Retaining Your Ideal Employees

(Part 1 – Hiring and Retaining Good Employees)

By Debra Engelhardt-Nash
Charlotte, NC

When hiring new employees most dental professionals think their work is done. They might have a training protocol for new hires but if you’re really focused on creating a team of Ideal Employees you want to retain them long-term and see them as integral parts of the success of your practice.



A study at Harvard University found that the best-motivated people like to have clear-cut objectives before them. This study also determined that people will stay constantly motivated with “accomplishment feedback” – a continuous sense of satisfaction in their ability to meet short-term goals. It is important to design a training protocol that provides a progression of objectives so that employees can feel the feedback of success. Without it, you may have hired a strong employee who is weakened by lack of intention or direction.

Schedule a 15-minute feedback session for the new team member at the end of each day for the first week of their employment. Ask them “How did it go?” “What went well today?” “Where can we help?” Ask these same questions at the end of the second, third and fourth week.

After thirty, sixty and ninety days, schedule longer feedback sessions and document your comments. Pay attention to these criteria:

• Willingness to Learn – Attitude
• Getting along with co-workers
• Punctuality
• Initiative
• Ability to Adapt
• Professionalism
• Demonstrates interest in practice success.


Retaining Good Employees

According to the book Managing Up, Managing Down by Mary Ann Allison and Eric Allison, there are six keys to retaining good employees:

1. Hire the Best
2. Pay them fairly.
3. Communicate frequently.
4. Provide challenges and rewards.
5. Believe in them.
6. Get out of their way.1

Each of us likes to belong to some group of tightly knit people where we are known and accepted, where we are committed to each other, and where we know that the other members of the group will be loyal to us if we are in trouble. It is the old tribal instinct. If such loyalty develops in a group of employees it has an adhesive effect. People will stay on your team even when they could earn more working for another practice for an important psychological need is being met by their employer – the need to belong.

Chairman and CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz states: “If people relate to the company that they work for, they will form an emotional tie to it, and buy into its dreams; they will pour their hearts into making it better”.

Your business culture should be a partnership where everyone understands how the business makes a profit. Educate the team about the business and show them how their actions affect productivity. You can do this as you:

     Assign a high value to communication. More often than not, when a group is fractured and people begin to bicker, it is because of misunderstandings and small acts of inconsideration which have escalated into major grievances. One way to head it off is to make sure there are regular opportunities for talk among team. We may not like staff meetings, but as much as we dislike them and as little as they sometimes seem to accomplish, it is very important to give people an opportunity to talk about their activities, ask questions, and test future plans on each other. There is nothing that makes us feel shut out of a group faster than to discover that other members have been informed about a topic when we have been left in the dark. Organizations fracture when information is dispensed primarily by the grapevine.

    Pay attention to what a team member is experiencing in their world. That requires attention, appreciation and affirmation. Employees need to talk and be heard to feel understood. Good morale is never getting lost in the group. We will work more effectively as a team when we are assured that the leader values our individuality.

    Have fun together. Thomas Edison once wrote to a stockholder of his company: “Good business is never done except in a reasonably good humored frame of mind and on a human basis.”2 Plan occasions when you can be away together. A curious thing happens when you take a group of people away from their ordinary surroundings. They become more creative, more open to new ideas, ad they form strong bonds with each other rather quickly. So good leaders often take a day or two with their group at some location where they can cement their relationships, undistracted by regular routines.

    Celebrate Enthusiasm. Effective motivators are enthusiastic – you can’t get a group of people fired up unless you are enthusiastic yourself. Have powerful commitment to your goals and your group. Give them something to believe in.

To retain your employees, be consistent and fair in your management principles. Provide a pleasant work environment and the facility and tools to do the job. Create a team of compatible co-workers and provide opportunities to grow. Recognize performance and offer fair compensation and benefits.

In our age of high- tech advancement it is easy to forget that our failure or success will be determined largely by our ability to work with and assist other people in functioning at their best. There is simply no substitute for the rewards of helping other people grow, teaching other people to succeed and the excitement of organizing a group of colleagues who spark one another’s enthusiasm.

It is not always easy for the doctor to lead a team.. They are, like us, a mixture of bad and the good. If we can reach in a draw out the best from them they will try harder for us than for anyone in the world, and they will accomplish some surprising things.


1 Allison, Mary Ann, Allison, Eric, Managing Up, Managing Down, Simon and Shuster 1986
2 McGinnis, Alan Loy, Bringing Out the Best In People, 1985 Augsburg Publishing