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‘Maintain an open dialogue with your team’

Alexa Tagg, Denplan Sales Trainer, looks at how ambitious dental nurses can not only make successful practice managers, but can also boost efficiency within the practice and improve staff retention and motivation.

The key to success

The key to running a successful business is attracting, motivating and retaining the best people. However, in many cases, it is a dental nurse who takes over the general management and day-to-day responsibility for the dental practice.

So, with all their existing workload to contend with, how can a dental nurse be certain they can act as practice manager effectively? By putting the following steps into place you can ensure you are getting the most out of your team and, as a result, improve your business practices.

Relationship management

The employees in your practice are often uniquely positioned to see where improvements to working methods can be made or when patient demands are changing. You should therefore always aim to involve your team wherever possible and use their detailed knowledge in the development of more efficient ways of working. This will not only improve the way your practice performs and create more efficient systems, but will also make your colleagues feel valued and gain their trust, commitment and buy-in when implementing changes in the future.

It is also vitally important to keep the channels of communication open with your team, particularly in these times of economic uncertainty. People are incredibly intuitive and by keeping worries or problems to yourself, you are increasing both your stress levels and the anxiety of those around you. By maintaining an open dialogue with your team, they will feel more involved, valued and may even come up with solutions to a problem that you had not thought of.

Rewards and team building

In many cases, small businesses such as dental practices find offering more comprehensive benefit packages unrealistic. There are, however, many ways of rewarding your colleagues for their hard work without too much financial draw. Simply by implementing working policies on issues such as equality and diversity or the environment, you are letting your team know that you have an active interest in their working lives and surroundings. Be sure to communicate these to them and invite their input and ideas for other initiatives.

Some practices find it beneficial to make mutually rewarding deals with local businesses. You could offer the staff at the local opticians free registration in exchange for a free eye test for your team. This kind of arrangement can be extended to other business such as hairdressers and beauty therapists, but be sure to find out if staff at your practice would actually use the benefit before making too many deals. This is a great way of finding cost-effective ways of rewarding your team, while also increasing your patient numbers.

Another way of rewarding your colleagues is to organise a team day out of the office. Some payment plan providers organise a variety of practice team activities throughout the year, around the country, which both stimulate and educate. If you would prefer to organise your own, however, remember that it does not have to be anything extravagant or expensive. Whether it is an afternoon bowling, a team lunch or a day at a theme park, getting to know your work mates better and showing them that they are appreciated can really pay dividends when it comes to motivation and productivity in the workplace.

Setting targets

In order to make your team feel motivated and challenged in their everyday working lives it is important to set them objectives and targets. You should have an idea of what you would like these to be, but ensure that you discuss them with each individual so that they can agree to them. Giving targets to people without this communication can lead to them feeling overwhelmed and stressed. This can also create a reduction in productivity, time off due to stress-related illnesses and ultimately, a higher staff turnover. Offering targets as a way of motivating your team can be great for the individual and the business.

It is important to remember that a good way of ensuring that targets or challenges are met is to offer some kind of incentive. This does not have to be financial, but some way of rewarding your team's achievements can really ensure they go the extra mile. Team days are great for rewarding the efforts of the whole group, but how about flowers, gift vouchers or an extra day's holiday for individual achievement? Small gestures can also go a long way such as Easter eggs at Easter, advent calendars at Christmas, or a gift on a milestone anniversary at the practice.

Development and training

Setting targets and rewarding your team for their hard work are fantastic for development and motivation, but it is also important to offer training to really improve and develop their skills, as well as your own. There are innumerable courses for dentists to supplement their professional training, but what about the rest of the dental team? Some payment plan providers offer a range of training courses for the whole practice, as well as modules on practice management to help you on your way.

Good practice management should extend across all areas of your business. Training, people development, working practices and working environment are all areas which should be continually reviewed to see where improvements can be made. By following this guide you can ensure that your practice management is working effectively and not only increase staff retention and motivation, but also improve the efficiency of the practice for staff and patients alike.

Denplan offers a range of training courses for the whole practice team, including a module on practice management. These courses can count towards verifiable CPD when undertaken in accordance with GDC requirements.

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‘Maintain an open dialogue with your team’. Vital 6, 13 (2009).

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