The Employee Just Doesnít Get It! You Need a Plan
The scenario isn’t new. The circumstances are all too familiar. An employee just doesn’t seem to get it. You tell her that she has to do a better job, yet little changes in her performance. You tell her that she’s not measuring up. She says she’ll try harder, but you just don’t see the results, and you note the concerns in her personnel file. Is there something, anything you can do to get this person on track with the team or is it time to cut your losses and let her go?
According to Mike Moore, Human Resource Director for McKenzie Management and author of Employment Policy and Handbook, it may be time for a Performance Improvement Plan. “This step in employee discipline and coaching has several purposes. The primary objective is to document that there are one or multiple performance issues that must be addressed. The secondary purpose is to lay out the specifics of a performance issue so that the employee and the supervisor have a clear understanding of what the issues and areas of concern are. The third objective is to set clear timelines and goals for improvement to ensure there is no confusion or uncertainty as to what is expected. And the final objective is to identify what happens in the event that the plan succeeds or fails.”
Performance improvement plans are most effective in addressing problems that are more objective in nature and weaknesses in systems that can be measured, notes Mike. For example, two hygienists work in Dr. Smith’s practice. One is highly efficient and turning over patients effectively while maintaining quality care. The other is very slow and able to treat only a minimum number of patients. In this case, Dr. Smith has observed a clear difference in how these two are working, and it can be objectively measured. Dr. Smith needs her number two hygienist to increase her efficiency and improve patient turnover. She has counseled hygienist #2 several times and the situation has not improved.
Dr. Smith needs to formalize this process. That’s where the performance improvement plan can be used most effectively because the hygienist’s performance can be measured objectively. Dr Smith is able to document a specific standard in the plan that the hygienist must meet and within a set timeframe.
In some cases, the plan can be a wake-up call for an employee who has potential but doesn’t seem to understand the importance of improving specific areas of his/her job performance until a formal document is in front of him/her.
However, Mike cautions, “you want to make sure you have a standardized practice form that you use any time this type of situation arises. And you want to pay close attention to the tone of this document. I strongly recommend that it not be highly critical or punitive in nature. Conventional performance improvement policies almost always say, ‘If you do not meet the goals of this plan within the specified time, we reserve the right to terminate the employment relationship.’ I consistently find that this type of language is counterproductive because employees almost always react very negatively to this approach. Employers are much better served if they rely less on punitive language and more on encouraging improvement.”
Additionally, Mike notes that performance improvement plans are not well suited for addressing employee behavioral and attitudinal problems because these tend to be very subjective. “I have seen employers try to use these plans to address insubordination, nastiness between employees, bad attitudes, abusive language, and the like. But they are ineffective in those circumstances because they can’t measure improvement. It’s too subjective. I do not recommend performance improvement plans in those situations.”
The objective of the document is to address measurable shortcomings in performance that the employee needs to address. It is not to fuel animosity between the employee and the practice or, worse yet, encourage litigation.
For further information on human resources issues such as this contact Mike Moore at 888-777-6151 or email at HRSolutions@mckenziemgmt.com.Sally McKenzie is CEO of McKenzie Management. A nationwide dental management, practice development and educational consulting firm. Working “on-site” with dentists since 1980, McKenzie Management provides knowledge, guidance and personalized systems that have propelled thousands of general and specialty practices to realize their potential. Sally can be reached directly at 1.877.777.6151
Interested in speaking to Sally McKenzie about your management concerns? Email her at Sally@thedentistsnetwork.net
The time has come where dental offices no longer have to rely on mechanical devices that were designed forty or fifty years ago. Only until recently, however, dentists had limited options when communicating within their practices. One solution was hard-wired panels that used a series of lights to determine when or where someone was needed. This was a tremendous tool for practices and allowed them to run more efficiently. The biggest drawback to light panel systems was the cost. Larger practices could easily spend $15,000 or even more. Functionally, there were other drawbacks, such as the need to constantly look up to check the panel to see if you were being paged.
The most common form of communication within dental practices was to roam the office and chase down the person needed. This could be very annoying for everyone and appear unprofessional to your patients. Most of all it wasted more time than you can imagine. Although both light panels and direct communication work to get basic messages across, modern technology provides a much more practical solution that will change the future of how dental offices will operate.
With the drive toward the paperless offices that use practice management software and digital imaging, more and more dentists are relying on computers for efficiency and practicality. The future of dentistry relies upon the major role that computers play in the 21st century practice. In the wake of computerization, it was only a matter of time before software-based applications would be available as a practical solution for communicating within the typical dental practice.
There are a few products that can handle this, such as BlueNote Communicator and Patient Tracker. They were designed to use computers to move messages through the dental practice. Using BlueNote as an example, by using pop-up screens and distinct tones for each staff member, communicating becomes as easy as the click of a mouse button.
Because software isn’t limited by fixed buttons, such as that of analog light panels, a broad range of customization becomes quickly apparent. Each person in the office has a different tone so he or she is not always looking up at a panel every time the messaging system is activated. Only when your custom tone rings do you have to respond to what is needed, saving valuable time. The software also allows you to customize the locations which receive pages as well as whether or not pop-up screens appear on certain computers. Best of all it does not require your staff to have more than basic computer knowledge; it’s actually very easy to learn and implement.
Some dental practices have tried using wireless radios to talk to one another within the practice. Unfortunately, there is often resistance to having to wear a microphone and an earpiece and the novelty usually wears off soon. Because computer tones can be heard throughout the office, even in the hallways, messages are being transmitted on the same plane of communication as the wireless radios. Patients have little awareness that the ringtones they may be hearing in the background are actually messages being passed back and forth within your office.
Software messaging systems also provide text messaging which allows users the ability to send typed text within their practice, very much like an Instant Messaging service. While some practices have tried using Instant Messaging across the Internet, text messaging within a program assures that it is being used for work purposes only, as well as resolving the security concerns of exposure on the web.
What is most important is that there is finally a legitimate solution to the problem of efficiently delivering communications throughout the dental office. By utilizing sight as well as sounds to deliver messages instantly, technology has made it possible for practices to have a low-cost solution to their intra-office communications.
The other main advantage to software- based messaging is cost. While some programs charge on a per-user basis, most will cost less than $1000.
Of course, the system will only work under two conditions: First, you must have computers throughout the office, including the operatories. And second, you’ll need either monitors with speakers or a sound card in the computer (many business-class computers don’t have this automatically). Offices that meet these requirements, though, should strongly consider software-based messaging systems.
Lorne Lavine, DMD is the Founder and President of Dental Technology Consultants. Dr. Lavine holds two prestigious certifications, the A+ Certified Technician designation and the Network+ Certified Professional. These designations demonstrate proficiency in computer repair, operating systems, network design and installation. Dental Technology Consultants provide dentists a full range of services relating to the implementation of technology.
Dr. Lavine can be reached directly at 1.866.204.3398.
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