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CEO and Leadership Coach of Central Park West Dentistry, Holly Mitchell, says the internal culture of your dental practice or dental service organization (DSO) does more than brand what you stand for and how you stand out. It also impacts dentist and team alignment, motivation, and retention.


Why Dentist & Team Retention Is Important

One of the big challenges that group dental practices and DSOs face today, as they grow and expand, is how to retain their dentists and teams while motivating them to perform at their best. Retention of great employees and great teams is a stabilizing factor that allows all dental groups and DSOs to expand in each location and scale to more locations. 

This challenge isn’t just a problem DSOs face. It’s a problem dental practices of all size face. Retention has been a chronic problem in dental practices, but the problem has accelerated under the staffing pressures of COVID-19. When there is a shortage of great employees, retaining and attracting the best is a priority. Not only does the function of your business depend on this but you want the benefits as well.


The Benefits of Dentist & Dental Team Retention

In addition to avoiding the cost of time, energy, and revenue losses each time a dentist or team member needs to be replaced, there are significant additional benefits that accrue with retention. Among them are:

  • Assimilation of the organization’s vision, mission, goals, and priorities.
  • Competence in doing the work the practice leaders’ preferred way … policies and practices … business systems … clinical operations … and so on.
  • Confidence in co-workers and “worked out” team dynamics based on past experiences of working together.
  • Greater utilization of each other’s strengths. 
  • Ability to focus on patients instead of “unknowns.”
  • A large “bank account” of patient goodwill and trust due to doctor-patient relationships developed over time. 
  • Increased new patient engagement due to the developed “reputation” of the dentist.
  • Extended pull from marketing and online content associated with the dentist.

The benefits list can go on and on, but the hoped-for end results include:

  • Exceptional relationships
  • Fewer frustrations
  • Fewer gaps in providing best service and experiences
  • A more enjoyable workplace
  • More patients
  • More dental care delivered
  • Greater efficiency
  • Increased cost savings
  • Increased profits
  • Increased patient satisfaction


Why the Culture Is Important for Dentist & Team Retention

The culture of your DSO, group practice, or solo dental practice is like an internal brand, and your employees are your customers in this context. You need to have things that set you apart from other places. The grass really does need to be greener. In my experience, the culture of your organization needs to be wonderful.


Tips for Creating a Strong Dental Practice or DSO Culture

  1. Set a Standard Mindset: Define and communicate your organization’s core values to set a standard mindset that guides interpersonal behavior and the development and use of your operational systems. 
  2. Align Your Systems: Design your operating policies and practices in alignment with the core values of your organization. Your systems will then reinforce your core values.
  3. Hire Accordingly:  Hire to intentionally find employees who are personally aligned with your culture and systems. Having a hiring and recruitment process that highlights the candidates who already have your core values is going to set you up for success.


Periodically Revisit Your Culture

Passion for the workplace culture needs to be fueled and may evolve. I recommend sitting down with your team once a year to discuss your core values. As a group, define what you are and what you are not. Recognize the contrast. 

Break your team into groups based on their roles (for example, the administrative team in one group and the clinical team in another. Ask, “Within your job scope, within your duties, how does this show up for you?” Have them outline all the ways they operationalize those core values when working with each other and serving patients. Then mix up the groups so there is a mix of clinical and administrative roles represented in the group discussion. The conversations will be different. Have each group report back a summary to the full team.

This will reinforce the culture, remind the team how much they achieve together, and help you create a job description that reflects your culture when you hire and on-board new team members.


Does Your Culture Focus on a Meaningful Purpose?

The millennial dental professionals, who are currently the greatest percentage of new hires, desire meaningful work with a high purpose. Do your core values include widening access to care … giving patients better value for their dental dollars … providing exceptional service … making interpersonal connections that build trust … giving back to the community … improving the lives of dental employees … impacting local community health … making strides in oral systemic health education? Many values-based goals come readily to mind. 

If both the purpose and passion of the leaders in your dental practice or DSO are energizing, your dentists and their teams will be inspired to stay. Not only will retaining employees be less of a problem but hiring in a competitive market will be less of a problem, too. 


Other Patient Prism Resources for Multi-Practice Growth

The Patient Prism blog contains many videos with associated articles to help emerging DSOs and expanding multi-location dental businesses. These can be found in the category Multi-Practice Growth

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