A recent Harvard Business Review article explored the concept of diminishing productivity in American workers. The ideas discussed struck me as directly applicable to improving dental front office team productivity.

Improving team productivity, All-Star Dental Academy

Before we get to the specific issues, the article discusses the relationship between labor and productivity.

Historically, investing in human capital (primarily, though not entirely, wages) resulted in higher productivity. But over the last 50 years or so, wage growth – and productivity – has slowed.

Studies have shown, though, that is reversible with smart investment in people. This is where the dental specific issues come up.


First, explore the idea of finding the right balance between wages and costs associated with wages. Paying top dollar for your dental front office team is not necessarily the answer; rather, the goal is to find the level of pay that removes the issue as an obstacle to productivity. Said another way – you don’t have to break the bank; find a wage for employees that will make them feel like a valued part of the team and that they are compensated fairly, and productivity will go up. Please note that I am not suggesting you be irresponsible with payroll. Indeed, the first question in determining payroll is, “How much can you afford?”

Additionally, there is a demonstrated connection between wages and patient satisfaction. “Customer advocacy and employee engagement are inextricably linked… allowing companies to create a better customer experience, higher quality jobs, and better financial outcomes…” The results from improved patient satisfaction offset the higher cost of wages.

You can achieve “lower levels of employee and patient churn, and correspondingly lower hiring and patient acquisition costs.” Even Walmart (a notoriously low-wage employer) “has committed to investing $2.7 billion in its associates through higher wages, better benefits and enhanced training.”

An environment that supports success

Second, investment in environment and culture can result in significant gains in productivity. It is natural to conclude that a happy and passionate employee is a productive employee. In fact, “An inspired employee is more than twice as productive as a satisfied employee and more than three times as productive as a dissatisfied employee.” But the unfortunate truth is that very few employees are truly happy and engaged.

So how do you create an environment where employees feel engaged?

Here are three tips:

Recognize and encourage innovation. Keep open to new and unusual ideas that your team may come up with. Don’t be afraid to experiment with implementing some of these ideas, and celebrate the wins AND the failures. Recognize the contributing team member publicly for going the extra mile.

Empower your employees. Nothing creates a greater sense of responsibility and ownership like having the power to make decisions. Don’t be afraid to let people be leaders. It’s a sure way to build trust between the Dr. and team.

Encourage learning. Challenge and support your team in learning and developing their skills. Not only will you enjoy greater success but you’ll see an increase in employee happiness and engagement.

Additional resources from All-Star Dental Academy about building a high performing team:

Blog post: 10 Ways to Motivate Your Team

Blog post: How to build a Top Performing Dental Practice

Training your team is magic

Finally, there is a strong correlation between investing in training and increased productivity. The formula is simple – train your dental front office team to perform their tasks more professionally, and – everything else being equal – your revenues will go up. And training team members to perform additional duties can also result in increased productivity.

Throwing money at capital improvements (equipment) with the hope of increasing revenue has been shown to be a poor strategy. Increasing marketing has a better chance at improving your bottom line, but investing in your team is a proven way to unlock productivity and profits.

Improving team productivity, All-Star Dental Academy

Learn more about the costs associated with an underperforming, unengaged team in a free online training event and how to improve dental front office team productivity – Dental Practice Excellence: 3 Steps to an All-Star Practice. Sign up by clicking here.



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