26 Apr 2022  •  Blog, Practice Management  •  4min read By  • Suki Singh

Should I fill a gap in my team or not?

Practice Plan Area Manager, Suki Singh, talks about the recruitment problem and whether it’s better to fill a gap in your team or re-align your workload if the right member of staff is not available…

One of the biggest issues facing dental practices at the moment is the recruitment and retention crisis. Dentistry is not alone in experiencing unprecedented numbers of vacancies. The so-called ‘Great Resignation’ is a global phenomenon affecting businesses across the board. The pandemic caused many workers to reassess what they wanted from their jobs and employers and record numbers of them decided their current roles didn’t meet their expectations. This resulted in a twenty-year high in the number of resignations and job-to-job jumps at the end of 2021, according to the UK Labour Force Survey.

So, where does that leave practices trying to fill vacancies? In a ‘a battle for skills’, as Management Consultants, McKinsey, calls it. After two years of a pandemic, many qualified staff are taking long hard looks at their lives and making decisions about how they can achieve a better balance between work and home. Some are choosing to work fewer hours, while others have had enough of wearing uncomfortable PPE for 8-hours a day while exposing themselves to Coronavirus risk and are walking away from dentistry altogether, leaving teams under-staffed and struggling to cope.  This puts extra strain on the existing team members and putting THEM at risk of leaving, too. It never rains, but it pours!

Despite difficult market conditions some practices have been successful and managed to recruit an ideal candidate for their vacant position. However, for others, their stories do not have such a happy ending and they remain slugging it out in the fight to find the right person for their vacancy. This can leave them on the horns of a dilemma. Do they get a ‘bum on a seat’ and employ someone who may not fit into the team, and run the risk of upsetting the team dynamics? Or do they leave a gap in the workforce and struggle on with a bigger workload, and an increased risk of existing staff becoming disenchanted and voting with their feet?

Faced with this difficult choice, it might be more beneficial to step back, look at the workload your team has already and come up with a plan to combat things by leaving a gap in the team, rather than taking on a new staff member who may not be the right fit. Bringing in someone who isn’t completely suited to the role, could have the consequence of upsetting the whole practice. It may reduce the workload of your other staff members in the short term, but if they aren’t the right person for the job, it could lead to other issues in the long run.

One possible course of action in this type of situation would be to talk to your staff and explain that you’ve advertised for the position but no one suitable has applied, so, you’re going to have to look for an alternative solution. One option is to focus on ‘pace not race’. To compensate for being a member of staff down, you can look at ways to slow things down and work at a pace that can be managed by your existing team. If it means that patients will have to wait a little longer to see a dentist, then that is what they will have to do, for you to still offer a top-quality service.

If you find yourself in the situation where reducing your workload is the best solution to your recruitment issue, sit down with your patients and explain that things are having to change because of the challenges of recruiting the right people to work at the practice, and it might take a little bit longer for them to be seen. It’s important to add that by moving in this direction, it means they will still get the service they deserve and the one they are paying for.

So, the advice is to step back, make a tactical retreat from the recruitment battleground, and look at another model that is more suited to your practice. That way, you can avoid employing someone for the sake of it and exposing yourself to the risk of facing a bigger recruitment problem than you had in the first place.

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