20/20 foresight: how to simplify team management and regain control of your practice

Editor’s intro: Paul Edwards shows how having 20/20 foresight for management strategies can create a forward-thinking boost for your business.

Paul Edwards, CEO and co-founder of CEDR HR Solutions, offers guidance on building an effective management system

If you’re like the majority of practice owners, your education on how to manage a team was one of trial by fire. Whether you jumped into a leadership role by inheriting or purchasing a practice right out of dental school or you worked your way to ownership as an associate doctor, the end result is almost always the same.

Once you step into the role of owner/manager, it becomes clear very quickly that, although the skills you learned in dental school and beyond might serve to make you a spectacular endodontist, they don’t prepare you to manage employees or to run your own business.

If your practice is or has ever been burdened by employee drama, unengaged or unproductive team members, tedious tasks that suck up your time, payroll issues, high turnover, a lack of clarity on issues such as employee leave, vacation, sick time, travel and educational reimbursements — or any one of the hundreds of issues that are more pertinent to an advanced education in business than a background in the dental sciences — you know firsthand how management issues can affect your bottom line.

Let 2020 be the year in which your practice finally starts running the way you always thought (or hoped) it would. Here’s how you get there.

1. Review and revise your company policies

First, make sure you have an employee handbook in place for your practice.

A professionally written employee handbook will serve as the cornerstone of your office’s team management strategy. Your handbook needs to be customized to reflect your priorities, your company culture, and the laws that apply to your business based on its location and the number of people you employ.

Good employee handbooks make expectations clear for your employees. They provide information about the standard workweek, holiday office closures, paid and unpaid time off, how to request a leave of absence, how to dress at work, etc. Handbooks should also outline the protocol for addressing problems in the office and who to go to when an issue arises.

Make sure that your policies are in line with all relevant federal, state, and local laws that apply to your business (I HIGHLY recommend working with an HR professional to make sure you get that portion right), and that they are clear and easy to understand. If you or your office manager has trouble interpreting or explaining a policy, it’s going to be unclear to your employees too.

Finally, make sure all of your employees have easy access to your handbook. Have them read the entire handbook cover-to-cover (preferably during their first day on the job) and sign the last page to acknowledge that they have read and understood all of the policies inside. (This can protect you against claims of ignorance should you ever need to reprimand an employee for violating a policy; and trust me, at some point you will.)

2. Establish an effective feedback loop

There are three basic types of power that managers have over their employees. From the most effective to least effective, these are relational power, expertise power, and position power.

You might be able to get an employee to complete a task for you by asserting your position as their superior (position power), but that alone won’t be enough to motivate them to put their best effort into the project. If that employee trusts you as an expert at the task or project in question, that might be enough to make sure the job is done well (expertise power), but the best way to ensure that your employees are putting their best effort into their work is to develop and maintain their trust (relational power).

People are more excited and more willing to do things for people they like and respect than they are to execute tasks simply because they were ordered to.

Provide regular feedback to your employees, both positive and negative (we call this “coaching”). Have regular one-on-one meetings, and make an effort to get to know your employees. Make their goals and expectations clear, and make sure those goals are realistic, measurable, and achievable.

When you ask an employee to improve a process, give them a clear path to success and acknowledge their efforts, their victories, and their shortcomings. You’ll also want to document all of the formal conversations you have with your employees — that paper trail will serve as evidence that you did all you could to enable their success should you ever have to terminate.

Your success as a manager ultimately comes down to this: Employees who feel as though their work matters to their employers are happier, more engaged, and more productive. And, though relationship building will cost you a little bit of time upfront, you’ll ultimately make up for that effort by decreasing your turnover and increasing productivity and revenue for your practice.

3. Take a good look at your systems

The processes, protocols, and software you use at your business should support your company culture, policies, and coaching efforts. Essentially, these tools should make life easier for yourself and your managers.

Do the programs you use to manage your team streamline your processes or make them more complicated? Is there a better way to do tasks than by the methods you are currently using?

Online document storage and sharing systems such as CEDR’s HR Vault eliminate the need for outdated paper systems and make it easy for employees to read, sign, and reference important documents such as your employee handbook on their own. This empowers employees to find solutions to most problems by themselves (we call this “employee self-service”), freeing up managers to focus on more important tasks (or clock-out early).

Digital timekeeping systems are another great timesaving management tool that all practices can benefit from. If you’re still using paper timesheets or Excel to track hours and manage payroll, consider upgrading to a timekeeping system that automatically tracks time off for your employees as it accrues and allows you to pull payroll reports in seconds. Doing so can save you and your managers at least 2 hours a week, which can add up to full calendar days over the course of a year.

Whether you have been in business for 20 years or you have yet to open your doors, it’s never too late (or too early) to build a management system that supports you, your managers, and your employees. Hindsight may be 20/20, but instituting a great management strategy is a visionary move. Give it a try, and I know you’ll be shocked to see what even a little forward thinking can do to provide a boost for your business, both in terms of employee morale and income for your practice.

Ready to implement a winning management strategy for 2020? Start with a free strategy call with an HR expert by visiting cedrsolutions.com/healthcare/free-hr-consultation.

 This information was provided by CEDR HR Solutions.

Paul Edwards’ 20/20 foresight for dental practices extends to effective ways to handle post-purchase HR strategies. Read “Transitioning employees after a practice purchase.”

Paul Edwards is the CEO and co-founder of CEDR HR Solutions, a leading provider of on-demand HR support for dental practices of all sizes and specialties across the United States. With over 25 years of experience as a manager and business owner, Edwards is well-known throughout the dental community for his expertise in solving HR issues that impact dental practice owners and managers. He specializes in helping dentists successfully handle employee issues and safely navigate the complex and ever-changing employment law landscape through his company’s customized employee handbooks and support center.

Edwards is the author of HR Base Camp, a blog and podcast channel for dentists and healthcare providers. He is also a featured writer for The Profitable Dentist, Dentistry IQ, and Dentaltown. He is a contributor to the ADA‘s GPS program and regularly speaks at dental seminars, conferences, and CE courses across the country, including the Greater New York Dental Meeting, Yankee Dental Conference, DOCS Education, AADOM, and more.

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