Give your dental employment practices a check-up

Here’s our take on the best practices for firing and hiring dental staff

Nobody likes to fire an employee. After all, this is someone you’ve invested in, and it’s no fun to be the bearer of bad news. And the hiring process—whether you’re looking for temporary or permanent help—has the potential to be an expensive, time-consuming task.

Firing and hiring can be challenging at best, but terminating contracts carefully and using a few best practices for recruitment can make your discharge and hiring of staff a lot easier (and cheaper).

“I’m afraid your services are no longer needed.”

You don’t want to say “you’re fired”—nobody likes dismissing staff. Before you have to call that difficult hygienist or excessively absent front-desk manager into your office, consider some basic steps to protect your practice.

1. Have an employee handbook with detailed policies

This is often listed among the best practices for working with dental professionals. Clear, written expectations that are given to every staff member the day they are appointed can make a huge difference in the workplace.

An employee handbook with useful information, some basic rules and clearly outlined consequences will help your employees understand your expectations. Policies that are written kindly but clearly help keep everyone on the same page. If and when you bump heads with an employee who disregards your expectations, you’ll have something to point to if you need to terminate a contract.

2. Document problems

When you start to be concerned that an employee may not be the right fit for your practice, document anything that goes wrong. Although all fifty US states recognize at-will employment, there’s always the potential for difficulties (such as wrongful termination lawsuits). Clear documentation of tardies, absences and inappropriate behavior will support you in the event of a dispute.

3. Make it quick

It’s bound to happen. Sooner or later, you’ll need to remove someone from your payroll. When the appointed time comes, talk to the employee briefly about your reasons, give them any pay that’s due (including severance pay, if it’s applicable) and end the conversation. Ask them to turn over any property that belongs to the practice (such as keys), take their personal belongings and leave. Alison Green of Ask A Manager gives this advice: “Don’t enter into a debate. Your decision is final, and while you hope the employee understands it, the time for back-and-forth is over.” If there’s any kind of disturbance on the employee’s part, be sure to keep an appearance of calm to avoid escalating the situation.

“I need to take some time off.”

  • “I have the flu.”
  • “My son has pneumonia.”
  • “I’m pregnant.”
  • “I’m getting married.”
  • “I’m going back to school.”
  • “I quit.”

Although they represent the ups and downs of real life, these words strike fear into the hearts of dental practice owners everywhere. At the times when you should be sharing a personal connection with your employees, those nagging thoughts always seems to intrude: He’s half my hygiene staff. Who will do his job while he’s gone? Or: She’s my best dentist. Where am I going to get a replacement? Or: We need to hurry and fill this position; we can’t afford to cancel appointments.

When you need to fill a position quickly or risk losing business, it’s tempting to turn to a dental temp agency or a dental-career job board. But you may not realize that the recruitment of dental staff through temp agencies presents a lot of problems for your practice. That’s why all of our best practices for hiring dental staff center on a common theme: a 21st-century alternative to outdated temp agencies and job boards.

1. Avoid unnecessary costs

The primary problem with old-school dental hiring boards and dental placement agencies is the cost in dollars and hours. Both of these types of services take time you may not have. Job boards require attention from you or a member of your staff, and it may take a while to gather enough responses from job seekers. Temp agencies also take time. After you contact the agency, you’re at their mercy while they find a temp and get back to you. Remember: cancelled appointments and empty chairs mean lost income.

As for those dollars, the fees for placement services are extremely high. When you work with a temp agency, you’re charged a markup on every hour your temp works. The fees get even higher if you want to hire your temp on a permanent basis.

The best alternatives to these outdated hiring and recruitment methods are quicker, easier and more affordable. Look for an online job-matching platform that allows real-time communication between you and the dental professionals you want to talk to. Don’t pay a high rate that only gets higher as your workers take on more hours; you need a service with a low, flat fee that gives you unlimited access to dental personnel.

2. Stand out in recruitment of staff

It’s great to have your pick of the best and the brightest, but first you have to get them to apply. HR expert and dental practice coach Ginny Hegarty gives her advice in Dental Practice Success: "Do NOT do what everyone else is doing. Don't let your ad blend in with all the rest of the no-name ads. Whether seasoned or a startup, you are offering a unique and exciting opportunity."

To stand out as “unique and exciting” and attract the top talent, you’ll need to recruit through a popular, high-tech forum. The best dental professionals avoid job boards and temp agencies, where it’s easy for them to get lost in the masses. You’ll find them on the latest, high-tech job-matching platforms. A bonus: it’s much easier for great practices to stand out on platforms like Cloud Dentistry, too.

3. Focus on the person, not the credentials

Once you’ve narrowed down the selection, it’s time to interview. Whether you’re hiring for a full- or part-time position, you want someone who is talented, works hard and is the perfect fit for your staff. That’s why it’s important to communicate well in your messages and interviews. Experts recommend making personality a priority. “The number one mistake is hiring people based on their skills,” says business expert Tim Twigg in a webinar hosted by Alex Nottingham of All Star Dental Academy. “You can’t teach people attitude.”

In an article for Dental Products Report, dental business coach Penny Limoli agrees: “Most of the issues we see and coach in clients’ offices have to do with attitudes, immaturity or an inability to connect and communicate with others. If there is a lack of performance in a position, it will be easily corrected with structured training.”

This is another area that makes job boards and matching agencies obsolete. In today’s fast-paced world, instant information and real-time communication are must-haves. When you use a service that allows you to browse the professional profiles and peer reviews of dental professionals, you can find the right person more easily. And when you communicate with that person in real time, you have a much clearer picture of how they will fit into your office culture.

Think it through and make your hiring count

Whether you’re gearing up to say “you’re fired” or “you’re hired,” it never hurts to review the current trends in hiring and the best advice for hiring and firing. The most important thing to remember is that we live in a world of highly advanced communication technology, and that means we have to keep up. Today’s best dental professionals are ditching the old methods of looking for work. Dental practices that follow suit will reap the rewards.

Dr. Reza Sanjar is a co-founder of Cloud Dentistry, LLC and co-owner of Dental Art in Katy, Texas. His years of experience as a dentist and dental practice owner give him unique insights that inform the practices of Cloud Dentistry. A graduate of Boston University and Washington University in St. Louis, Dr. Sanjar has been practicing dentistry since 2009. He knows the industry well and is pleased to bring the benefits of Cloud Dentistry to other dental practices and dental professionals.


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