Have the right people on your bus

Having the right people on board your business, and sitting in the right seats, is crucial. High time, then, to rethink how you recruit

29 September, 2015 / management
 Mark Fowler  

Imagine your experience of practice ownership like a bus journey. You, as a practice owner (or manager) determine the direction of the journey and, throughout the trip, some people will get on the bus and some people will get off the bus. Some people will also move seats on the bus.

Research data supports the idea that having the right people on the bus, and in the right seats, will have a big impact on the quality of your journey, and in other words on the performance of your business. Radically, it suggests that only once the right people are on the bus, and in the right seats, can the destination of the journey be effectively established.

Importantly, it means that, contrary to popular business belief, it is more effective to recruit and retain good people, before you know what to do with them, rather than to be particularly prescriptive about where you are going and recruit people only towards that goal. In other words, a good team will help move your practice forward, even if the direction you do this in has not yet been established or changes with time as you evolve.

So how do you recruit good people to your team? Ultimately, this comes down to your in-house recruitment practices. Many practices fail to pay due care and attention to planning and preparing the recruitment process. It is time consuming, tedious and costly, however, consider the impact of bad recruitment decisions – the team becomes unsettled, the practice owner is unhappy and nothing moves forward.

The simplest way to begin an effective recruitment process is to consider that you are actually selecting a colleague for you and your team. Unless specific skills are absolutely essential for a position, you must hire first and foremost on attitude and then train the skills that you need.

Your team must contribute to this by brainstorming characteristics that they would like to see in an ideal team member and then divide them into two categories: characteristics that are essential for the position; and characteristics that are desirable for the position. This forms your Person Specification.

For example, if you wish to recruit a qualified dental nurse to your team, then a current GDC registration is obviously an essential characteristic, but being too rigid about the type of clinical software that they should be able to use is much more likely to blind you to an effective recruitment decision. The right people can learn to use new tools after all. Only you must be bothered to teach them how to do it.

Once your person specification is defined, you can use this to do two things:

  • Draw up the job advertisement
  • Use the characteristics to assess how you will measure them in an interview.

This is key to an effective interview process. For example, if your person specification includes someone who is friendly, then seriously consider a team interview where everyone gets a chance to speak to them and ask them questions in an informal setting, perhaps over coffee or as they take a tour around the surgeries.

If your team member needs to be able to think on their feet, consider posing a scenario-based question in your interview to see how they respond. Consider practical tasks to determine competency at certain skills such as email and telephone call handling. Once the interview concludes, immediately collect feedback from your team and your interview on each candidate to form an opinion and then act on your shortlist to offer the best candidate a position.

A good recruitment decision will pay dividends many times over. After all, people are your business.

It’s my way or the highway

There are many leadership and management styles and as many names to label and identify them. While everyone has a dominant or preferred style of leadership, unfortunately, day-to-day life in the busy world of dentistry is not a one-trick pony. Different situations call for different management styles and the people in your team will respond to different leadership preferences.

Great leadership is about being committed to what you are doing and to cascade this belief to your team around you (remember there is no ‘I’ in team). This self-belief will carry your team and your business through difficult times and provide an anchor and point of reference for you and your team.

So, while there may be room for the ‘It’s my way or the highway’ approach, don’t make this your default position. It may be lonely at the top, but don’t make your position up there any more lonely.

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