The Major Misconceptions About Staff Performance and Competency

Uncategorized Feb 28, 2020

The job of a leader is to exploit the best talents and encourage the growth of those in need of help to build the best repertoire of skills for which they are capable of. (GS)

Most of the time when an employee is hired, he or she feels as though they've started with a ten-minute tutorial of the job’s requirements.  Ten minutes may be an exaggeration but, no matter what, to the new staff member, it never seems like enough time. 

A 'newly minted' employee in any medical field is far more likely to feel the strain of insecurity accompanied by the sheer terror of making a mistake with a patient’s health.  However, even veteran staff, when walking into a new environment, find it both familiar yet foreign at the same time when compared to their previous employment.  No two doctors are alike in either temperament or expectation, let alone experience.

Having a dental background and or a degree, makes it seem like a new employee should already come into your office fully trained.  You may in fact 'get lucky', but that's not likely.  Do their skills and techniques match the quality of care you provide?  Did their last leader set the same standard and expectations you have for them today?

When specific staff members appear to be less than capable, it boils down to either one of two reasons.

  1. You have made a poor hiring choice. There's always the possibility of misrepresentation or some untold personal problem with the new employee that you didn't pick up on in your interview.
  2. You do not understand what they need from you that would enable them to become successful.

The solution to the first option is self-explanatory.  Let’s dive into reason number 2.

How to tell the difference between capable and incapable staff members. 

What may seem like a simple matter of staff member's not being capable could be caused by something completely different.

Throwing away an otherwise good employee is both wasteful, and expensive.  The ability to spot problems and arrive at solutions is critical.  Ask yourself this question:  Does the perceived lack of competence I'm seeing come from unclear expectations or lowered expressed values?

Use a simple identification process.  Are the tasks that are perceived as difficult really all that complex? Or, are the tasks that staff seem to avoid just too vague in their definitions?

For example, if the staff are unable to complete chart notes fully and accurately, could it be that they aren’t using any tools or aids?  Tools like spell check are basic.  Doesn’t every person using a computer these days have access to spell check?  Why should there be so many typos?

Stand back and look at your team.  If your staff isn't competent in such simple techniques as spell check, you aren’t utilizing your staff to their full potential.  When you allow the staff to avoid what’s required, you are compromising on your quality of care and detracting from your bottom line.  

Charting competently is just one aspect of the requirements a good staff member needs, but it's no more or less critical than a good working knowledge required for exceptional chair-side manners and practical skills.  Legal, and ethical issues, as well as the patients’ health, are always in balance.

The biggest misconception doctors commonly assume about staff…

Multiple years of practice are required for staff to truly become proficient. 

Its true practice makes perfect.  Some roles have a multifaceted job criterion and it is not realistic to expect that they will be learned all at once.  A detailed training curriculum or significant amounts of trial and error, and at times both may be needed. 

Fortunately, usually, this isn’t the case in a dental office.  Our roles as staff tend to be redundant by nature.

So why is it that some staff members learn or “catch on” faster than others?  Is it simply about experience level?  If it’s strictly just experience level, why on occasion, do some of the senior staff members struggle so much more than the younger less experienced?  

Superstar staff members who perform at maximum capacity share two common factors.  They have the talent and drive to be the best.  There will always be a few who are better at their job than the rest.  This is a fact of nature.  The second factor is that they are consistently clear about what’s expected and that they engage in ownership of their role, no matter the experience level.

Staff members who struggle, have a different set of problems to overcome.  They lack clarity and disproportionately perceive value.  If clear expectations aren’t established in the beginning, the value of activities or job functionality is perceived as unimportant.  Appropriate prioritization at that point becomes impossible to establish.  When expectations are not clear, it sends a message that the way things are done or handled doesn’t really matter.  This leads to staff “making it up” as they go or “winging it”.

Without a concerted effort to bring out the best qualities in any given staff member, the office burdens fall disproportionately on the rest of the staff, and doctor.  This does not mean that the doctor must dedicate an exorbitant amount of resources to a single staff member.  A great leader delegates responsibility and encourages the entire staff to assist in bringing all staff members up to an expected level of competence. 

Fortify the weakest link with understanding and hold them accountable.

When their inability “to do XYX” becomes the new norm, the rest of the team will have to compensate. Leaning on others to compensate, (especially if it’s you) has a negative impact and brings down the entire team. 

The weakest link is the part that can break the chain however if you know where the weakest link is you fortify around it to remove its power. ~ Folake O. Oluokun, MD, CHPC

Do NOT give up…

Most bosses “give up” on people because it seems like too much work to turn them around.  Do not give up and accept a subpar performance that brings down your entire practice.  Poor workmanship costs you more in the long run.  Giving up becomes pervasive if allowed to happen, and its effects spread throughout the organization. Giving up is an easy habit to get into, and a hard habit to break. 

If you give up, the employee becomes “someone who lacks the ability to do…XYZ” to everyone on the team.  Even more devastatingly, it affects that person's overall self-esteem and the atmosphere of the entire organization.  What could have been a simple matter of practice now becomes a personal setback they may never recover from.  You have the power to either break their spirit or opt to enhance their personal growth habits, even though it may be temporarily uncomfortable.  Which kind of leader do you want to be?

Remember that winning is a team achievement, not just for an individual.

After all, your practice, by analogy, is like that of an orchestra. You can’t play all the instruments yourself and still be the maestro.  At the end of the day, the task or job still must get done. Will it be you or will it be you and your team.  Every person on the team needs to perform their part as if they were an actor on a stage and stick to their own part. Naturally, some people will need more practice and direction than others.

If the employee doesn’t know how to “win”, they will fall victim to failure.  Victims, by virtue of their own inabilities, cannot own the failure and therefore will never be able to take any ownership of their role.  When this happens, they will become soured and resentful.

When expectations are clear and the value of their role is evident, it’s easy for them to see the road map to the winning outcome.

Create a winning environment.

Create a necessity and articulate that need clearly, EVERY DAY… until they get it right. 

Proving the tools that they need and expecting they use them, will help to lay the foundation.  Utilizing products such as PANDA Perio, provide structured and predefined templates to help the employee see clearly and eliminate the need to guess.  PANDA Perio also offers a built-in spell check with medical terminology.  The only thing you should need to do yourself is to require them to click the “spell check” button before completing the chart note.

Imagine not having to worry about spelling and grammatical errors, and not having to do all chart entries yourself.

If only you could just leave at 5:00 p.m. every day and go home to your family instead of fixing typos. If you set expectations and make them requirements for your team to use the predictable, yet simple tools provided, you could be free of unnecessary monotony.

Holding staff members accountable also helps to reinforce their value as a viable part of your thriving practice.

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