We’ve all experienced the frustration associated with training new people. And unfortunately for them (and for you), poor training protocols resulting in confused and non-performing employees can give you the false impression that you’ve hired the “wrong person.”
The solution is to streamline your training so you can get just about any person to function effectively in your office. And with that in mind, here are seven steps that can move you in that direction!
1. Be Patient
That doesn’t mean you should wait six months for a new employee to understand a simple task, but you can’t expect everyone to pick everything up immediately and never make any mistakes.
2. Set Aside Time
You’ll need to set aside training time for new people where you can work with them one on one.
This shouldn’t be when you’re seeing patients. Trying to train them during production time can be very frustrating for them and for you. In all likelihood you’ll be continually interrupted to have to do or handle things. You’re not going to teach a staff member to do insurance who’s never done it before while you’re seeing 10-20 patients in the same day.
Or if the office manager is training the new person as well as handling other duties (i.e. scheduling, collections, etc.), there’s constant interruptions which makes the training far less effective.
If that means you need to come in on your day off for 3-4 hours to work with them, then do it.
3. Create Thorough Manuals
You cannot expect a new person to memorize everything you’re telling them the first time.
As an example, think of all the ins-and-outs of the Financial Secretary job, all of the little details to handle every possible scenario that may arise on the job. That might equate to 70 pages of information! So imagine you’re teaching your front desk how to schedule, collect money, file insurance, etc. that’s the equivalent of 70-80 pages for each job. You’re teaching them these things verbally—just about anyone would have trouble memorizing all those details!
Some of the details may seem very simple; you may wonder “why do I have to put this in writing?” But keep in mind the quantity of things you’re teaching them. It’s hard to retain that much no matter how obvious it seems. And also keep in mind that you’ve been working in this industry for a long time. What seems like common sense to you might not be common sense to someone who’s never done it before.
So put the steps in writing. Even the simplest ones. And put everything into a step-by-step form, like a checklist.
An example would be opening the office: 1. Turn the lights on. 2. Make the coffee. 3. Check the voicemail for messages. Etc.
And this goes for people with experience and without experience. Don’t assume anyone knows how to do everything just because they’ve held a similar job in another office.
If the new hire messes up on something, just go through the checklist with them again. Then when they mess up on something else, go through it again. The more times they go through this checklist, the more proficient they will become with it. Most people don’t get it the first time—and that’s fine.
4. Teach One Thing At a Time.
First make a list of all the duties they do that you’ll need to train them on. Then put them in order of importance.
For example, learning how to schedule a new patient is far more important than sorting the mail.
Now, with number one on the list (let’s say scheduling a new patient), make a simple checklist that guides the staff member through doing that one task. Go through each step of that checklist with them, making sure they understand each part. Then have them role play the steps with you (remember, this is done outside of normal production hours).
Then you’re going to have them do that one thing that week until they make no mistakes. Check on them throughout the week to make sure they’re doing well with it, and correct their mistakes as needed (in a friendly, patient way, of course).
You can cover a few things on the list at once, and then have them do all of those things throughout the week. But I wouldn’t give them more than three things to start with.
During the downtime, put them on something very simple like calling patients for recall or reactivation. That’s something they can do anytime, so it can fill up their day. So make that one of the first things you train them on to fill up their downtime between other tasks.
Once they’ve gotten those tasks down well, and they’re not making mistakes or having difficulty anymore, move onto the next one. Exactly when this will be depends on the person. Some people will get it and become proficient in a few hours. Some might take a week to get just the first task down well.
5. Acknowledge Them for Doing Well
People want to do well. Nobody wants to fail or be bad at their job, and it’s very discouraging if they feel like that’s happening.
New people are often getting corrected a lot, which is normal seeing as you’re teaching them something new. So it is VERY important to acknowledge when they’re doing well. “You did a great job on that task” or “You’re doing that PERFECTLY! Well done!”
This will boost confidence and morale in the employee and keep them upbeat on the job.
If you don’t do this, they’ll only receive criticism, and can get discouraged and start to flounder.
And when you do correct them on something, do it positively. By that I mean use good, positive communication to correct them, like “You’re doing really well on scheduling the new patients, but we need to work on where you’re putting them on the schedule. So you and I will be talking about that later and working out some blocks so you put them in the right spot.” Or “I see you’re making some mistakes on the patient call in form. What are you running into?” and then correct whatever comes up.
6. Keep an Eye Out for Employees Who Simply Aren’t Trainable
To train a new front desk person with zero dental experience, it should take you about three months. By one month they should be proficient at the basics. By three months they should know every part of their job cold.
How do you know if the person you hired simply isn’t trainable? They don’t “correct” and won’t take responsibility or accept accountability for having made a mistake. You’ll find them repeating the same error you just corrected the day before. We cover this more thoroughly and go into why this is on the MGE Power Program.
Keep in mind that making a mistake once or a few times doesn’t mean they aren’t trainable. It’s the ones that make the same one after being corrected that you have to watch out for. And keep point 3 above in mind—if you haven’t put their job description in writing and simply dumped a ton of verbal instructions on them at once, of course they’ll make mistakes!
If you assign training to an existing staff member, make sure you train them on the points of training! Training is a job with specific steps that need to be taught, just like you’d teach an employee any other aspect of their job. So train the employee in charge of this on how to train, and put everything in writing and use all these points for that training.
These steps should help you get a new person started and functioning. After that, there’s a lot you can do to increase the quality of what they’re doing, evaluate performance and manage them using statistics (which is covered on the MGE Power Program).