Combating Team Turnover in Dentistry: Hiring with Your Gut

Combating Team Turnover in Dentistry: Hiring with Your Gut

Written By:

Joanna Scott

Business Development Director
May 31, 2022

Combating Team Turnover in Dentistry: Hiring with Your Gut

One of the most important aspects of any professional culture is the TEAM. The humans who create the magic behind the scenes, who work diligently to care for the community you’ve built, while providing the expertise to allow your practice to be competitive. Thriving businesses cannot survive without good people, nor should they try. At Studio EightyEight we value every department and role equally. From the sales director who closes the conversation to the developer who brings the website to life. Each person is valuable and necessary to our business. To say we have a collaborative working environment cannot be overstated. 

"Some people can do one thing magnificently, like Michelangelo, and others make things like semiconductors or build 747 airplanes - that type of work requires legions of people. In order to do things well that can't be done by one person, you must find extraordinary people."
Steve Jobs

In a world full of team turnover, one of the most comforting team dynamics is when people are happy in their roles and the business grows because of their awesomeness. When a team member moves on or you "free their future," it can feel daunting to start from scratch and launch into recruitment mode. Since we're all looking for talented humans to help us do what we do and team longevity is a hot topic, let's take a few minutes and jump into some ideas that might help you in the hunt for extraordinary talent. 


We've all heard of the sentiment, "fire fast, hire slow." While I agree, let's make sure the people we have to "let go'' feel grace and love on their way out. Doing the right thing is never overrated. However, the speed at which we live life and make decisions seems to be rapidly accelerating. Your favorite assistant resigns, and you immediately need to fill her shoes. Your associate is pregnant with twins and wants to take the full year off. Your adrenaline ramps up and you immediately jump into LinkedIn, Indeed or Facebook. You forgo your evening Netflix show and begin screening profiles, but the question really is, "Do you know who you're looking for?" Slowing down and defining the values around "who" you want to add to your team will help eliminate unnecessary hours on job search platforms and help expedite the process of finding the right fit. 

“Of ALL the decisions that an executive makes, the people-decisions are the most important.”
– Peter Drucker

I spent over 17 years of my life in the nonprofit sector working with students in both middle school and high school. Screening applicants for volunteer and hired positions was a very big deal, especially since these adults would be serving tweens and teenagers. There are countless popular approaches to help employers screen candidates but our favorite became what we call the “3 C's” of hiring. These are the three categories where a potential hire needs to shine, and we incorporate this approach here at Studio EightyEight. 




1: Character

Identifying someone as having good character (or not) can be challenging with just a few interviews. I mean, how well can you really get to know a stranger? The first step for any employer is to clarify which character traits you are looking for in a team member. Studio EightyEight has a strong set of eight values that we use as the foundation for professional development throughout the year. One of my favorites is integrity. I like to think that the integrity value quickly sums up what we look for character-wise when it comes to team selection. We define integrity as: "Doing the right thing, first." Integrity is choosing to do the right thing with your time while working from home. Integrity is going above and beyond in communication with clients and responding with excellence. Our team knows that doing the right thing, first, goes a long way in helping increase longevity and success at Studio EightyEight. 

Another effective approach when trying to vet out character: authentic storytelling. Giving a candidate permission to share from the heart can be a powerful way to connect with someone new. 

Here are a few examples of questions that prompt vulnerability:

-Tell me about something that lights your soul on fire? Something that’s not on your resume that you love and enjoy...
-Who do you admire and why? 
-Tell me about 1-2 people whose lives you positively changed. What would they say if I called them tomorrow?

Actionable Ideas: 

  • Clarify which character traits are important to you.
  • Craft interview questions that help you both take a step closer in understanding who they are. 

2: Competency

The dental profession has clearly defined every position you need in your practice and the required intellect and talent to thrive in each role. To state the obvious, it's extremely critical to do your homework and evaluate work history to confirm a proven track record. Since we are a creative agency, in many cases we must evaluate competency through someone's art. I can't tell you how many video demo reels I've watched recently! Taking the time to sample previous work and review where someone has been will help you forecast if they are the high performance talent you're looking for. 

“If you find someone whose qualifications look good, but he or she is unhappy or unemployed, be very cautious. The kind of people you are looking for are probably making huge contributions and setting records somewhere. They are probably deliriously happy and much loved by the people they work with. Go after that type. Go after proven competence. 
– Peter Drucker 

Side note: It's an added bonus if you recruit them from a job where they are thriving!

Actionable Ideas: 

  • Know in advance what competencies are required for the role.
  • Follow through on reference checks. It's amazing what you can find out with a quick phone call. 

3: Chemistry

When it comes to team selection, chemistry is one of the most important things we look for. We hire people who (hopefully) are a good relational fit for our team. We never invite a person on our team who doesn't have a positive emotional effect the minute we meet them. After a preliminary qualification email exchange, I schedule the interested applicant for their Discovery Call. Yes, I am the gatekeeper, so everyone gets to hang out with me first! Once we jump on the call, I am quickly looking for energy, positive body language, easy conversation and CONNECTION. As awkward as joining a video chat with a complete stranger can feel, if a candidate can overcome that and push through to connection then that speaks volumes about their potential interpersonal skills and overall likability factor. On the flip side, there have been multiple candidates who did not pass the chemistry test recently. Qualifying people on Zoom first has helped save us so much time, while expediting our goal of hiring people our team is thrilled to work with. 

As a doctor and business owner, your practice is your baby. You are responsible for creating and maintaining its DNA along with the vibe you want every patient to experience when they walk through your doors. Do you need a more extroverted personality to help add some energy to the patient experience? Do you need a calming front office manager to be a "mother hen" and love on everyone? Clarifying what type of chemistry is needed on your team, and in each specific role, will be an infusion of joy to the atmosphere. A happy team = a happy practice. 

Actionable Ideas: 

  • Clarify the type of chemistry that supports the vibe in your practice. 
  • Finding the right "who" involves a hiring gatekeeper to vet out chemistry. 

Finally, remember to trust your gut. It's the intuition that we so often allow our analytical reasoning brains to drown out. If something isn't sitting right and you can't explain why someone doesn't feel like the right fit, then stop and pay attention to it. Slow down and figure out why you're feeling that way. The cost of turnover is extremely high: it’s estimated that losing an employee can cost a company 1.5-2 times the employee’s salary. OUCH! Let's avoid that! Hiring the right people effectively requires all business owners to create a unique approach. 

If you need help building those systems in your practice then please reach out to my dear friend at The Dental A Team, CEO and Founder, Kiera Dent. She will help bring your processes to life and save you thousands of dollars and headaches when it comes to finding the best people for your patients and your team.

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