, though they are free to search for it themselves.
My ad is specific to my area, but most importantly to Happy Tooth and our office culture. The promises I make in my ‘ A love letter to a dental hygienist’ are mine to keep. Just as importantly, I don’t share the ad because having someone plagiarize it would dilute the unique nature of what I am promising. However, I have recently changed my perspective in an effort to learn, teach, and collaborate with one another. I unveiled my ad in the November column of Mindful Moments. I am hoping it’ll put front and center the idea that to attract new employees, great employees, one must be willing to create a practice for said employee to call home.
WATCH AND LEARN
I am not immune to my past mistakes, nor am I immune to the current situation at hand. I’ve been the boss-hole, been accused of creating a toxic environment, and have probably lost employees on that account (rightfully so). Though not necessarily related, I’ve had a pre-pandemic interviewee shown up to the office and during discussion, ask permission to ‘get her phone,’ as it was left on the dash of car in the sun.
She never returned or answered further communication, as my colleague Dr. Joon Han likes to remind me in our banter. I’ve had an employee accept the job, be a part of the onboarding and training process for a week, then go to lunch and never return. No response or explanation provided. All of that happened prior to my entirely reimagining the process with which I look for new team members. I have no doubt that the chances of something like this happening today are significantly lower. Sig-ni-fi-cant-ly lower.
My introverted nature, which has always seemed to be something I was embarrassed of, had come to great use. As an introvert, I pay close attention to human behavior. I love to watch people, I love to read people. Thus, my journey in revisiting the search process began with putting myself in the shoes of my potential interviewees. I read and I wrote a fair amount about what it is a dental assistant or hygienist would look for in a job. I interviewed hygienists leaving the field, and those who were burnt out. I talked to my own tribe, my own team members, about what they loved and what they’d want to change.
I listened generously on all fronts to create a position, a culture, that someone would want to be a part of.
This act of listening, though it was time consuming and eye opening, paid off.
Armed with this eye-opening knowledge of what our dental co-providers are and aren’t willing to compromise on, having put myself in a position of what it would take for me to change employers, or remain longterm with one, I sat down and continued my research as to what other practices in my area were offering. I looked at how many postings there were in my area, how many of those offers were from practices similar to mine. I looked at the hourly wage posted, the experience required, the benefits and the overall job description. I looked in a 5 mile area and one with a 25 mile radius. I’d spoke with indeed specialists, whose advice I didn’t and still don’t agree with.
I looked at my competitors online, looking at their websites and google reviews. I researched and I compared; and I still do, just to keep abreast of the situation. Many of the ads were almost identical, with wages and benefits in line with each other. It was easy to get lost in the names of dental offices and the monotone descriptions.
No ad, no office, stood out. I was bored and underwhelmed. If I were the potential employee, based on what I was seeing, I’d either respond to the ad based on my location or if I thought I’d qualify for a higher wage.
Even if I was looking to switch positions, or employers, there was nothing out there that would have moved me to do so. No passion, no human component.
RISE FROM THE REST
The best advice I can give you is to bypass addressing on your ad that which is already assumed. Let’s say you’re writing an ad for a dental assistant. Here is what most ads will say: hours, wage, experience requirement, and job description. Robotic, lackluster ads. Yawn. As a dental assistant, I already know that I need to take x-rays, impressions, and turn over rooms.
Hours and benefits are important, but they are not attention grabbing. Attention grabbing would be offering to describe the nature of your office culture, if you have one worth advertising. Attention grabbing would be an offer to lead by mentoring and empowering your team members, if that’s the employer you are. Attention grabbing would be offering to work in concert with the team, growing and learning with them, creating excellent patient experiences. Attention grabbing would be to say that you place respect on the employee in the face of a dissatisfied patient.
Place that in your ad, above the wage and benefits, above the location and job description that everyone already knows, and you’ll rise to the top. You’ll get clicks, and applicants. Though that’s just a start.
SEARCH OUTSIDE OF EXPERIENCED EMPLOYEES
One of my admin hires in 2021, the rockstar that she is, came from he restaurant industry. She is Gerda, the Happy Tooth Concierge. What stood out to me during the examination of her resume was the fact that she had a stable past working history. Also, the fact that she presented to the Zoom Room beaming a smile that has not disappeared since.
Our practice coaches, practice manager, and the rest of our amazing admin team took the time to train her, and a year later, she’s the best patient concierge we’ve ever had.
As you consider applicants with no experience, you may get too many hits. If indeed charges $25-$125 per applicant, that kind of offering gets expensive. This is where we start the weeding out process and with indeed, you have 48 hours to accept or reject an applicant, and that’s what we focused on for the first 2 days. Anyone who had not paid attention to creating a resume automatically went into the rejection pile.
This included those with grammar or spelling hiccups. I sometimes copy and paste the objective or parts of the resume into google to see if it’s been plagiarized. Next, if I ask specific questions, I make sure they are answered. If I have a link to an interview question, I make sure it’s posted. If I request a cover letter, I make sure to have one attached. I suggest you pay attention to those who do not have a steady employment history.
Weed out anyone who cannot keep a job for at least a year, or anyone who switches jobs every year. Weed out anyone who has a gap in employment history, unless you’d like to specifically ask about it.
With 100’s of resumes to look through, the pile very quickly gets narrowed down to about 10. On the other hand, if you only get 10 responses, you will need to prioritize what you are and are not willing to settle for.
Part of which may be going without an employee a while longer (more on this later).
IT TAKES TIME
Here comes the hard part. The really time consuming, difficult stuff. With this part, there will be not be any ‘no shows’ for your interview times. None. Not once.
I communicate via portal (indeed in my instance) and ask to meet for a zoom interview. I do not get a response from everyone. I send a friendly message. I’d love to meet you, to get to know you. I sound human, compassionate, empathetic. I then set aside one hour to do the interview myself. I settle in my home office in the evening and spend at least 20-30 minutes connecting to the interviewee on a personal level.
I find out what they like to do, who their family is, what their children love to do, their travel plans… I just talk to them. Like a person.
I am genuinely interested in who they are. This is the first step in establishing with this potential tribe member, what I, as a leader, as an employer, bring to the table. I am present, and I listen. I am human and I care.
Following this connection, which is the curtail step in the follow through of the interviewee toward employment, I begin a discussion of experience, expertise, wages, benefits, and job description. What has been astonishing in this experience is that however difficult it is for me to carve out this time, I actually really enjoy these interactions. I love giving my attention to these searching souls, and love to find out what drives them.
Not every encounter is worth my time, but most are. There was only one in my last series of interviews that I had to cut to half an hour, because it didn’t seem to be right fit. Generally, even if in the first 2-3 minutes, it does’t seem right, I make more of an effort to be humanized in the eyes of the interviewee, and it moves forward. I have not been ghosted by a single one of the zoom participants.
They show up, encouraged, driven, motivated, and grateful to a certain extent that there is someone out there that had taken the time to listen. The working interview is a day-long observation on their part of our culture, speed and type of practice. Sometimes a full day is not needed, and sometimes a full day cannot be accommodated on the account of the participant and thus is cut to a few hours.
Can my office manager do all this, the ad writing, the zoom calling, and the in person communication? Of course, but the point is, that when you’re in my charge, I take care of you. You’re not a number, your’e not a stepping stone into my success, you’re a part of my family. In today’s landscape, I believe that is the very thing that potential team members are looking for and it’s the exact element that is missing in the workforce.
LET THEM FULFILL THEIR PURPOSE
Looking back, we, as employers, have been spoiled. We have not had to place much effort on finding team members. I, for one, grew up in a culture where the employer, and more so the doctor, is revered and frightening at the same time. Those days are over. The new generation of the labor force is looking for more, not just in terms of money and benefits.
They want to be desired, they want to bring to life a sense of passion they hold. They want to bring that passion into their daily lives, to the work they do. They don’t want a paycheck for menial labor, they want to make a difference, they want to be authentic, they want to be a part of the solution. I suppose it would be hard to do as just a number, or a robot, or an instrument toward someone else’s achievement.
Finding this realization to be true, pursuing the success of a practice as a true team of professionals lacking the good-ol’ hierarchy, is the only way to have applicants commit to the interview, the job, and subsequently take themselves and the practice to a higher level of success.
Success defined as a way of living, and not just one that can be monetized.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Maggie Augustyn is a general dentist (Elmhurst, Illinois), an author, and columnist (Dentistry Today). She completed her formal dental education, earning a doctorate of Dental Surgery from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Augustyn reads, researches, writes, and speaks on the things that make us human first and dentists second. She has also been featured on various podcasts bringing attention to mental wellbeing, the things that make us hurt, and those that make us come alive. She is an inspirational speaker around the country and can be reached at email@example.com.
FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: sipcrew/Shutterstock.com.