Having access to HR support is not seen as a priority for many dental practices. However, in a sector where success depends on the skill and expertise of staff and the quality of the experience provided to patients, it is something that should be given serious consideration.
Many dental practices who don’t benefit from HR services could be wasting profits, putting their reputation at risk, adversely affecting the quality of service they provide to their patients, or losing out on opportunities for additional contracts.
It is the norm for small practices with limited numbers of employees to ‘go it alone’ when it comes to handling the HR issues; in fact, many don’t even appreciate that there are such things as HR issues until it is too late and they have one! Most small businesses are built, and operate, on the basis of everyone knowing everyone else and working flexibly together on the basis of trust.
This approach is all well and good, as long as everyone adheres to the unwritten culture and rules. This is relatively simple when an organisation is small; everyone knows each other, there is frequent and regular contact between all members of staff, and the environment is relatively static.
Problems tend to arise when there is a change of some kind – new employees are brought into the practice, owners sell up and move on, the practice expands, or staffs’ personal circumstances change because of things such as relocation or new families.
These types of changes can upset the equilibrium that has built up over a number of years, and when established ways of working and dealing with staff can’t accommodate the changes, problems can arise.
It is in these sorts of circumstances that practices start to realise that their lack of formality – which up to then had been a real bonus – could now potentially be a source of difficulty.
· When staff don’t have contracts of employment, who can definitely say what their hours of work or notice periods are?
· When staff don’t have job descriptions, who can definitely say what duties they are responsible for?
· If there is no clear policy or approach to part-time working how can you defend allowing it for one member of staff and not another?
· If there is no clear policy on absence notification, how can someone be taken to task for not complying with what is expected?
· If you don’t have an induction programme how can staff be expected to start to contribute to their best ability as quickly as possible?
Common sense would say that employees should know what is expected, and that is true. However, in problem situations common sense doesn’t always prevail. Consequently it is always better to have simple, straightforward processes in place which are clear to everyone right from the start, regardless of how many or how few employees a practice has.
It’s true that most small practices don’t need full-time HR support, but a good HR advisor can add so much value – in the same way that an accountant can do so much more than simple book keeping.
HR is much more than just the legal stuff and recruitment! Used effectively, HR can bring real benefits to a business.
Here we outline just a few of them.
Improving Staff Contribution
Employees perform best when they are clear what they are required to do, are trained to do it and feel rewarded and valued. Good HR can help you to ensure you have all the necessary processes in place to achieve all these things and more.
Increasing Practice Output/Productivity
Having dedicated HR expertise means that questions, issues or problems can be dealt with more speedily and effectively – right first time, every time – thereby minimising the amount of time that clinical, or other senior professionals within a practice, need to pulled away from their core activities. This helps to limit non-productive time within the practice.
By ensuring all your HR policies and practices are legally compliant, consistent and well understood by staff, you will reduce the number of problems that arise, and deal efficiently and effectively with those that do.
Reducing or Avoiding Costs
A good HR advisor will help reduce your costs by getting things right first time in much less time than it would take a non-specialist. They can also help you to avoid cost through things such as effective recruitment, absence management and change management.
In order to maximise the benefit, your HR support should be tailored to the specific issues of the dental services sector and your particular practice. Buying something ‘off the shelf’ will be of limited value.
The sector does have a number of particular issues, which can have a significant bearing on HR policy and practice such as:
· Regulation and accreditation of staff
· The high proportion of female nursing staff, which can result in a large number of requests for flexible or part-time working
· NHS contract award processes which can require documentary evidence of HR processes
· High levels of patient service and interaction – which require staff to be trained in customer/patient service and handling potentially difficult situations.
As a small business you may not need a great deal of day-to-day support, but by establishing a relationship with an HR specialist you can:
· Benefit from a full range of specialist HR skills and knowledge – expertise that you currently don’t have in-house – so that you can use exactly what you need, when you need it
· Reduce your business risk by using experts whenever you need them and working proactively rather than simply reacting to problems
· Free up your time to focus on running your practice rather than constantly fire-fighting – or ignoring – staff issues
· Increase your flexibility by being able to respond rapidly and proactively to staff problems or queries.
In order to maximise the potential benefits you must ensure that you select the right provider – someone with the right experience who will tailor the service to your specific needs. By choosing the right person you will find that HR is an investment in your business, not a cost.
Having worked closely with dental practices for a number of years, JCS HR has produced a specialist package which is specifically tailored to meet the HR needs of dental practices of any size.
The company’s aim is to free up your time so you can focus on your core activity, with the added benefit that their highly experienced HR advisors are available at a fraction of the cost of employing someone in-house.
For more information, click here or call Julie on 01484 602708.