Managing Performance: Benefits

Guidelines for Practice Success | Managing The Dental Team | Benefits

Some employer dentists find it challenging to decide what benefits to offer employees and then how to communicate the value of those benefits so their staff is aware of the total value of their compensation package. It’s a good idea to periodically give employees a report that recaps the value of their total compensation package, which includes information regarding the total value of their salary and all applicable benefits. This will help them understand that the practice provides them with much more than just a paycheck. A sample report detailing the Value of Total Staff Compensation is included as a resource.

It’s important to assess and communicate this information to your team since a significant percentage of your monthly collections are likely earmarked for employee benefits. While that percentage has to be high enough that prospective employees want to work for you and that current employees want to continue working with you, it can’t be so high that it erodes the practice’s profit margins.

Take a look at A Benefits Primer in the Resources below for a listing and brief description of the benefits most commonly offered by employers.

While some benefits can be measured in terms of their actual, or “hard” costs, other intangible, or “soft,” benefits can help attract and retain quality employees. Soft benefits include regularly providing healthy snacks or treats, catering in lunch or hosting a staff dinner, or even allowing someone a few hours of additional paid time off as a way to thank them for going above and beyond. The biggest benefit to these types of benefit is that they foster camaraderie among staff and strengthen the bond of the team.

Your complete benefits package should support a work environment that has enough overlap in job descriptions and skills that staff has some flexibility. While this is a sound business practice in general terms, it becomes especially valuable when team members experience personal situations or emergencies that require them to be out of the office. This not only keeps the office running smoothly, it reassures staff that you understand that things happen and that you “have their backs” when they need to attend to personal issues.

A few caveats to keep in mind when defining your employee benefits package:

  • It can be a challenge to balance predictability in your staff with employee requests for time off. Many practices find it helpful to have a policy that requires advance notice of time off if at all possible. This ensures that the dentist knows when each employee will be away from the practice, minimizes the possibility of having too few employees on-site, and allows you to schedule staff so the responsibilities of any absent employees can be covered by someone who is cross-trained in those duties.
  • Decide in advance whether you will offer paid vacation time but keep in mind that your state might have laws or other regulations that determine which employers must offer that benefit.
    • Be aware that most businesses do offer paid vacation time so most employees and job applicants take it for granted that paid time off will be available to them. Not offering it could make it challenging to keep or attract staff.
    • If your practice is in “start-up mode” and can’t afford the expense of paid vacation time for staff, be up front about communicating that and let staff know that you hope to “phase in” that benefit as the practice matures.
    • Your staff policy manual should advise employees whether unused vacation time rolls over or if they have to use it or lose it by a certain date. Make sure you check local laws since your state may have regulations on rolling over unused vacation time.
    • Remember that you have the authority to decide when the best time is for staff to take vacation. Let staff know well in advance if there are any blackout periods and if possible, let them know why time off isn’t available during that period.
    • Make sure your time off policy clearly states that time off is subject to prior approval and subject to change. Of course, this policy, like any other, is subject to change and employees should be aware of that.
    • Consider offering employees the option of taking one or two vacation days without pay. If you do opt to allow this, it’s a good idea to outline when staff can take advantage of this benefit. Include that information as one of the policies in your staff manual.

Keep the long-term in mind as you develop employee benefit policies, especially those that build in value the longer someone is on staff. For instance, while almost everyone would say that employees with more time on the job should earn more vacation time, be realistic: can you afford to allow your staff to be gone four weeks a year? Can the practice afford that level of compensation? While you want to reward employees who’ve been with the practice for the long haul, it can become costly.

Finally, make sure you really can afford to offer all of the benefits you want to provide: reducing or eliminating benefits can have a very negative impact on staff attitudes and job satisfaction.

Resources:

A Benefits Primer [PDF]

Considerations for a Maternity Leave of Absence Policy [PDF]

The ADA Practical Guide to Creating and Updating an Employee Policy Manual [ADA Catalog]