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Why Do They Resign?


How To Prevent the Great Resignation in Your Practice

We’ve all heard about how employees are resigning in great numbers. In my state, the news is mixed because although 400,000 Californians resigned during the last year, over 700,000 people were hired. Still, it’s stressful and time consuming to replace employees. And because candidates are demanding and getting higher salaries, it can be costly too.

So how do you prevent great employees from leaving your practice in the first place? How do you create a practice where talented employees want to stay?

Why They Leave

While you might assume that team members leave practices for financial reasons, compensation is actually not the top reason most employees resign. In one study, compensation ranked 16th in predicting employee turnover. You will not make an unhappy employee happier or more productive by simply offering a raise. In fact, many employees demand higher salaries as a way to mitigate their unhappiness.

You do need to provide compensation that your employees perceive as fair compared to their peers, commensurate with their contribution and sufficient for the local economy. But once you meet that criterion, offering continual raises to retain staff may only result in having richer, still unhappy, employees.  And they can still leave for a better offer.

So, what are the primary reasons employees resign? When we take out reasons related to COVID or childcare, there are two main factors that you can control.

  • Practice culture. A toxic corporate culture is 10.4 times more powerful than compensation in predicting employee attrition.
  • Failure to recognize performance.  Employees are more likely to resign when they feel unrewarded and unacknowledged for their efforts.

Changing Your Practice Culture

I had a conversation with a dentist whose team regularly take extra vacation days, don’t follow through on their tasks, don’t assist each other and leave exactly at 5:00pm regardless of what else needs to be done.

The practice culture could be described as “Me first.” So, how could the dentist change that mentality? His first thought was to update the employee handbook.  But beating his team over the head with a list of policies is not going to effect real behavior or attitude change. It might get compliance – for a time- and then things will go back to where they were.

I suggested he have a Culture Meeting. In this meeting, the team decides on how they want to treat each other: their ground rules. The meeting begins with this question: 

How do we want to treat each other so that we have a practice that works for everyone?

The team decide their guidelines around taking time off, giving each other feedback, volunteering to help, etc.  And the team also decides how they will handle it if someone violates the ground rules.

What is Your Culture?

A practice culture can be understood as the way you do things.  Your culture represents the unspoken rules about how employees interact with each other, the patients and you. The first step in changing your practice culture is to do an honest assessment of how your team:

  • Communicates
  • Solve problems
  • Handles conflict
  • Helps each other
  • Learns
  • Celebrates

A practice culture is toxic when those interactions and unspoken expectations hinders the business or individual performance. To change a toxic culture, you will need to have a long look in the mirror about how your leadership may inadvertently be reinforcing the negative culture.  Ultimately, you need to model the behavior you want to see; not the behavior you want to change.

Recognizing and Rewarding Your Team

The best thing you can do to create a team of long-term, loyal and engaged employees is to be a powerful role model in your practice and to acknowledge and recognize your team’s efforts and successes in a genuine way that matches the employee’s preferences.

In a future article, I will define the terms appreciation, recognition and rewards.  We’ll focus on rewards here. Rewards can be playful or meaningful. When they are given to acknowledge superlative performance or a difficult week, you communicate that you appreciate your employees. Some ways to reward your team are:

  • Mailed thank you notes
  • Flowers sent home
  • Limo rides to and from work
  • Group trip to nail salon, pottery class, miniature golf
  • Cooked meal to take home
  • Thank you notice about the team in your town’s paper
  • Charm bracelets engraved with words from your philosophy
  • Haircut certificate at their favorite salon
  • Specially chosen book
  • Upgraded instruments or ergonomic chair
  • Photo certificate for professional portraits
  • Online greeting card
  • House cleaning certificate

These rewards provide an important first step in creating a practice where employees feel acknowledged for their hard work and loyalty. The reward you choose must match the individual or it will backfire.

But I do have an additional word of warning.

Rewards, by themselves, are not a good substitute for poor leadership or a toxic culture. Handing out Louis Vuitton bags at Christmas will not be enough to establish a healthy, positive culture where an employee wants to stay. It is a step in the right direction, but rewards are only one component of a healthy workplace.

If you want to get a sense of what employees do value, I suggest you check out the employee reviews on

On Glassdoor, employees submit their reviews of their current or former workplaces as a “heads-up” for future candidates. If you enter your name, you may even see reviews about your office.  The reviews reveal why employees like or dislike their employers. It can give you insight into what you should and should not be doing as an employer.

Creating and sustaining a healthy practice culture begins with you and encompasses all of your leadership decisions including hiring, supervising, compensating and rewarding your employees.  If you have questions about how to improve the culture in your practice, contact me and I will coach you through some ideas.

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Inspired Us to Dream Bigger, and it Works

“As an Office Manager, I’ve seen a great difference in my practice since starting with Sharyn. Three years ago our staff was in turmoil with a lot of infighting and gossip and some jealousy directed towards me.

I had given up because everything I did was judged. Now I have learned to have more one-to-one communication and by being more vulnerable with individuals I found my leadership voice. As a team, we’re all focused on the same goals.

Last year, in August we produced $88,000. This year we’re on track to produce $111,000 this month. I know it’s because we learned how to follow through with patients and communicate our expectations while building our systems.

Sharyn has gotten us out of our comfort zone and inspired us to dream bigger and it works.”

–Sharon St Pierre, Sperbeck Dental Care

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