Maintaining Staff Morale

dental office staff around a patient

Keeping your dental staff happy during a practice transition to a buyer is a crucial aspect of the transition process. These staff members go a long way towards keeping the look and feel of your business consistent in the eyes of your patients.

Below we discuss some strategies that can be used to manage expectations and retain staff during a practice transition. We also provide suggestions of when and how to make the announcement to your team.

  • Communicate Openly: When the time is right in the transition process it’s important to keep staff members informed and engaged. However, this does not mean a company-wide announcement is needed. You may choose to tell one or two trusted leaders in the office before telling the wider group. Ultimately the staff’s personalities will serve as the guide when you tell them. It’s essential to communicate openly about the reasons for selling your practice, what changes are coming, and how it will impact staff members. This transparency will help alleviate any concerns and ensure that everyone is on the same page so you can move forward as a team.

  • Maintain Staff Compensation and Benefits: One of the key concerns of staff during a transition process is whether their current compensation and benefits will be adjusted. In most cases, the benefits offered by a DSO will be better than what a private owner can provide, and most DSO’s seek to ensure your staff never feel like they have ‘lost’ in the transition. When preparing for a transition make sure staff benefits, both formal and informal, are discussed with the potential buyers. Being well versed on what will and won’t change will allow you to be prepared for questions from your staff. Positioning new benefits packages so that employees feel like they are ‘winning’ is important for maintaining morale. This goes back to proper buyer selection and knowing with certainty that your buyer’s offerings will be embraced by your staff. 

  • Recognize and Reward Staff: Recognizing and rewarding staff for their hard work and contributions is essential to keeping them happy and motivated (both before a transition and after). During the practice  transition process, take the time to acknowledge their efforts, and consider offering incentives to reward their loyalty and dedication at close. After all, they have played a role in the success of your practice too and their involvement in the transition process can help you get to close more efficiently. 

  • Maintain a Positive Work Culture: Finally, maintaining a positive work culture during the transition is critical. Foster an environment that is supportive and collaborative, and encourage open communication and teamwork. By creating a positive workplace culture, you can help ensure that staff remain engaged and committed, even during times of change. Be the positive leader. Your team has followed your direction for years, and will continue to use your confidence as a barometer. Assure your team that you have selected a partner that understands and fits your practice, and that includes each staff member. 

When to Make the Announcement:

The timing of the announcement can vary depending on your specific circumstances. Generally, it’s best to make the announcement after the legal documents are close to being completed and both parties are comfortable that any “red flags” have been addressed. This minimizes the risk of any surprises or last-minute changes and gives you time to make sure you are prepared.

You should also consider the timing of the announcement in relation to your staff members’ workloads and schedules. Time the announcement at the end of the day when you can allow sufficient time for questions from the team. It’s also best to not schedule the announcement on a day when the staff will be off the following days (before a weekend or holiday). Your presence in the days following the announcement are important so you can be available for questions and to calm any concerns. It’s also important to consider the impact of the announcement on your staff members’ job security and morale. You should try to make the announcement as soon as possible and reference our suggestions above to minimize any anxiety about the transition.

How to Make the Announcement:

Once you’ve decided on the timing of the announcement, it’s important to consider how you’ll communicate the news to your staff members. There are several steps you can take to make the announcement as clear and positive as possible.

  • First, you should meet with your staff members in person to make the announcement. This shows that you respect and value their contributions to your practice and that you’re willing to take the time to explain the situation in person. You may also want to consider meeting with your staff members individually to discuss their concerns and answer any questions they may have.

  • Second, As mentioned above, you should be honest and transparent about the reasons for your decision. Emphasizing the positive aspects of the sale can illustrate to your staff that conditions will be just as good, if not better, under the new structure. Be prepared to answer any questions your staff members may have about the sale, particularly those around job security, changes to roles and responsibilities, and any other issues that may arise. You should also be prepared to provide ongoing support and guidance throughout the transition process.

Selling a practice can be a challenging and emotional process, but by carefully considering the timing and approach of the announcement, you can minimize the impact on your staff members and ensure a smooth transition for all parties involved. Keeping your staff happy both during and after a business transition requires a combination of effective communication, recognition and rewards, and continuing a positive work culture that gives them peace and understanding about what will and won’t change. By implementing the strategies discussed above, you can help ensure a smooth transition and retain your valuable staff members. Ultimately, this will help keep your patients happy as well. 



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