Recruitment - the dirty methods

If you are a dental practice owner and feel like most other practice owners. Then the task of finding a new employee is a tiring and stressful one. Presumably, recruitment is in the same category as many other administrative tasks: it's extremely rare they inspire you as much as fixing teeth.


Not only is recruitment not a "wow" task, but the task is put under further stress by a number of issues, which I will try to outline below. Just as I will offer some advice on what to do to get around these more easily. The issues are of a nature that presents some unfortunate challenges for dental practice owners:

  • There is an extreme shortage of qualified people, which makes it extremely difficult to attract applicants for the clinic's vacancies in the first place.

  • Salaries of employed dentists are unsustainably high in relation to the revenue of the average dental practice (Too many dental practices balance on the edge of deficit when they employ dentists. This is an issue that can be addressed. But it requires a focused management effort)

  • Several dental chains have begun enticing other clinics' staff with cash bonus schemes, in a desperate attempt to attract staff members and dentists.

Over the past few weeks, I have described some of the steps the dental office can take to make it easier to attract the right applicants for the office's vacancies.

https://en.hattconsulting.com/post/recruitment-important-perspectives

https://en.hattconsulting.com/post/recruitment-4-prerequisites


This week's content

This week's post will therefore be about the methods dental practices are up against in the battle for talented staff. I will also look at what clinics can do to guard against these unsavoury practices.


The blog is written based on my own observations in the market and therefore bears the mark of my subjective interpretations.

Conditions in other industries

The IT industry is known for fighting hard for the most competent specialists. Here, it is common to offer extreme bonuses and salaries to entice competitors' employees to change jobs.


Back in 2011, my clinic had started working in earnest with digital treatment workflows. Developments in dental software that could handle complex 3D algorithms were starting to take off for real. All the big players in the dental industry were starting to wake up to the direction developments would take in the following years. So they all wanted to be part of the battle for the future of digital platforms for dentists. At that time, there were supposedly 3 IT specialists/engineers in the world, with some very specific skills in dental 3D algorithms. They all worked freelance and could define their own salary. Which means they typically cost a few million euros for a task that might take them 3 months to solve.......... The industry thought the potential was so great that they decided to pay!


The long-term strategy

Some years ago, a DSO began to register how it was becoming increasingly difficult to recruit dentists and dental hygienists. The dental chain therefore launched a massive charm offensive aimed at dental students. It marketed itself massively and set up very attractive development programmes for new dental graduates and dental hygienists.


The challenge was - and is - that this is a long-term branding strategy. You have to wait for the students to finish. They have to take employment (which they did and are doing in fairly large numbers) and then report back to their peers at the schools how great their employment has been.

It takes time.... a long time.

That's time the chains don't have when faced with an acute staffing shortage.


Another DSO admitted early on that the chain's brand internally in the industry was so bad that it almost seemed hopeless to get native dentists. They therefore decided early on to work with a recruitment agency that attracts workers from abroad. As it is the language skills that often pose the biggest challenges. This chain has set up an onboarding process that includes training in the native language.


The short-term strategy

Due to the acute shortage of dentists and dental hygienists, several dental chains have taken inspiration from the IT and dental industries. They have simply chosen to embrace some of the less-than-sophisticated methods. Some of them have therefore started to offer their own employees a "finders fee". This means that employees who locate and entice a skilled, qualified employee to transfer to the chain receive a substantial cash bonus for their efforts.


Those dentists who have chosen to change jobs on request are also awarded a substantial bonus in 2 steps. 1 bonus is paid on the first day the employee shows up. The second half is paid after a pre-defined period of employment.


The amounts paid in bonus are of a size that makes it difficult for the small dental clinics to participate. However, for the dentist or dental hygienist who chooses to change workplace, the bonus is of a size that does not batter more than it could be quickly earned back in a good dental office anyway.


The relevance for the small dental practice

Does this mean that we might as well prepare for a future with small dental practices where all dentists are co-owners and large chain dental practices where all employed dentists choose to apply for jobs?


I do not think so. There is no doubt that this would be a dream scenario for the DSO's. Because the moment this situation occurs, the big dental chains will be able to define the salary and employment conditions of employed dentists.... We see evidence of this in markets internationally where the market share of dental chains exceeds 70%.


Advantages of DSO's

It is worth noting that the chains have a few advantages:

  1. They have a well-thought-out onboarding programme with structured continuing education programmes that are particularly attractive for new graduates.

  2. They have the liquidity to pay the "finders fee"

  3. They are sized to accommodate to some extent a desire for specialisation or regular career paths similar to other types of companies.

As a small clinic, it can be a bit overwhelming to be confronted with all this. However, it's worth remembering that it's rarely the salary alone that makes employees move.


Is salary the primary motivation?

When an employee moves to another company, there are usually other and more weighty arguments than pay behind the decision. Even if the moving employee may cite the salary difference as the most important when asked. This is a much easier explanation than having to formulate an answer that is linked to a feeling about the culture of the clinic or a vision that is lacking or not in line with the employee's own vision.


I wrote a bit about the importance of dental practice culture and vision in regards to recruitment in last week’s blog post. There will be an elaboration on the blog shortly. Here I will describe how practice culture and the leaders vision can have a decisive influence on the success of a new hire. As well as how to work with these elements to create a better team and ensure the right people are hired into the practice.


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