How to Attract Staff to Your Dental Practice… and Keep Them!

Pandemic-induced life changes have promoted a work-life balance reset for many, leading to media reports of a ‘great resignation.’

World Economic Forum

Is your dental office set up to grow with this mentality and cultivate a space that will draw in the best of the best to join your team and stick by your side?

Take a deep dive with us, and let’s determine how to:

  • Understand the current job hunter’s market
  • Review your company culture
  • Take actionable steps to generate an attractive work environment

Step Into The Mind of a Modern Job Hunter

In a recent poll conducted by the ADA Health Policy Institute designed to take the pulse of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and emerging issues in the American dental community, it was uncovered that recruiting dental hygienists and dental assistants continues to be challenging for dentists.

In fact, 90% of dentist owners reported that, compared to before the pandemic, it is extremely or very challenging to recruit dental hygienists. 85% of dentist owners find it extremely or very challenging to fill dental assistant positions when compared to before the pandemic.

It is no secret that in many professions the reaction to Covid-19 limited hours in the office, enforced work-from-home conditions, and even resulted in mass layoffs across the country. This was the new norm for anywhere from a month to the entirety of the last 2 years.

Now that we are slowly gaining traction back into a fully operating society, back to work is again an option. But it’s just that, an option.

The dental field was one of the most at-risk groups during the height of the pandemic, so many people took the chance to retire early or find alternative employment in a less risky field. There was a voluntary reduction of the U.S. dental hygiene workforce by about 3.75%, or about 7,500 dental hygienists, according to updated research from the ADA and the American Dental Hygienists’ Association. 

As we said, many offices had temporary shutdowns. It was no longer the 9-5 life, so priorities in day-to-day routines changed. For workers it was now family time, taking on hobbies that they’ve always wanted to do, or placing value on exercising. Whatever it was, it became a standard practice for them and the thought of a full-time job taking that enjoyment away is less than enticing.

So the challenge for employers becomes making coming to work worth an employee’s time.

This difficulty is heightened in the dental and medical fields. It is a strenuous environment requiring dedicated attention and skill that needs to be regularly exercised. Let’s face it, people’s health is in your hands and that is not something you want to handle half-heartedly.

With that in mind, you have to consider this time away has also induced anxiety around the loss of knowledge or skill alongside new expectations.

2022 job hunters want an environment that supports them, is flexible, doesn’t take away from their external passions, and that they will genuinely enjoy going to every day.

What does this look like to employers?

Review Your Company’s Culture

Your company culture is what you make it.

It is how the execution of actions and values come together to make the experience people feel when they come to work every day.

It is how you manage your employees and set expectations.

It is the thing that people consider when asking themselves, “Am I going to be happy working here?”

Yes, coming in to work is about getting a job done, but to make it fulfilling to do that job, you as an owner and their boss should also:

  • Encourage employee wellness, both mental and physical. Dental and medical work is stressful on the mind and hard on the back. Losing employees to medical leave is avoidable.
  • Provide meaning and purpose in the work you are doing. Working in healthcare and helping children is a noble profession that truly helps people. Help your staff remember they are working towards a greater good.

  • Create goals and rewards for hard work. Feeling good about helping people is good, but you must also make the job rewarding in monetary ways as well – bonuses, small gifts, or time off add up to a happy, loyal worker.
  • Encourage positivity and celebrate milestones, both personal and professional. Show that you care by making your staff feel special and appreciated.

  • Foster social connections and build friendships among your staff. If your staff enjoys the company of the people they work with, that will build loyalty and lasting employment.
  • Listen to their feedback on ways to improve your existing culture. Part of today’s issue is keeping current staff. Make sure the people working with you are happy now and you can worry about hiring new staff instead of just replacing missing staff.

Make your business the type of place people want to work. If you are a leader of your company your behavior has the power to largely influence the essence of your company’s culture. Take a moment to step back and ask…

What Type of Leader Are You?

As a leader, you have the responsibility of managing people’s daily realities. And perhaps most importantly, you have the capability to make or break a person’s time spent with your company.

Consider the following questions and challenge yourself to look at the influence you have on your team from a third-party perspective to assess whether your leadership skills have been positively effective:

  • Are your morals visible in your everyday actions? Be your most authentic self. Authenticity inspires authenticity Forbes. As a leader, be yourself and stand by your integrity. Your staff will appreciate knowing your expectations, and if positively applied this will incline them to conduct their efforts in the same direction.
  • Are you honest with your staff? The transparency and vulnerability that honesty reveals will let your staff know that they are trusted and that their insight is valued in the eyes of a leader.
  • How important is communication between you and your staff? Good communication can get the job done, but great communication can blow expectations out of the water. When people know what they are doing and what is expected of them it eliminates the middle man named ‘Confusion’ and productivity is increased.
  • How do you show fairness in your workplace? Be flexible with your staff’s needs both professionally and personally, award accomplishments, and address failure.

Unity in the workplace is established when a leader prioritizes creating an environment not only for the client but for the staff. A great leader can answer these questions with confidence that their staff will appreciate their answers.

One thing to remember is that being a great leader is not always a linear process, there will be ups and downs. But when you register that it takes a village to do the job, then you can start to adjust your approach to value this outlook.

What Makes a Company Attractive to Employees?

A Company with Good Reviews

We’re not talking about client reviews on Google and Facebook, although those can help potential employees get an overview of how your business operates when dealing with the public. There are also employee review sites that are great insights for potential workers. The two most popular sites are:

Search your name and find out what has been said about you. If there are any negative comments, now is a good time to address the issue. If there aren’t any comments at all, encourage your current staff to add on a positive review to make your business look more attractive to job hunters.

Prioritization of a Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance is an important aspect of a healthy work environment. Maintaining a work-life balance helps reduce stress and prevent burnout in the workplace.


A good way to understand what “work-life balance” means to employees is to recognize that it is going to mean something slightly different to each of your employees. Take a look at the following infographic.

The fact of the matter is that the life we live cannot be summarized down to simply work and ‘the rest’, and it is naive to think that when an employee walks into work ‘the rest’ simply disappears. Daily chores, family obligations, visiting with friends, going to the gym, travel, and hobbies add up to a lot of ‘life’ that people need to balance with their job, which includes daily tasks, training, learning new technology, and networking with peers.

There is something to be said that excessive focus on something can drain our energy and result in a lack of interest. Take the initiative to get to know your employees, take an interest in their passions, and consider how as an employer you might work to honor these passions. Give your staff room to balance their work and life by:

  • Reinforce daily breaks to prevent burnout and injury.
  • Encourage vacation time to recharge.
  • Support personal expression.
  • Exercise compassion when ‘life’ creates personal struggles.
  • Prioritize health with competitive benefits packages.
  • Set up out-of-office events and team building during work hours.
  • Create a safe space for your employees to say no (i.e. no to overtime, or no to a promotion that will take up more of their time).

Be Your Staff’s Cheerleader

Part of being a good leader is generating confidence amongst your staff and in turn, they will feel their work is appreciated and their presence is valued – a recipe for an employee who is happy to come to work every day. Follow these three steps to cheer on your team:

  1. Be a mentor: Be someone your team can turn to for direction. When you establish an environment that supports your staff’s curiosity, then this positive reinforcement will incline them to continue developing their abilities in the workplace.
  2. Offer conducive training: Whether an employee is brand new or transitioning to a new role, ensure proper measures are taken for them to receive detailed training. This will prepare them to deliver on what’s expected and mitigate confusion.
  3. Provide an opportunity for professional development: Provide goals for your employees to work towards. For some, routines can get mundane. Entice your staff to grow with your business by awarding them for their hard work and offering incentives to take their skills to the next level.

Offer Competitive Salary and Benefits

As the ADA has uncovered, many offices are experiencing a staff shortage.

That being said, to attract and keep your employees you need to offer competitive salaries and benefits.

Do your research:

  1. What is the cost of living in your city?
  2. What are other offices in your area paying their employees?
  3. What personal/professional sacrifices might people be making to join your team?

This statement puts the power in the job hunter’s hands, but when you invest in your employees, your business grows.

Design an Enjoyable Workspace

Your office atmosphere can have a direct impact on the appeal your employees have towards coming to work.

Just like you don’t want to go home to a dingy, cold, dark basement, your employees don’t want to walk into a workspace that is anything but inviting.

Like the saying ‘look good, feel good’, coming to work in a space that is enjoyable and aesthetically pleasing will have your employees feeling empowered and motivated. It will also generate a sense of respect for the space and a desire to maintain order.

What can you do to your space to spruce it up?

  1. Bring in some greenery to boost the mood.
  2. Encourage employee workspace personalization to promote pride and ownership.
  3. Provide ergonomic work areas to promote health.
  4. Apply theming to create a friendly space that will make working with children easier and more fun.

What Does Coming to Work in a Themed Space Look Like?

Theming your space can bring magic to your business and joy to your guests. By putting young patients at ease appointments become easier, children become more cooperative, and the stress of a fussy patient is no longer a daily battle for your employees.

But it won’t just wow your patients, it will draw in and retain your staff too.

Imagine walking into work every day and being greeted by a giraffe holding a welcome sign? Well in this custom Imagination Design Studios safari-themed pediatric dental office the staff is privy to seeing it every day.

Safari themed reception desk with lemurs and a giraffe supporting a custom branch that reads 'welcome'.

Fresh out of University, Dr. Jensen didn’t just want to go to work every day, she wanted to spend her time somewhere that was going to bring a smile to her face day-in-day-out.

The theming definitely played a role in terms of my decision to join the practice. I came to visit the office, opened up the front door and it was just like a theme park.

I love working here, truly – it is a very well put together office. We know every other dental office tries to stay clean and organized, but I feel like having properly placed theming in an office gives us that edge where every day is fun and interesting.

– Dr. Alexandra Jensen

Read more about Dr. Jensen’s experience here.

Or consider what it’s like for an interviewee to walk into a vibrant and exciting reception area with a parachuting gorilla to welcome them.

My first expression walking into my office for an interview was WOW!! I wanted the job at first sight just by how the office appeared.

– Candace Chavez, Practice Administrator

When you have a unique space, people will fight to work in one of your themed offices.

Every time I open a new office, every one of my employees wants to work in the new office. They’re always so cool and so different.

– Scott Savel

Theming will help you find the right people with your same core beliefs.

Hiring pediatricians is no longer a challenge – once they set foot in the facility they want to work here because the decor speaks to our philosophy and dedication to helping kids.

– Mawish Baber

There’s no easy answer to finding good employees during a worker drought, but there is a secret weapon in making your office stand out to job hunters. Being surrounded by colorful and friendly elements in your workspace that you know will bring a smile to your face can set the tone for the entire workday.

I used to come into work through the back door and now I come in through the front door because it makes me happy for the rest of the day.

– Dr. Bill Martin

Use your office in your job postings. You’re not the only office hiring right now, and what better way to stand out than with your inviting, friendly workplace. You are offering a unique and exciting opportunity – something future employees will love to brag about. Don’t let it go unnoticed.

Adjust to New Expectations

Today’s economy is tough, it’s as simple as that. As we navigate through a post-pandemic reality and, dare I say, the horizon of a potential recession, the workplace looks different for most. Expectations around what ‘work’ means and why employees should want to spend their time with your business has drastically shifted. Shift with this mentality and win them back – you run an exciting, fun, friendly business – show them what that looks like!

Contact Imagination Design Studios (IDS) to get started transforming your office from mundane to magical.

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